Repent!

Receiving the shining rays of abstinence, O my soul, become as lightning, and flee from the obscurity of sin: that through the divine Spirit the light of forgiveness may illuminate thee as the rising sun.

The deceiver enticed me with the hook of pleasure and made me captive. But, O apostles who by your preaching have caught the whole world in your net, deliver me from his malice.

O glorious apostles, ye shine as rays from the Sun of glory, dispelling the eclipse of error. Let your light also fall on me, for I am darkened by every evil.

by Joseph; Canticle Four, First Canon, Matins, Thursday of the First Week of Lent. p. 249 in The Festal Menaion, Mother Mary and Archimandrite [now Bishop] Kallistos Ware (St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 2001).

It would be wrong to call this short canon the best summary of the Orthodox Christian Way, but surely it is a good one. In it are presented asceticism or personal piety, the goal of theosis in Divine illumination, repentance from complicity in sin, and the role of the Church itself, for it is only through the apostles of the Church that any of this knowledge has come down to us at all.

The message is simple. Though we are darkened by sin, we can be illumined: we are not beyond redemption! As long as we are breathing, it is not too late to repent!

From dark to light, from the deceiver to God, from sin to righteousness, from wrong to right, from dead to alive — this movement of conversion, of repentance, is part of the ancient, common Christian heritage, however forgotten it may be by some. Even among those who are often reminded of it, a full season of such reminders is not unwelcome.

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