Five Paths of Repentance

“Would you like me to list also the paths of repentance? They are numerous and quite varied, and all lead to heaven.

“The first path of repentance is the condemnation of your own sins: ‘Be the first to admit your sins and you will be justified.’ For this reason, too, the prophet wrote: ‘I said, I will accuse myself of my sins to the Lord, and You forgave the wickedness of my heart.’ Therefore, you too should condemn your own sins; that will be enough reason for the Lord to forgive you, for a man who condemns his own sins is slower to commit them again. Rouse you conscience to accuse yourself within your own house, lest it become your accuser before the judgment seat of the Lord.

“That, then is one very good path of repentance. Another and no less valuable one is to put out of our minds the harm done us be our enemies, in order to master our anger, and to forgive our fellow servants’ sins against us. Then our own sins against the Lord will be forgiven us. Thus you have another way to atone for sin: ‘For if you forgive your debtors, your heavenly Father will forgive you.’

“Do you want to know of a third path? Is consists of prayer that is fervent and careful and comes from the heart.

“If you want to hear of a fourth, I will mention almsgiving, whose power is great and far-reaching.

“If, moreover, a man lives a modest, humble life, that, no less than the other things I have mentioned, takes sin away. Proof of this is in the tax-collector who had no good deeds to mention, but offered his humility instead and was relieved of the heavy burden of sins.

“Thus I have shown you five paths of repentance: condemnation of your own sins, forgiveness of our neighbor’s sins against us, prayer, almsgiving, and humility.”

— St. John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople ( 407 AD)

Abstain from Sin, too!

“Initially, men are made new by the rebirth of Baptism. Yet there is still required a daily renewal to repair the shortcomings of our mortal nature, and whatever degree of progress has been made, there is no one who should not be more advanced. All must therefore strive to ensure that on the day of redemption no one may be found in the sins of his former life.

“A special note of the [upcoming] Paschal feast it this: the whole Church rejoices in the forgiveness of sins. It rejoices in the forgiveness not only of those who are reborn in Holy Baptism, but also those who are already numbered among God’s adopted children.

“With the return of that season marked out in a special way by the mystery of our redemption, and of the days that lead up to the Paschal feast, we are summoned more urgently to prepare ourselves by a purification of spirit.

“Dear friends, what the Christian should be doing at all times should be done now with greater care and devotion, so that the Great Fast enjoined by the Apostles may be fulfilled, not simply by abstinence from food but above all by the renunciation of sin.”

— St. Leo the Great, Bishop of Rome ( 461 AD)

Beginning the Great Fast

by Angela Hays

St. Leo’s statement reminds me of how often I do fail. I fail at both fasting from food as well as sin. I have such a long way to go.

The nice thing about the Advent fast is that it is a good warm-up for the Great Fast. I can see what areas of my fasting life need work and I can correct them in the “off season” between fasts. For instance, I discovered this past Advent that restaurants are a major pitfall for me while fasting. It’s easier to avoid meat and dairy at home when there’s only beans and rice in the house. But, going out to eat with friends is another matter.

For the upcoming Great Fast, I’ve set-up the following game plan:

Have a meal cooking at home in the crock pot if possible. I’m less likely to be tempted to stop for something to eat while I’m out, if I know I already have something good waiting at home.

Know which restaurants have fast-friendly food. I need to be prepared to suggest the restaurant first when I’m with people who want to go out. Cafeterias, Mexican, Italian, and Indian restaurants usually have something that’s “safe”.

Decide what I’m going to eat before I walk in the door. I don’t let the smell of steak overtake my resolve to order the vegetable plate.

The struggle to overcome our fleshly desires is at the heart of fasting. Whether it’s fasting from food or sin, the struggle is still the same. X

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