St. Mary Orthodox Church

Cambridge, MA

February 2020 Reflection

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Glory to Jesus Christ!

This past Sunday we read one of the five Gospel readings meant to prepare us for the Great Fast. It was the story of Zacchaeus, a profound meditation on the meaning of repentance. Zacchaeus shows us the depth of repentance that goes far beyond a one-time confession or ritual. Repentance as a way of life.

When I was a seminary in Oklahoma I mentioned the idea of perpetual repentance to a study group full of evangelical Christians. The suggestion was foreign to most, interesting to others, and crazy to one. He retorted, "What do you mean? I need time to sin!" Actually, if repentance is not a continual process, if we are not focused on our Lord moment by moment, letting go of selfishness in all our encounters with him and others, then we will hardly need any time at all to sin.

I think that the reference in the Gospel reading to Zacchaeus giving back four-fold to those he had cheated refers to the act of repentance as more than just a moment's awakening, but to a deep and continual attitude of giving and loving, much like the Lord's command to forgive seventy times seven. We must not see repentance as something that we do now and then, but rather something that we become. Not dreary and dismal or abusive to ourselves, but joyful in our letting go of all that burdens and hinders us. Through repentance we become Ourselves.

Repentance helps to reveal the truth of who we are and frees us to be true to that. We are his image. Nothing less.

With great affection,
   Fr. Antony