Monday, February 22, 2010

On Repentance

This being the season of Lent, the season of repentance, prayer and fasting, I've been thinking and reading a lot on those three subjects. Last night I was reading a bit of the Smalcald Articles (part of the Lutheran Confessions found in the Book of Concord), and came across two particularly great paragraphs that are definitely worth cogitating on for a while, and good to share, too.
This is really what it means to begin true repentance. Here a person must listen to a judgment such as this: "You are all of no account-- whether you appear publicly to be sinners or saints. You must all become something different from what you are now and act in a different way, no matter who you are now and what you do. You may be as great, wise, powerful, and holy as you could want, but here no one is righteous, etc." SA III:3

This repentance is not fragmentary or paltry-- like the kind that does penance for actual sins-- nor is it uncertain like that kind. It does not debate over what is a sin or what is not a sin. Instead, it simply lumps everything together and says, "Everything is pure sin with us. What would we want to spend so much time investigating, dissecting, or distinguishing?" Therefore, here as well, contrition is not uncertain, because there remains nothing that we might consider a "good" with which to pay for sin. Rather, there is plain, certain despair concerning all that we are, think, say, or do, etc. Similarly, such confession also cannot be false, uncertain, or fragmentary. All who confess that everything is pure sin with them embrace all sins, allow no exceptions, and do not forget a single one. Thus, satisfaction can never be uncertain either. For it consists not in our uncertain, sinful works but rather in the suffering and blood of the innocent "Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" [John 1:29] SA III:36-38
May we, as we embark on the first full week of the Fast, remember these things as we seek to live lives of repentance: Everything with us is pure sin, even those things which look to us, and to others, like righteous deeds.

Christ have mercy and forgive it all!

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