…the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel. Mark 1:25
It is difficult to discern the difference between being sorry for sin and being sorry for the consequences of sin. Most of the time propriety keeps my sins nicely concealed, wrapped up in manners and decency and etiquette. However, once in a while I am caught with my hand in the cookie jar. A slip of gossip, a quick yet horrid rant of anger, a spewing of pent up malice. However small and dainty the slips might be, they reveal more than I like to admit. Even an attempted recovery of placid mannerisms and sweet words cannot hide my heart- the truth. Those who witness these momentary lapses of discretion are surely surprised. Or are they? I wonder if what we conceal is really hidden at all. It is certainly not hidden from God, our Mother, and the saints.
I am known, whether I admit that or not.
To be known is a fearful thing if one is convinced. We hide to protect, we conceal to survive, we lie to persevere. Pride makes the case that there is nothing so risky as coming out, coming forth, coming to ourselves. The only safe path is isolation, because there in that small space we at least have the consolation of self love. Poor and friendless as this place can be, it is no hell like being known for who we are- and not being loved.
The stronghold of a mind fortified with self love is like Jericho, the safest place on earth, the most strategic warriors are no match for its strength and might. It is hard to give up such security, however this is just what repentance requires. Repentance is not a reinforcement of will to make the walls stronger. It is a shout, a mighty shout of faith, and the walls come tumbling down.
What kind of faith can make walls fall, stones roll away, even the stones of our minds? It is the faith to believe that Jesus told us the truth. We must believe, and take Him at His word. God is love, and He is a God of promises, not threats. We must come up out of our graves, from behind our fortified walls, and let mercy heal us. Love and humility are so kindred that perhaps they are the same. For in one we find the other. To be humble is to love, to love is to be humble. And humility is not thinking we are less, it is believing simply in the gospel of good news- to receive it as a child- God is Love, and his mercy endures forever. It is a very humble thing to be loved.
When the walls fall, repentance replaces my obsessive fear. It is no longer the consequences of sin that threaten my self love and make me afraid. Repentance is being heart broken for sin itself- the deed, the wound. Sin is alien. It hurts- it should. We must grieve when we fail to love. As we grieve, we change our minds- literally. We change our minds about our enemies mostly. This change of mind brings about chastity- when the inside matches the outside. I no longer have a reason to hide behind manners, decency, and propriety- all of which make disguising sin a social sport. Repentance brings change from the inside out, a chaste and genuine person shines through. No hidden malice, despondency, vain talking. No guile. No lie.
For what reason must we repent and believe? Is some threat looming? Some terror?
Yes, a great terror looms in the hearts of all men. It is the threat of love. It is the threat of peace. It is the threat of glory. If we would simply repent and believe, we would see our lives transformed by love. The kingdom of God is at hand.
O Lord, vouchsafe unto us the gift of the Holy Spirit,
that we may perceive Thy glory,
and live on earth in peace and love.
And let there be neither malice, nor wars nor enemies,
but may love alone reign,
and there will be no need of armies, or prisons,
and life will be easy for everyone on earth.
St. Silouan the Athonite