Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

Continual Repentance and Despair


  • Please log in to reply
8 replies to this topic

#1 Orthodoxfighter

Orthodoxfighter

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 23 posts

Posted 02 November 2012 - 09:20 AM

Good morning everyone

I write on here to see what everyone thinks.
I repent
Recently I have been struggling to come to grips with Saint Silouan's 'Keep thy mind in Hell and despair not'.

The first thing that comes to mind is that I cannot imagine keeping my mind in Hell and not despairing and I think this is because of my pride. Any thought on this?

The next thing that I think about is what a young monk told me on Mount Athos, he says that he is a murderer, rapist, adulterer, thief and tries to see himself as the worst person in the world in order to humble himself. How does he do this without being in despair about it? Is it the case that he simply puts his hands up and says 'God do as you will with me, I deserve to be in Hell and if this is what you will then let it be so' ???

Spiritually I have not had the best couple of weeks and typically the Devil is wise as to when he wants to attack, my spiritual father is away on holiday and unfortunately not communicating through email or text. I commit this specific sin and then 'repent' feel bad but I think there is an aspect of pride a mixture of:

'How could I do this again!'

and

'How could I do this to my God'

At the moment I feel that partaking of Holy COmmunion is not possible because of howWhat' ill prepared I am. I struggle to repent for a sin and we are supposed to repent conitnuously!!!

Repentance implies action but the actions I take dwindle and then I am enticed to commit this sinful act again and again.

The worst thing is that to everybody else I seem like a spiritual and 'good' 26 year old guy, I sometimes wish they knew I was really struggling! I hear of this guy who is a gambler or that guy is too proud because they are things that people can see!!!

Recently a friend of mine was made deacon and after the service people were even saying that I was next! And sometimes pride gets the better of me...

The struggle is peaks and troughs, its funy that A month ago I was mount athos considering the life of a monk and now I've come back to the world of money and satisfaction and I'm falling faster than bolt of lightning...

Any thoughts on the matters discussed?

Forgive me if this seems to be too personal a message. I dont mind if the moderator wishes to edit it.

God Bless You All

#2 Georgianna

Georgianna

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 56 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 02 November 2012 - 10:21 AM

Perhaps this excerpt from Scent of Holiness: Lessons from a Women's Monastery by Matushka Constantina Palmer might be helpful:

I heard a homily by a Cypriot priest-monk, Archmandrite Zacharias of Essex, in which he says there are two ways to acquire humility: either by condemning yourself or by acquiring complete gratitude toward God. He claims these two seemingly opposite paths both lead to humble-mindedness. Although I believed and accepted that gratitude toward God for all things was a wonderful virtue, I could not see the two different approaches as equal. I couldn't accept that humble thoughts could be attained without crying for one's sins or internally condemning oneself. The following conversation changed my perspective.

One evening I accompanied one of the nuns outside the monastery to where the garbage bins were located. We were speaking about hypothyroid and I mentioned that I am supposed to get periodic tests done for this because something was discovered in a blood test once upon a time that revealed I would develop this condition.

The sister said, "A few of the nuns have it, and it causes their emotions to be a bit off. They cry easily."

"Well, that's good then," I said smiling. "They can use it for ammunition to have tears for their sins!"

"It's not necessary to always think of yourself as a sinner. Sometimes it's better to be grateful to God, and if you make mistakes to accept your fall, rise again, and ask God for forgivenss," she responded.

I stubbornly tried to explain how I saw it a different way and thought the "hard path" - as Elder Porphyrios of Athens calls it - was the better path.

She disagreed with me: "We also should remember that we are made in the image of God and that He is merciful and does not desire the death of a sinner, but rather that the sinner should turn and live."

The conversation continued for quite some time, and I left it rather baffled because I did not feel as though we had come to a common conclusion. I even felt as though we were speaking past each other.

All of this sat with me for some days until one evening, when we were mopping floors in the bookstore, this sister started to open up to me. In order to help me, she told me some things about herself and her past that revealed her character a bit more. She had had a troubled background - one filled with sadness and difficulties.

"I don't have a blessing to think too much about hell or the Judgment," she told me, smiling in a way that revealed a low opinion of herself.

Hearing this, I realized that the "hard path" really is not for everyone - especially those prone to despondency or despair. And it is not necessarily better; it's just a different path to reliance on God and not on self. The words of Elder Joseph the Hesychast came to mind then. In speaking about the different characters of people, he said, "First of all, my child, know that there are great differences from man to man and monk to monk. There are souls with a soft character that are not subordinated so easily. They are as different as cotton is from iron. Cotton needs only to be rubbed with words, but iron requires fire and a furnace of temptations to be worked" (Monastic Wisdom: Letters of Elder Joseph the Hesychast​, p 48).

Those that need to "do violence" (Matt 11:12) to themselves should condemn themselves in their thoughts and struggle to overcome their sins with tears, pleading for God to forgive them. For those who are naturally more sensitive, and especially those that struggle with certain forms of depression, they should try to mold their thoughts into a constant flowing stream of gratitude toward Christ and His mercy, His love, and His forbearance.

This second kind of person should avoid focusing on his or her sins too much, so that he or she does not despair. We all need to see our sins, mistakes, and passions and confess them, feel sorry for them, but ultimately struggle with more resolve not to continue in them.

What I couldn't grasp from hearing, I learned from experience. Some characters are different. What I think is right for me is not right for everyone.

- Knot Nine, "Something I Heard Confirmed by Experience", pp 81-83


In my ignorance, a vital key is not following the path I think is best. I may be too easy on myself and become complacent ... or I may reach higher than I am able to spiritually handle and as a result, fall into a deeper pit. As the nun said, "I don't have a blessing to think too much about ..." After fully confessing my thoughts, words and deeds, I should prayerfully trust the merciful Lord through the guidance of my spiritual father who will guide me in the path that is best for the healing of my soul.

Edited by Georgianna, 02 November 2012 - 11:05 AM.


#3 Rdr Andreas

Rdr Andreas

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,028 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 02 November 2012 - 10:24 AM

I see nothing unusual here (post #1), and recognise much of myself in what is said. One tends to think, 'stuff is happening to me and everyone else seems OK.' Confessors know better. That, however, is not a reason to relax one's feelings of repentance. As for managing what Christ said to St Silouan, read what Archimandrite Zacharias says about this. It's essentially the difference between St Peter and Judas: both betrayed Christ in their own ways, but Peter, desperate as he felt in his grief, did not give up and Christ healed him by extracting from him a three-fold confession of love. Judas, on the other hand, let his despair destroy him.

Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear - Isaiah 59:1


And do we not read about this in the prayers before communion?

Therefore, though I am unworthy both of heaven and earth, and even of this transient life, since I have completely succumbed to sin and am a slave to pleasure and have defaced Thy image, yet being Thy work and creation, wretch that I am, even I do not despair of my salvation and dare to draw near to Thy boundless compassion.



I know, O Saviour, that no other
Has sinned against Thee as I,
Nor has done the deeds
That I have committed.
But this again I know
That not the greatness of my offences
Nor the multitude of my sins
Surpasses the great patience
Of my God,
And His extreme love for men.



#4 Dan L.

Dan L.

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 35 posts

Posted 02 November 2012 - 12:07 PM

Georgianna,
I want to thank you for your post, I read that and it was a great encouragement to me. I often struggle with the same things that the OP does and seeing it through those two different perspectives this morning helped lift my spirits.

#5 Eric Peterson

Eric Peterson

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 397 posts

Posted 02 November 2012 - 05:04 PM

Dear George,

I would suggest reading the chapter on repentance in the book "The Communion of Love," by the departed Coptic monk Matthew the Poor. "Repentance is but a fall into the hands of God," he says. It is something that does not require superhuman effort on our part. When the Prodigal Son was still a long way off, his Father saw him and ran to him. It is the same with God. He is in the business of justifying the ungodly, making pure the impure, saving sinners. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners--that is, He has to, Fr. Matthew says. So, there is no reason to despair.

However, Fr. Matthew also speaks of a "false sinner," that is, someone who says up and down how much he is a sinner, but inside he does not really feel he is a sinner and the sins do not prick his conscience.

It's just my opinion, but I think the purpose of our struggles and constant failings is to bring us to a good anguish over our sins--not the kind the devil would give us that makes us despair--but the kind that keeps us from judging and condemning others and the kind that makes us run to Christ.

There's a beautiful story of Elder Porphyrios. Once when he was doing house blessings, he unknowingly entered a house of ill repute. He blessed it. At the end, when he held the cross to be kissed, the madame said, "Don't let the girls kiss the cross. They shouldn't"

"Whether they should or shouldn't kiss the cross, I don't know," the elder said. Then, after the girls had kissed the cross, Elder Porphyrios gave them a sermon on his favorite topic, the love of Christ and having love for Christ. This planted the seed that brought many of them to repentance.

Elder Porphyrios truly believed that he was the chief of sinners. This man who exuded holiness and performed and saw great miracles said, "The greatest miracle that I have seen is that I am the chief of sinners, and I have Christ for my Savior."

There is a false anguish over sin that causes despair and condemnation--and, truly, pride--because it is an obsession in ourselves. The true anguish over sin is that which leads us to Life, which causes us to get up, try harder, do better, avoid evil.

Without struggle, there is no Christianity.

God be with you.

#6 Reader Nektarios

Reader Nektarios

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 83 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 07 December 2014 - 09:13 AM

Orthodox Fighter, 

 

When I read that I thought I wrote that. You're not alone in the feeling. We will always fall short. Keep on keeping on in the struggle. I'm going through a struggle right now as well, that's why we have the Church, to fix ourselves with the help of God. 

 

Nektarios



#7 Rdr Andreas

Rdr Andreas

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,028 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 07 December 2014 - 09:44 AM

There are two kinds of despair: despair of being saved; despair of ever being as Christ would have one be. The first is sinful and dangerous: the second is God-pleasing humility. I discussed this not long ago with a hieromonk of the Holy Trinity St Sergius Lavra and that's pretty much how he put it.



#8 Reader Nektarios

Reader Nektarios

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 83 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 09 December 2014 - 09:03 AM

There are two kinds of despair: despair of being saved; despair of ever being as Christ would have one be. The first is sinful and dangerous: the second is God-pleasing humility. I discussed this not long ago with a hieromonk of the Holy Trinity St Sergius Lavra and that's pretty much how he put it.

 

Would you please explain the despair of being saved?
 
In Christ
Nektarios


#9 Rdr Andreas

Rdr Andreas

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,028 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 09 December 2014 - 10:48 AM

It is the thought that you will not be forgiven by Christ. It is the sin of Judas who through despair destroyed himself hence he is 'the son of perdition'. The contrast is with Peter who grieved at his denial of Christ but repented and went to Christ for forgiveness which he received through Christ's extracting from him his threefold confession of love. In our days, we have the word of Christ to St Silouan, 'keep thy mind in hell, and despair not'.






0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users