Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Repentance, Confession, and Fasting, III

Here is part three (of five) of my translation of Bishop Atanasije's talk. Continued from parts one and two.
And so Confession is the disclosure of the truth about oneself. One does not need to slander oneself, that is, to abuse oneself as being more sinful than one really is, but one also should not conceal anything. If we conceal, then we demonstrate that we do not have sincere love for God. The Bible is a record of living experience, taken from reality. Much is shown in the Bible, there are many sins, and apostasy, and fighting against God, but there is one thing you will not find – and that is insincerity. In it there is no area in life in which God is not present. You should know, Fr Justin said, what the holy prophets knew, that there is much evil in man and that the world is lost in sin, but that there is salvation for just such a world and for just such people. This is our joy! There is the possibility of salvation, and there is a real Savior.

Fr Justin showed this with an example (he loved the Prophet Elias and John the Baptist very much!). In his words, the Forerunner was the must unhappy man in the world. While still as a child he left with his mother to the desert, and when his mother died, he stayed there, and God protected him with Angels. So he lived in a pure desert, with a pure sky, pure stones, pure rain, and did not know sin, and lived as an Angel of God on earth. When he turned thirty, God said to him: go to the Jordan and baptize people. Then people came to him and began to confess… they poured sins on the Forerunner, which became a hill… a mountain… And the Forerunner could not bear these sins. You know what sins people have and carry around with them! The Forerunner begins to despair: “Lord, this is man that Thou hast created? This is the fruit of Thy hand?” The Forerunner began to wallow. Masses came to confess – how many more sins have to be piled up? When the Forerunner could almost no longer stand it, suddenly God spoke to him: “Behold the Lamb of God, He alone, among these sinners, bears all their sins and the sins of all the world.” The most miserable man becomes the happiest. Glory to Thee, O Lord! It means there is salvation from these sins and from all sins.

There is a Savior! Fr Justin was expressing, of course, from his own experience, what sort of repentance the Forerunner endured. Indeed, I will say from my own small experience of being around Fr Justin that he was a man who lived like the Forerunner: pure, a great ascetic. He was compassionate, like Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), compassionate with sinners, compassionate with everyone, with creation, and God gave him the great gift of tears for this compassion. This is not something alien to us. Human tears are always precious to each of us. Being around a man who is truly repenting, one can feel that we, too, need repentance, that tears are natural water, precious, like blood; it is a new Christian blood, a new Baptism, as the Fathers say. Through tears we renew the Baptismal water, making it warm and full of grace.

And to such repentance is united fasting.


frphoti said...

This is all so beautiful. It brings up a question that I am wondering if you may know. (speaking of Fr. Justin Popovich)
I have heard he wrote a three volume series of books on dogmatic theology. Do you know if it was ever published in english or if it ever will be?

~Fr. Photios

Felix Culpa said...

I do know that it has appeared in French in five volumes (the third volume, by far the longest, was divided into three volumes) - in fact I was then part of the brotherhood in Paris that published this. No part of it has been published in English. I have now and then heard rumors that someone or another was translating it into English, but I have never seen anything. Get on it, folks!