Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Greater the Sin, the Greater the Repentance

On the fifth and final Sunday of Great Lent the Church commemorates Saint Mary of Egypt as a joyous example of repentance. At the threshold of our final week of Great Lent, the Church urges us to consider our need for repentance. Maybe the story of a woman stuck in her sin might be encouragement enough for us to consider our repentance. We all sin, but is the Church telling us we all need to move to the desert like Saint Mary of Egypt?

In the Orthodox Christian understanding of sin, all sin is sin, but not all sin is equally dangerous. If we consider that sin is like a wound, all wounds require healing, but not all wounds require the same level of treatment. Some wounds, like paper cuts and rug burns, while uncomfortable will heal with a bit of TLC. Other wounds, like knife cuts may require stitches. They are more painful and require a slightly more painful treatment. Still other wounds, like cancer require chemotherapy and radiation treatment. These types of wounds are so severe, if we endure no treatment we will most surely die, while the severe treatments will allow us time, even if we are not cured, to gather our life into order and prepare for our eventual death.

Sin is treated in much the same way. Certain sins require a brief confession and are conquered with maturity and proper attention. Other sins require a longer confession and a regiment of repentance with prayer and fasting. Still other sins are so dangerous that after a lengthy confession an intense detailed period of repentance with prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and maybe even a period without permission for Holy Communion leads us to purity.

What the story of Saint Mary of Egypt can offer us this final week of Great Lent is the courage to repent. We might not all be called to live in a desert for forty-seven years like Saint Mary of Egypt, but we still must repent. As we draw closer to our Holy Week Journey and the Passion of Christ and the Feast of Holy and Great Pascha, allow repentance to be a real part of your journey. Whether your sins are “paper cuts” or if you have been in a “spiritual knife fight” repentance is always part of your healing.

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