Sermon by his Eminence Archbishop of Zimbabwe Seraphim Κykkotis. 2/4/2017
Our Church has instituted this Sunday to commemorate the Venerable Mary of Egypt who is a shining example of repentance for us all. Even though she was once of the most sinful women, through her repentance and her turning to God, she became one of the most holy figures our Church has made known in the history of its two thousand-year existence.
Her biographer stresses that “in this way we too should repent of our sins, and not fall into despair. Even if our sins are as many as the sands of the sea we should not despair, because no sin is able to block God’s mercy, neither is there any wrong which cannot be corrected with repentance; but if we return willingly, with our whole heart, if we repent, God accepts us because He is compassionate and merciful. Let us not say that we will sin a lot and then repent, because for him who negotiates his salvation in this way, God will not receive his repentance. Do we perhaps know if we might die tonight? Or do we know the hour of our death? This is why our Lord decrees in His Gospel: “Watch, therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42).
A sinner is like a sick man who has need of repentance to be cure. He who is ill has enormous strengths within himself, because through his illness he begins his struggle. The same is true for the sinner.
Conversely, one who has not suffered is unsettled and sinks even through the smallest difficulties. They who are winners become losers and the loser, winners.
IN patristic thought, the greatest sin is despair, because in it you cease holding on to the hope of repentance and consequently the hope of salvation. We should never speak from a position of strength, giving the impression that what we are doing is the most correct. Self-criticism is repentance. Repentance is also an examination of that which I already understand, to see if it is right or wrong. The doctrine of Christ’s decent in to Hades means that no-one can be saved without Christ, and that He came also to mankind’s Hell, calling him to repentance so that He could save him.
The effect of a good Christian’s faith is not theoretical, but experience. When one is aware of the effect of his Christian faith and in his life does not do God’s will, he is a Christian sinner in need of repentance. So is the devil. A good Christian is one who consciously follows Christ. At the same time, one who does good in his life, and yet has not been baptised, while he is not a Christian does not mean that he is a sinner. A child is usually not a good Christian, because it is dependent on its nature. He is close to an animal.
A perverse Christian is one who, although an adult, continues to blindly obey his nature. However, because he knows this is bad, he hides and camouflages himself, secretly doing all that his nature dictates, pretending that he is a good Christian.
A good Christian is the person who is conscious of his duty to society. The good Christian says no to his sinful desires, struggling to uphold certain lofty values.
A bad Christian can become a good Christian through repentance. In the end, repentance leads man to a deeper human cognizance. It leads him to distinguish between good and evil and to the doing of good.
Through genuine repentance man is led to the respect of others, and to doing good for them. Through repentance man is freed from all that is negative and freed for good, conforming to doing good. Conversely, the more unpolished man is, the more he is a slave to his ignorance and his fanaticism, wanting to impose on others that which he supposes to be right. The sin of unrepentance is expressed in sinful people who have a hardened conscience. However, the hardened conscience can express itself also collectively in an entire people of a country, when those people strive to place in leadership positions those who are fifth and sixth in value and not those who are first, whom in fact, they hunt down. Then, though, the problem is not that the people live in unrepentance, but that their future is delineated as being murky and uncertain. We all have need of repentance.