Instructions to Nuns. On Repentance

St. Ignatius Brianchianinov

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The following text is from Counsels and Instructions of a Spiritual Father To The Nuns of The Moscow Joy of All Who Sorrow Monastery, From the Guidance Of The Great Ascetics and Teachers of Monastic Life, compiled by the spiritual father of the Moscow Joy of All Who Sorrow Convent, Hieromonk Joseph (Moscow 1913). The book was written at the request of the nuns, who asked him for ongoing guidance in the monastic life. As is written in the preface, it is "addressed to the inhabitants of women's monasteries, to all who wish to step upon the path of monastic life, as well as to pious laywomen, who will find here a multitude of soul-saving counsels, and draw from it great profit for their souls." Fr. Joseph slightly changed the texts he cited in order to apply them to nuns, but these instructions are aimed at all spiritual strugglers, regardless of gender.

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Repent ye and believe the Gospel! Repent ye, for the Kingdom Heaven is at hand (Mk 1:15, Mt. 3:2). Such were the first words of the sermon of the God-Man. He continued to pronounce these words to us through the Gospels.

The power of repentance is based on the power of God: the Doctor is All-powerful, and the treatment He gives is all-powerful.

Sisters! Let us look dispassionately at our earthly life in the light of the Gospels—it is nothing! All its good things are confiscated by death, and very often much earlier than death various by unforeseen circumstances. These corruptible, quickly disappearing goods are unworthy of the name good! They are rather deceit, nets. Those who succumb to these nets and become entangled in them are deprived of true, eternal, heavenly and spiritual good things, which are acquired through faith in Christ and through following Him along the mysterious path of life according to the Gospels.

St. Ignatius Brianchianinov, Ascetic Experience

Repentance, according to the teaching of the Holy Church, is the restoration of Baptism, the second grace, cleansing of the consience, the promise to God of a new life, making peace with God by means of good works that are the opposite of sinful falls. Of him who does not approach the saving Sacrament of [confession] do we hear the terrible words of God: Except ye repent, ye shall all ... perish (Lk. 13:3). But even of those who approach the Sacrament of Repentance not all are cleansed, because not all keep the conditions necessary for true repentance. The beginning of repentance is the awareness of our sins, and contrition over them; When thou shalt turn and mourn, then thou shalt be saved (Is. 30:15). Others, through ignorance or inattentiveness to the work of their salvation, consider the Sacrament of Repentance to mean confession alone. They think that through a verbal confession of sins to a spiritual father they will be completely cleansed of their sins, but their hope is vain—this is not the repentance that the Lord expects from us. He wants us to feel the full weight of our sins, so that we would have anguish over them, cleanse them with tears of heartfelt contrition and make a firm promise in our hearts to correct our lives. Only then will our repentance be truly acceptable to God. The prodigal son, the publican and many others portrayed in the Gospels serve as examples of such repentance. We must have constant remorse over our sins and have them at all times as if before our eyes, according to the saying of Psalmist: For I know my sin is before me continually (Ps. 50:5). The holy king and prophet [David] always kept his sin in his memory, through which he aroused himself to constant repentance, preserving himself from repeating his sin. (Spiritual Margarite). Repetance is a ladder that leads us back up to the place from which we fell (St. Isaac the Syrian).

Consciousness of our sinfulness and self-accusation are the first steps along the path of repentance. (see Lk. 15:17-19). Have enough strength to always recognize your errors; this will give you the desire correct them.

Know that you have sinned, and you will correct your sin (St. Nilus of Sinai).

Not recognizing your errors means magnifying them. She who sins and then boasts of her sin, sins twice. She who has sinned should judge herself, even if no one else accuses her.

As soon as a sinner pronounces judgment upon herself, she has averted the judgment of God.

Forgive everything of others, and nothing of yourself. She who justifies herself estranges herself from repentance (Abba Isaiah).

Never strive to justify yourself without having sufficient reason to do so. Attempts to justify your wicked life by human weakness have no power to serve as a justification.

Try not to fall into temptation (into sin); but if you have fallen, show your manliness (arise quickly, correct yourself) (St. Nilus of Sinai).

To sin is human, but to remain and wallow in sin is demonic (St. Tikhon of Zadonsk).

Do not put off anything until tomorrow: this "tomorrow" has no end (St. John Chrysostom).

She who does weep here shall weep forever there [in the afterlife]. Thus, we must either weep here voluntarily or there—from torment (Abba Arsenius).

Let us weep, sisters; let our eyes pour tears before we depart to the other world, where our tears will scorch our bodies (St. Macarius of Egypt).

We shall weep according to the measure of our iniquity: a deep wound requires attentive and prolonged treatment; repentance should not be less than the crime (St. Cyprian of Carthage).

In order to receive forgiveness from God, it is not enough to pray for two or three days; we must produce a change in our whole life, and, having abandoned the vice, continually abide in virtue (St. John Chrysostom).

Forgiveness of sins is freedom from passions, and whoever has not been freed from them through grace has not yet received forgiveness (Abba Thalassius).

The surest sign by which any repentant sinner may know whether her sin has truly been forgiven by God is when we feel such hatred and repugnance for all sins that we would sooner die than voluntarily sin before God (St. Basil the Great).

Prayers, alms, fasting, and mortification of the flesh comprise only the garments of Christian repentance; but hatred of sin is its essence.

Do not strengthen previously committed sins in your soul by thinking about them, so that they would not renew themselves in you. Be assured that they are forgiven of you from the moment you gave yourself to God in repentance. Do not doubt this (St. Anthony the Great).

Fear falling into those sins that the mercy of God has forgiven you through the Sacrament of Repentance; but if through weakness you should fall, then do not fall into despair.

A brother asked Abba Poemen: "Father! If a man falls into some sin and then again returns to a virtuous life, will that sin be forgiven him by God?" The elder replied: "God commanded the Apostle Peter to forgive his brother seventy times seven (cf. Mt. 18:22); Thus did he command men to do: even more so shall He Himself forgive (Spiritual Meadow).

Repent! Cast aside not only obvious sins—fornication, slander, and lies, but even destructive entertainments and fleshly delights, illicit imaginings and iniquitous thoughts—everything that is forbidden by the Gospels. Cleanse your former sinful life with tears of sincere repentance.

The author of repentance is your Creator, Who created you from nothing. All the easier it is therefore for Him to re-create your heart: to make a God-loving heart out of a sin-loving heart; to make a pure, spiritual, holy heart out of a sensual, fleshly, malicious, and passionate heart.

Sisters! Let us come to know the unspeakable love of God for the fallen human race. The Lord became man in order to make it possible for Himself to take upon Himself the punishments that men have earned, and through the punishment of the All-holy One, to purchase the guilty from punishments. What drew Him to us here, on earth, in the land of our exile? Our righteousness? No! He was drawn to us by our disastrous condition into which our sinfulness has cast us. Sinners! Let us stand aright. For us, precisely for us did the Lord perform the great task of becoming man; He has looked upon our sickness with incomprehensible mercy. Let us stop our wavering, let us stop despairing and doubting! Full of faith, zeal and gratefulness, let us step forward to repentance, and through it let us make peace with God. And if the transgressor turn away from all his iniquities which he has committed, and keep all my commandments, and do justice and mercy, he shall surely live, and shall by no means die. None of his trespasses which he has committed shall be remembered: in his righteousness which he has done he shall live (Ez. 18:21-22). Such a promise does God give the sinner through the lips of His great prophet.

Sisters! We have lost by voluntary sin our holy purity, which is untouchable not only by sinful deeds, but even by the notion of evil—that purity in whose spiritual radiance we came into being at the hand of our Creator. We lost this purity that we received at baptism; along our path of life we have stained our garments, rendered white by the Redeemer, with our numerous sins. We are left only with the cleansing water—the water of repentance. What will come of us if we disdain even this washing? We will have to stand before God with souls deformed by sin—and He will gaze terrifyingly at a defiled soul, and condemn it to the fires of gehenna.

God sees your sins: He looks with longsuffering upon the sins you have committed within His sight; He looks upon the chain of sins constituting the whole of your life; He awaits your repentance and supports your free will to choose salvation or destruction—and you abuse the goodness and long-suffering of God! There is no correction in you! Your carelessness increases! Your contempt of God and of your own eternal lot only escalates! You care only for the multiplication of your sins, adding to your previous sins new and more vicious ones! But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath. Eternal tribulation and eternal anguish, upon every soul man that doeth evil (Rom.2:5-9).

St. Ignatius Brianchianinov, Ascetic Experience

8/29/2011

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