Sunday, October 30, 2022

Met Antonios el-Souri: The Light of Repentance

Arabic original here.

The Light of Repentance

Saint Gregory Palamas constantly repeated this prayer: "O Lord, enlighten my darkness," seeking God's mercy and enlightenment.

Man cannot know his sins unless the Lord enlightens his heart. The condition of repentance is knowledge of sin, not intellectually but existentially, as a sickness where man is eaten away from within, and a realization of the risks of this sickness becoming exacerbated by the shriveling of his will, starting off from the pain resulting from the hatred of sin. This grants man the inner capacity in his own will to cooperate with divine grace in order to regret and desire to be freed, healed and have a change of life.

Sin darkens the mind, "for roving desire perverts the sound mind" (Wisdom 4:12). Man walks without guidance, floundering randomly along the path of self-destruction. Some or most may lie to themselves, justifying their intentions, thoughts and actions, cloaking them in the guise of obedience to God's word when they are the result of the will of their ego and their pride, so they destroy themselves instead of building themselves up and they ruin their life instead of setting it aright.

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During the time of fasting and abstention, one tries to discern the motions of his soul in his body by refraining from heavy food and having patience in hunger and thirst in order to train his will by taming the body through obedience to God through the Holy Church's teaching and recommendations. This helps to liberate the will from the rule of the ego so that God may become our ego though His word which dwells in us and is translated into intention, thought, word and deed.

The passions that deeply-rooted in man darken his body and spirit together, since the body becomes lethargic in struggling to do God's will and enthusiastic to respond to his lusts and the spirit flees from listening to the divine word (even if it practices prayer), because it places a barrier of refusal between the mind and the heart, since prayer passes through the mind and does not descend into the heart and thus remains at this level of superficiality, the goal of which is not stability, but rather the fulfillment of sin's need to silence the conscience with a false rationale.

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"But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" (Matthew 6:23). How can that be?! When man returns to the light of the divine image that is in him by nature and attributes it to himself, deifying himself through his self, doing without God, the source of light. The light of human nature is an image that remains unrealized unless it is through the divine grace that comes down upon us in and through Christ. Man has within himself a luminosity that is not extinguished so long as it is united to the uncreated light that the Lord gives to those who repent and seek His mercy with all their hearts, power, mind and intellect.

Loving repentance is the repentance that God has for us when He forgives us our mistakes, our shortcomings and our betrayals of His love. He is "repentant" for the sins of humankind, but it remains for us to repent to Him with faith active in obedience to His will, so that the heart may be purified in praxis and theory and so become enlightened by the uncreated light that permeates his entire being, radiating from him into the world. In this way man is united to God and so God becomes "all in all" present and manifest through His glory in the life of man in light... 


+ Antonios

Metropolitan of Zahle, Baalbek and their Dependencies

(Originally published in al-Karma on Sunday, March 24, 2019) 

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