воскресенье, 3 января 2010 г.

Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh. The mystery of forgiveness.

Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh
                      On Confession
                        4th Sermon
                           ----

In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

For  the  fourth  time  I endeavour to speak on Confession. And what I
want  to  touch  upon  is  the mystery of forgiveness. When we come to
Confession,  as  I have said before, we come into the presence of God.
But God is not a judge; God is our Saviour. God is our Friend, the one
who  has loved us in such a way that He has given His life that we may
believe  in His love, and given His life to save us from condemnation.
And it is to Him, as to a Friend, and to a Saviour, that we come.

We  confess to Him, we open our hearts to Him. We tell Him, as I tried
to  explain  on  other  occasions, all that separates us from Him; not
lists  of  formal  sins  but  what  we  feel  in  our  hearts  is  our
unfaithfulness;  what  we  feel in our hearts separates us, because in
spite  of  the  words of love and of veneration which we pronounce, we
act in a way that nails Him to the cross again.

We  lie;  and  we  create  a world in which only death can triumph. We
reject our neighbour and we close our own way into the Kingdom of God,
because  unless we can say, ╚Our Father╩ and not ╚My Father╩, there is
no place for us in His Kingdom.

And  so  we  ask the Lord for forgiveness - but not a formal word that
will   say,  ╚You  have  been  unworthy  of  My  friendship,  but  I'm
great-hearted and I forgive╩. No, that is not the point. It's not that
kind of forgiveness which we must seek. It's a true reconciliation, in
which  we  pour  out  our  heart to God, the truth that there is to be
said,  in  which  we  tell  Him  all  the  ways  in which we have been
unfaithful  to  Him  -  not only directly, but being unfaithful to our
neighbour,  to our friends, to our relatives, to anyone around us. The
way,  also,  in  which  we  have treated the world He has created with
contempt  and  indifference - a world which He has so loved as to call
it into existence.

And  when  we have said that, we must ask Him, as I have said a minute
before,  for  reconciliation. ╚Let us be friends again, Lord. I know I
have  not  changed  yet.  It  is  only  Your friendship - unshakeable,
faithful, that can prompt me to become different. If You reject me, if
You  turn  away from me, I have no reason to change. I am damned, I am
damned  in this world, whatever happens in the future world.╩ The only
reason  why  I  can  change is that the Lord said, ╚In spite of all, I
remain  your  friend. In spite of all, I love you with all My life and
all  My  death.  Can  you  in  response  to  this  love  show a little
faithfulness?  I  don't expect from you a total, immediate change. But
change step by step. Hold on to Me. I will support you, I'll help you,
I'll  protect  you,  I'll  guide  you, I'll give you strength - but do
change.  And  when you receive forgiveness in My name from the priest,
don't  imagine  that  the past does not exist. The past will have gone
only  when  you have become so alien to this past that it is no longer
yours.╩

It  may sound very strange. But we all live a complex life. I remember
an  old  woman  who  came and said to me that she does not know how to
live.  She  spends  her  whole  nights seeing in her dreams and in her
memories  all  the evil she has done. She went to the doctor, who gave
her  pills,  and it was only worse because from her memories it became
hallucinations. What can she do?

And  I  said  to  her,  ╚Remember, God grants us not only once to live
through our life but to live and relive our lives time and again until
all  the  evil  of it is expurgated. When evil stands up from the past
before  you,  ask  yourself:  now,  with the experience of life I have
acquired,  now,  would  I  be the person I was then? Would I say these
murderous  words,  would I do such and such action which was evil? And
if  you  can  say sincerely: oh no, with what I have learnt from life,
now,  placed in the same situation, I would never, never do the same -
then  you  can  say,  'Lord,  forgive  me this particular moment of my
past',  and  know that you are free. If you can say that with all your
heart, with all sincerity, with all the truth there is in you, then it
will not come back to you╩.

And  so it happened to this old woman. And so it should happen to each
of  us.  We  can not in a moment be free of our past. We must renounce
the evil there is in it. We must turn to Christ our God and promise to
struggle  for  faithfulness,  ask for His help, and then, step by step
free ourselves of the past. It does not mean that we are not forgiven,
because  forgiven  means accepted in love, accepted with tenderness by
someone who will never forget our weakness, never forget what has gone
wrong  with  us, because to forget means that he will expose us to the
same temptation without protection.

I remember a woman who was a drunkard, who was treated for a long time
in  hospital,  who  came back home healed. And to feast her return the
family  put a bottle of wine on the table; and it was the end; because
they  thought  she was healed, but they did not realise that there was
still frailty in her.

And  so  it  is with us when we receive forgiveness from God. Yes, our
estrangement from Him is gone. Yes, there is nothing that separates us
from  Him  as  far as love is concerned - His love - and as far as our
longing  - our longing - is concerned. But we must struggle and change
and  become  new,  new  creatures, with His help. Forgiveness does not
erase the past. It heals it in co-operation between God and us.

Let  us  therefore  come  to Confession in this spirit. Let us confess
ourselves  daily  to  God,  sincerely; open our hearts, make our peace
with  Him,  enter  into  reconciliation;  and know that reconciliation
means  that  we  have undertaken to be faithful to Him; and fight, and
fight  ourselves,  and fight evil, and fight for the people around us,
whom we wound, and for God, Whom we crucify.

Let  us  reflect  on  this.  And then, when we come to Confession, the
prayer   of  Absolution  will  have  a  true  and  real  meaning:  the
re-establishment  of a friendship that cannot be broken on God's part,
but  was  broken  on  ours  and is now restored in intention. And this
intention must be determination; and determination must be action, and
new life in us. Amen.
                           ----

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