As sinners, we continuously miss the mark, and 'fall short of the glory of God' (Rom 3:23), however we must be reminded that Christ offers us all, the opportunity of a 'fresh start', a renewed life in Him led by the Spirit (Rom 8:14) which takes repentance and confession:
'Repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.' (Acts 3:19)
We often forget that believing in Christ's death and resurrection, means that we believe in the defeat of good over evil, the life of the Spirit over the self-centred desires of the flesh, and the life of sacrificial love over selfishness and exploitation of our fellows.
As Saint Porphyrios said to his visitors, repentance should not begin at the start of the new year, at the beginning of the week, or even tomorrow.. but now. Now, is the perfect time for each and every Christian to get back up again, after falling into sin, and carry on fighting the good fight, (1 Tim 6:12) in faith and love. True repentance does not mean we cease to fall into temptations, but it does mean we cease to despair - continuously striving for Christ. As the Metropolitan Morphou said in a recent interview, the Resurrection is not simply a message, but an experience - and this is the way in which we experience the Risen Christ in our daily lives and struggles. It is only through His glorious resurrection that we are able to carry on, rising up and beyond our passions, struggles, and concerns, with the Lord granting us the opportunity of a new life and renewed communion with Him, through confession, participation of the Eucharist and fervent prayer. Even though life consists of the Cross, it also consists of participation in the joyous resurrection as we obtain a relationship with our Saviour. The experiential history of the Church has proven that Christ, the fulfiller, renewer and life-giver can turn anyone's life around, from imprisonment to true freedom, from illness to health, from fleshly passions to divine eros. Just as Christ gave the prostitutes and thieves the opportunity of forgiveness of sin and eternal life with Him, He also gives each of us this same opportunity of renewal and enlightenment.
'And as Thou didst not reject the woman, who was a harlot and sinner like me, when she approached and touched Thee, so also be compassionate with me, a sinner..' (St John Chrysostom's prayer before Holy Communion )
In Luke's account of the penitent harlot, the greatness of Christ's mercy is revealed. This repenting woman, who would probably be looked down and frowned upon by most members of society, was truly treated as a child of God, created in the image and likeness. She is an example to us all, as a sinner who knelt before Christ with boundless love and with sureness of faith that she would indeed be forgiven...'therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.' (Luke 7:47) Fr Vassilios Papavassiliou writes 'the harlot's contrition and love alone were sufficient for her salvation. All her sins were washed away in a moment.' This was her moment, where she turned her whole life around and not only accepted Christ into her heart, but Christ her saviour accepted her into His Kingdom.
A repentant is one who lives and experiences a taste of Resurrection and eternal life, as they humbly condemns his actions, admitting his unworthiness and sinfulness before God, thus crucifying pride and self-centredness:
' A penitent is a buyer of humility. Repentance is self-condemning reflection..is reconciliation with the Lord by the practice of good deeds contrary to the sins...Repentance is purification of conscience. Repentance is the voluntary endurance of all afflictions.' (St John Climacus)
St John emphasises that this constant opportunity of renewed life in Christ takes place through crucified life - as without crucifixion, there is no resurrection. True repentance and confession takes us back to the state of baptism.. 'Repentance is the renewal of baptism.'
One of the most moving passages of the Gospel must be that of the thief alongside Christ on the Cross.. 'Save us...Jesus remember me when you come into your Kingdom'.. with the Lord replying..'I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.' (Luke 23:39-43) Among other things, this beautiful passage highlights that the importance does not lie in the period of repentance, but the sincerity of our repentance and love for Christ. If we truly repent, Christ's compassion and love for His servants covers up all the wounds of sin and grants eternal life. The thief realises that the time to repent is now, 'as the Kingdom of God is at hand..' (Matt 3:2)