Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

The Great Repenter

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Of all things difficult to bear in life, one of the most burdensome is sin. It is a dark abyss. Sin is a storm cloud that covers all the bright daylight in a persons life; a chilling wind that puts out in a persons heart the smallest candles of joy that still flicker. Anyone who has lived a life of sinful pleasure will tell you that the one thing that most characterized his life was not pleasure, but bondage. The Holy Bible calls sin a slave master, a yolk, a lie. You dont even have to be living a complete life of sin to know the pain sin can cause. Only one momentary sin in the midst of an otherwise good life is enough to inflict such a purulent soar in the soul that the person feels as if he bears the sin of a lifetime on his shoulders. And yetone of the most amazing things about sin is that it has been conquered by those whose spiritual circumstances seemed the most hopeless.

I was sick and tormented, and I upbraided myself much more bitterly than ever before. A man named St. Augustine wrote these words over 1500 years ago to describe the misery he had come to due to a sick and tormented life of sin. He was not a saint at the time; he was just a plain sinner. In short, he was trapped in a life of fornication with harlots, involved with pagan friends, and totally immersed in the affairs of the world.

I twisted and turned in my chain, until it might be completely brokenbut still held by it I was. The struggle of every age of Gods people! The bane of every Christians life is that continuous link, that thin yet un-severed chain that pulls us again and again into the same sin until we finally gather up enough strength to break it. But from where does this mysterious strength come?

Within the hidden depths of my soul, O Lord, you urged me on. A line so subtle in emphasis and yet so overflowing with truth! We will all find within us, during periods of repetitious sin, a serene and divine voice pleading with us to put an end to our sinful ways. And often Gods urging uses the physical world: an inspiring song that suddenly plays, the comforting voice of a beloved friend who just now calls, or even an unpleasant accident that sticks itself right between us and the sin. We must be quick to hear Gods voice; and we must show obedience if we are to gain the victory over sin. Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts (Heb 4:7).

Yet obedience is at times so difficult! The chain that binds us to our sins refuses to be broken. My [sins] of oldplucked at my flesh and whispered softly, Do you cast us off? and No longer will this thing and that thing be allowed to you, forever and ever! What did they suggest by what I have called this thing and that, what, O my God, did they suggest? May Your mercy turn all that away from Your servants soul! This is what makes sin so abysmalit continues to gnaw at our minds even when we wish to be rid of it. What is the solution then? To what action can we make recourse for help?

I flung myself down, how I do not know, under a certain fig tree, and gave free rein to my tears. The floods burst from my eyes, an acceptable sacrifice to You. This is the first great step. Just the feeling of sorrow for our sins and the willingness to fall prostrate before God is an indication that our spirit is alive; it is a sure sign of hope. And then we move on to the next great step that St. Augustine took: Within myself I said: Behold, let it be done now, now let it be done! The final and definite decision to cut the chain of sin must be made. We might fall again after our decision; but every effort must be made to get right back up in repentance and avoid the very situation that led us into sin in the future.

Oh, if they would only see that inner eternal light which I had tasted. The words of St. Augustines victory! Words of joy and light! He is here expressing his wish that all those still held by sin might see the light that he saw upon surrendering his life to God. And we must remember that of all types of a sinful life a man can lead, his was the hardest to forsake. The way things were going for him, St. Augustine had little chance of becoming a Christian, and practically no chance of becoming anything of a Saint or even a Church Father. But he heard the voice of God within him and believed that God could cleanse his life; and his actions followed in kind. We are all meant to see that inner eternal light. We are all meant for victory! But we must believe the way he did; we must submit our obedience to the Lord Jesus Christs commandments as resolutely as St. Augustine did.

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