I wanted to ask you for some guidance. Right now, at 22 years old, I am reflecting on so many of the mistakes I had made growing up. I had led a life of horrid sin, and sold myself out for a while. I wasn't as strong as I wanted to be. Now, I want to focus all of my energy on repenting for these sins and rebuilding the character that I know is true of me. After falling into the traps of the devil, I need to unleash myself from the guilt and misery attached to my sins. I have confessed to Abouna, who has advised me to fast, pray, take communion, read the Holy Bible, and I am trying to do all of these things. But I want to be able to do more for myself. I am determined and faithful and I will not allow myself to become wrought with despair. Can you offer specific readings that I may find helpful?
After leading a life of sin, the first step in repentance is to come back to oneself as the prodigal son did (Lk 15:17), admit one’s sins, confess them and have a fresh start. I see that you have done that and are determined to continue in the life of repentance and purity.
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Mt 5:8). Purity of heart means to be free of all wrong motivations and sinful intentions. It means to free oneself from anything, which blinds and darkens the mind so that it cannot see things clearly and honestly. God must be before us all the time and we should remember Him always as David the prophet said, "Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day" (Psa 119:97). Our remembrance of God sanctifies our thoughts. It will lead us to purity of heart because there is no communion between light and darkness (2 Cor 6:14). Remembering God will lead one to become accustomed to prayer and to contemplation. In this Divine presence, the devil will not dare to approach us and if he does, it will be to try to keep us away from God. However, with prayers, readings, hymns and spiritual songs, the devil will feel estranged in this spiritual atmosphere and his temptation will be feeble.
Partaking of the Holy Communion is very important. It has a deep efficacy on the soul and all that it entails of continual repentance and confession. It sanctifies our souls, bodies and spirits for as the Lord said, "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him" (Jn 6:56).
As we are now in the Holy Great Fast, use this season to raise your spirit above the level of the flesh, giving it concentrated spiritual nourishment that will last even after the period of fasting.
I recommend for you to read "Life of Repentance and Purity" and "Characteristics of the Spiritual Path" by H.H. Pope Shenouda III. They will help you grow spiritually and live the life of purity.