Week Two: The Joy of Repentance
In The Illumined Heart, Frederica Mathewes-Green explores spiritual wisdom and practices from the ancient Christians. Chapters five and six tackle the unpopular subject of repentance.
Mathewes-Green shifts the discussion of repentance from condemnation—where it usually sits—to joy. I also like her emphasis that repentance unlocks our compassion for others:
Repentance is the doorway to the spiritual life, the only way to begin. It is also the path itself, the only way to continue. Anything else is foolishness and self-delusion. Only repentance is both brute-honest enough, and joyous enough, to bring us all the way home.
For the Christian, two things seem to be ever linked: sorrow over sin, and gratitude for forgiveness. Repentance is the source of life and joy.
What’s more, repentance enlarges the heart until it encompasses all earthly life, and the sorrow tendered to God is no longer for ourselves alone. Knowing our own sin, we pray in solidarity with all other sinners, even those who hurt us. With all creation we groan, crying out to God for his healing and mercy.