Normally the articles of this blogspot focus on our ministry in East Africa. However, my goal is to not only to give you news and stories of Africa, but to also present you with thoughts that are challenging to us in our daily lives, especially in the area of character improvement. So, there will be times when I will share material that has made an impression on me. This month’s article is not about Africa especially, but in understanding some things about repentance and prayer that can be beneficial to our walk with the Lord.
I’ve been reading Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives by Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, a Serbian Orthodox monk. As one of the most renowned spiritual guides of Serbia in the 20th century, he lived through all the suffering endured by Serbia in this past century. Through two world wars, the communist takeover, and NATO bombings, he co-suffered with his people. He taught, counseled, and prayed for all who came to him in pain and sorrow. His words of love and hope provided spiritual balm for people from all classes of society. He reposed in 2002. The following selections are from his book.
“All of us sin constantly. We slip and we fall. In reality, we fall into traps set by the demons. The Holy Fathers and the saints always tell us, ‘it is important to get up immediately after a fall and to keep on walking towards God’. Even if we fall a hundred times a day, it does not matter; we must get up and go on walking towards God without looking back. What has happened has happened – it is in the past. Just keep on going, all the while asking for help from God.”
“Remembering a sin we have committed does not mean that the sin has not been forgiven. This remembrance of our sins is only a warning to us lest we become proud and sin again. In fact, we – not God – are the ones who cannot forgive ourselves. We cannot forgive ourselves because of our pride. A genuine sign that a sin has been forgiven is the fact that it has not been repeated, and we are at peace. It is also important how we spend the last years of our lives. A God-pleasing life in old age blots out the sins of youth.”
“In our country and all over the world, people are reaping the fruits of their thoughts and wishes. Our desires are not good; neither are our thoughts. How then can the fruit of such thoughts and desires be good? We need to repent and change our way of life. Repentance is not just going to a priest and confessing; the soul must become free of all these thoughts and the melancholy that has overcome us due to our crooked paths. Repentance is a change of life, a change of direction, turning toward Absolute Good, and leaving behind all that is negative. True repentance is rare, even among the pious and this is why we suffer so much. If our people were to repent, they would not experience the suffering that they are going through now. We complicate our lives terribly by our thoughts and desires. I did not know this before, but now I know that I am to blame for everything – for everything! Now I know why the Holy Fathers considered themselves to the worst among all men.”
“Those who are free of the cares of this world and who dwell in Grace can weep at anytime, anywhere. No wonder, because their thoughts and all their noetic powers are concentrated. Such a person is meek and humble and is always ready to shed tears. Whereas I, for example, who am none of these things, need a good whack on the head in order to shed a few tears, either because of pain or because of humiliation – because someone has humiliated me by striking me on the cheek. That is how I can be reduced to tears, but that is not beneficial for me, you see. But the tears that come from a humbled heart – these tears are salvific. However, tears of rage or stubbornness, or because someone has offended us, are not beneficial at all. Such tears can only harm us.”
“Tears flow when our thoughts are concentrated on prayer or when certain words that we read or hear touch our hearts, for example, at the Holy Liturgy. This can also happen when we are praying alone. The Holy Fathers say that everyone, when they pray to God, can find a word that can touch their hearts, whether it be in the Psalter or in some soul-edifying book. When all our noetic powers are concentrated in us, we can see our weaknesses clearly, and we understand that we have sinned greatly against justice, truth, and love. Then God sends purifying rain down upon us to wash us, that is, He sends us tears. That is why the Holy Fathers say that when a certain word touches our heart in that manner, we should hold on to that word for as long as possible and we should not let our attention wander anywhere else.”
I hope these words have been as edifying to you as they have been to me.