Archpriest Sergiy Baranov
Holy Trinity Cathedral, Iveron Monastery
October 23, 2023
“God, give us sincere repentance” – these are the words in our prayers to God. Sincere repentance. It is seemingly so obvious to us. Repentance is such an explicit process. I am repenting. Apparently, the Holy Fathers emphasized in their prayers that a sin penetrates into us so deeply that even repentance could be insincere. It seems that we do repent, and at the same time, we start admiring ourselves simultaneously, the way we repent. It is like a theatre all the time, which we look at and perform for people. Sometimes we even try to deceive God. We always play theatre. Repentance is a subtle process and it will be seemingly blasphemous to play a double game here or be insincere. However, we can be hypocrites even here, when repenting. When we repent with tears, groaning and hand-wringing, we manage somehow to be hypocrites again looking at ourselves from the side and assessing how we look like. It sounds horrible but sometimes we are even pleased with ourselves.
I often give you this example of avoiding insincere repentance. How can we avoid insincere repentance and hypocrisy all together in our spiritual life? Remember once I gave you an example of one brother who entered the room where all brothers were and they started to praise him. He entered in silence and went out in silence as well. One brother could not hold back, ran after him and said, “Why did not you start to argue when everybody was praising you?” He says, “If I had paid attention to it I would have interacted with vanity. And maybe I would have had a contradiction and let it go into me, and one day it could have touched my heart.”
In the Old Patericon, one Father gives advice to his disciple who asks, “What should I do to find and take a middle course so as not to stagger and sully at the end?” And the Father gives him an example with decedents on a cemetery. He says, “Today go and swear at the decedents.” Next day, “Go and praise them.” Then he asks, “When you were swearing at them, did they answer you anything?” “No.” “When you were praising them, did they answer you anything?” “No, they are decedents.” There should be no interaction at all.
So, when we try to repent sincerely, our repentance should be simple. As God says, “But let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No.” For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.”1 The evil intervene even into our repentance and start.
Sometimes there could be a question like how I may check if my repentance is sincere or not, if my repentance is from the Holy Spirit or evil, who is making me stagger from despair repentance to the vain one. Hither and thither. Now I have a despair repentance and close to give up. Then I have a vanity repentance — ah, how repentant I am, how sincere I am, I cry about my sins. Ugh, disgusting! How to find out if our repentance is from the Holy Spirit or not, from God or evil? Evil likes to repent with us as well, it likes to pray with us, it likes to keep the commandments with us, it likes to follow spiritual life with us, it likes asceticism a lot and it always adds some vanity everywhere. How to find out if we are inspired by God or by satan?
God is perfect. He is perfect and simple. God is very simple and this is His perfection. If He were complicated, He would never be perfect. You may add something to any complexity or detract from it. So when God comes — in prayer, in repentance — He comes with great simplicity, which is actually His essence. Then you do not feel confusion, you feel great simplicity. And repentance is very simple and short. God, I am filth and that is it. There should be nothing else. Everything is simple and short and clear consequently. If you want to explain something in a clear way, you need to think of simple and understandable word. If you want to confuse someone, speak in a complicated way.
When God comes, you feel God’s presence as something simple, so it is all clear and definite. Satan always brings complexity. And it confuses us. This is why when we do the holy action like repentance, we start to stagger from despair to vanity. Even this holy action.
The feature of satan is complexity. Complexity of thoughts, feelings and mind. God comes in a simple, clear and definite way.
God, give us sincere repentance. Because even our repentance, seemingly the holy action, holy feeling, can be filthy, bad and unpleasant if it is mixed with vanity and if we start playing the theatre. We deceive ourselves this way, we deceive others, we play this role of repentant victim, we walk and play this theatre. We even try to deceive God, Who is the Reader of the human heart, Who knows our hearts better than us. We do not know ourselves but God does.
God, forgive me.
Glory to God, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages!