Second week of Lent – Definition of Repentance

I wanted to share this helpful reminder again this year from Irma Zaleski’s little book.  It opens a perspective on repentance during this  time of self-reflection.  It is all part of our personal journey to greater righteousness.

“Repentance – conversion of the heart – does not mean being filled and tormented
by guilt. Instead, it means being ready to admit our responsibility for our actions
and our need for forgiveness, and having a firm wish to change our life: to turn
away from ourselves in prayer and in love. Repentance means, above all,
a constant, patient, growing in love. It means our willingness to open ourselves
to the work of the Spirit in us and to embrace fully the gift of our salvation.”
-Irma Zaleski The Way of Repentance 1999


I think I differ a bit with her statement when she says we are to “turn away from ourselves.”  I think it may be  semantics however for me, I understand the time we spend in our “closets for prayer and reflection” is allowing ourselves to listen, or a willingness to go into the depth of ourselves, not a turning away from ourselves.  I see it as a time where we can take the nerve to face our inner foibles, or errant ways.  I have found that when we rest in this kind of prayerful silence with a willingness to face the “boogeyman in ourselves,” as it were,  we have given ourselves the chance to own up to those aspects of our attitudes and behavior that are unrighteous.  The opportunity then we are allowing ourselves to take is to become more mature in our righteousness.

I do believe we cannot actually make this growth happen, but we can avail ourselves to the self-reflection, to that time of quiet introspection and allow  what is out of sync with a pure conscience (knowing right from wrong) to occur.   It is important that we must not quit, especially when the core reality of ourselves begins to emerge; as ugly as it may seem.  Because that is the precise time when the “turning” happens as we, of course desiring to be good, recoil from seeing ourselves in that unrighteousness and move quickly to the Light.

Thus the repentance process, the turning process is active Grace, and will lead to our regeneration not to dejection or guilt or fear.  The effort to stay in that light of knowing about ourselves in itself will help eradicate the wrongful behavior. Somehow, the mystery of transformation happens.   Growth is slow but steady,  just as when a bean seed grows under the earth before the healthy green shoots of leaf emerge into the open.  I think this reflection can encourage us to continue in the process of “waiting and turning” as we sit in these moments, hours, of self-reflection.

Caution, it does take guts and discipline and trust in the Divine for Grace for change and the grace to accept oneself in the midst of the slow process.  Forgiving ourselves may be the hardest thing to do ever.


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