He who learns must suffer, and, even in our sleep, pain that we cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God. - Aeschylus

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Love it to Death: The Love of Repentance

I went to confession yesterday, something I've been doing much more regularly since I am no longer working and going to school full time.  It's also become much more common for me to attend a liturgy 2-3 times in a week rather than just once.  I have, much to my own surprise, gradually grown to have a certain fondness for the process of repentance, whether in the form of the Confiteor during the liturgy or the Act of Contrition during confession.  There are a number of different ways to say an Act of Contrition, but at their heart, they are all an expression of repentance.

This repentance of which I have grown fond is not the repentance of debilitating guilt; I don't feel any debilitating guilt, just an increasing awareness of my own weakness and limitations.  This repentance is not the repentance of dwelling on my faults, but rather the repentance from which flows a resolution to be more loving, to turn away from my faults and toward those I love in deeper compassion.

I have come to love repentance in much the same way that a spouse comes to love making breakfast for their beloved.  I love repentance in much the same way that a parent loves to hold their child as they sleep.  I love repentance because it builds the relationship between myself and my beloved, because repentance allows me to draw ever nearer my beloved and to be more loving.

I love the Repentance of Love, the repentance which allows us to shed the insecurities and fears stemming from protecting our egos so that we can take up the far greater hope and peace we find in sacrificial love.  It is this repentance which allows us to empty ourselves of the desire for the comfort of stagnation so that we can fill ourselves with the desire for the discomfort of becoming a person of great love.  It is this repentance which allows us to abandon our ideas of God as a security blanket or wish-granting genie so that we can seek a genuine encounter with a divine person who wants us to learn to love Him because of who He is rather than because of what He can do for us.

This is the repentance we so desire from others.  We want others to shed their insecurities and fears so that they can learn to love us as we are, sacrificing their comfort for our love.  We want others to empty themselves of narcissism and selfishness so that they can become the person of great love we know that they can be.  We want others to stop seeing us as a security blanket or a wish-granting genie so that they can truly encounter us fully as a person, learning to love us because of who we are rather than because of what we can do for them.

If we would learn to love others as we would have them love us, then we must practice this repentance and grow to love it because it forces us to grow in love.  We must decrease our egos by confessing our weaknesses and failures to be loving, letting them go so that we can fill our lives with more love for all those we love.  We must decrease our selfishness by humbly admitting that we are indeed selfish and that our attachment to the self is what prevents us from loving others fully, sincerely committing ourselves to grow in selfless love for all those we love.

It is in repentance that love becomes stronger, more encompassing of all, and more bold in reaching out to others in compassion.  If we would love fully, then let us repent and gradually separate ourselves from all that separates us from loving fully, loving to death our small affections so that we can love to fullest life the great relationships which deepen and enhance our lives.  If we would love others as we so desperately want to be loved, then we must learn to love repentance.

The above is a picture I took of an icon of St. Mary of Egypt, known for her radical repentance.

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