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We continue today our spiritual journey in the light of the teachings of St Nektarios of Aegina regarding the need for repentance and confession.
We learned in the last lessons that it is necessary to understand well that we are obligated to hasten towards repentance, both because the grace of God may abandon us, and because often the sins themselves bring forth untimely and sudden deaths, as the Apostle Paul states in his epistle to the Corinthians: “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep” (I Cor. 11:30). The fact that the grace of God abandons the unrepentant person is very well illustrated in both the Old and the New Testaments. An example of abandonment by God witnessed in Scripture is Zedekiah, king of Judah, who was abandoned by God and handed over to destruction along with his kingdom, even though he sought the Lord’s mercy through the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah, received a commandment from God not to pray for them, and God handed over the city and King Zedekiah into the hands of the fearsome tyrant Nabuchadnezzar, king of the Babylonians. The city was conquered, sacked; everyone from young to old died by the sword. All Zedekiah’s family was slaughtered before his eyes. Then they plucked out his eyes, tied him in chains, and led him captive to Babylon. God poured out His anger and rage on Zedekiah and the city, because they mocked and disregarded the words of the Prophet Jeremiah, and they hardened their hearts from turning to the Lord (Jer. 52:7-11). Truly, it is frightening, but also just. It is just for him who abandons God to be abandoned by Him. It is just for him who pushes away the inviting grace of God, to be pushed away. It is just for God to turn His face from them who desert Him and who do not approach Him. Saint Gregory of Nyssa notes: “In this manner God’s righteous judgment resembles our dispositions; whatever we have within us, such things justice remits to us from our own things.”
Our haste to return and repent quickly is also dictated by the danger of inability to return to God; an evil habit is capable of rendering us incapable of repentance - which should frighten us immensely. The habit resulting from the continual repetition of a sin becomes a natural state within man and renders itself so powerful that man is no longer able to resist it: its power has overcome even the natural law. Consequently, when habit reigns over us, we submit to it and become its slave. Free will has lost its independence permanently. Man expels his free volition; his will power is proven weak and unable to fight against the habit, and every attempt to regain the lost freedom is in vain. The battle makes this weakness more apparent. The person who has been conquered by habit carries out, acts, and executes as a servant as a subordinate. Then, everything has been lost; every hope for salvation has vanished; not even one ray of light has remained. Has someone lived in sin? He will also die in sin. Therefore it is necessary for us to hasten to repentance before sin becomes a habit for us; because then it is impossible for us to be saved.