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"True Repentance"-From the Patriarchal encyclical of His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas

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  • John Philip
    True Repentance From the 1997 Patriarchal encyclical of His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas IN THE NAME OF THE ETERNAL, DIVINE AND ALMIGHTY BEING
    Message 1 of 51 , Sep 7, 2002
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      True Repentance
      From the 1997 Patriarchal encyclical of His Holiness Moran Mor
      Ignatius Zakka I Iwas

      IN THE NAME OF THE ETERNAL, DIVINE AND ALMIGHTY BEING
      IGNATIUS ZAKKA I IWAS PATRIARCH OF THE APOSTOLIC SEE OF ANTIOCH AND ALL THE
      EAST, SUPREME HEAD OF THE UNIVERSAL SYRIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH.

      WE EXTEND OUR APOSTOLIC BENEDICTION, BEST WISHES AND GREETINGS TO OUR BROTHERS
      THE EMINENT METROPOLITANS; TO OUR SPIRITUAL CHILDREN: THE HONORABLE PRIESTS,
      MONKS, NUNS, DEACONS AND DEACONESSES; AND TO ALL OUR ESTEEMED SYRIAN ORTHODOX
      PEOPLE. MAY THE DIVINE PROVIDENCE PROTECT THEM THROUGH THE INTERCESSION OF THE
      VIRGIN MARY, CHIEF OF THE APOSTLES SAINT PETER AND ALL THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS.
      AMEN.

      TRUE REPENTANCE

      "From that time on Jesus began to preach: 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is
      near'." ( Matt. 4:17 )

      Man, with all his intelligence, can not fathom the depth of God's love to
      mankind or to comprehend its essence. For He (God) has loved them even to
      death, the death on the Cross. The Holy Gospel declares: For God so loved the
      world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not
      perish but have eternal life. (Jn. 3:16). Love was the main reason why God sent
      His Only-begotten Son into our world. He was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and
      of the Virgin Mary, and was crucified for us, and died and was buried and rose
      on the third day according to His will, as stated in the Nicene Creed of Faith.
      Thus He redeemed us who believe in Him, and forgave the original sin we
      inherited from our first parents, along with our personal sins committed before
      we were baptized in His Name and received salvation, thus fulfilling His divine
      promise: Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not
      believe will be condemned (Mk.16:16). Because we were baptized in His name, we
      were born through the water and Spirit a second birth from heaven, and we were
      justified and sanctified to be children of God by grace, and heirs to His
      heavenly kingdom. This is the ultimate motive behind the mystery of incarnation
      and redemption. Concerning this, the Apostle Paul says: Here is a trustworthy
      saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save
      sinners-- of whom I am the worst. (1Tim.1:15). Therefore, when the Lord Jesus
      publicly began His divine mission in the flesh, by announcing His noble
      heavenly message, the Gospel of Repentance, He said: Repent, for the kingdom of
      heaven is near (Matt.4:17). he also said: The time has come and The kingdom of
      God is near. Repent and believe the good news (Mk.1:15). The Apostle Peter also
      told those who were troubled in their hearts, after hearing his sermon on the
      fiftieth day, and asked him and the other apostles: Brothers, what shall we do?
      eter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus
      Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the
      Holy Spirit (Acts 2:37-38). Hence, the message of redemption, brought by our
      Lord Jesus Christ, is to prepare man for eternal life, by true repentance and
      true faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, by accepting Him as the Savior of the
      world, by being baptized in His Name and by obeying His divine laws. In this
      regard, our Lord Jesus says to His heavenly Father: Now this is eternal life:
      that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom You have sent(Jn. 17:3).

      Yes, God Almighty knows that we are weak humans, always prone to enter into
      hard temptations, and eventually fall into the pit of sins so long as we are
      in this human body. Yet, since we have been baptized in our Lord's Holy Name,
      and the Holy Spirit dwells in us, God has prepared for us a way of repentance
      in order to return to Him after we confess our sins and are sorry for the
      trespasses which we have committed. Before the ascension of our Lord Jesus into
      heaven, He gave His pure apostles, and just disciples, the authority to bind
      and loose sins by saying: Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his
      sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven
      Jn.20:22-23). Through this divine power, the Lord grants graciously the
      forgiveness of sins to the believers who present to God a pure repentance,
      because sin is a rebellion and a transgression against the Almighty, and an
      alienation from Him. The Prophet Isaiah says: But your iniquities have
      separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that
      he will not hear (Isa. 59:2). The Apostle John, describes sin also as a
      transgression: Everyone who sins breaks the law (I Jn. 3:4). This law-breaking
      is the lack of harmony between the thoughts, words and deeds of man; and the
      commandments of God. By sinning, he breaks the law, rebels against God and
      obeys Satan, the enemy of God and man at the same time. For Satan is the
      tempter who tries to entrap man and snare him into disobedience. Moreover, any
      kind of sin is deemed as breaking the law of God, His commandments and all He
      forbids, as if it were committed directly against the Almighty. This is what
      prompted the Prophet David, who committed a terrible sin, to plead with God
      saying: Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your
      sight (Ps. 51:4). Yet, to explain that this sin was personal, and that he also
      inherited the original sin, he adds: Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from
      the time my mother conceived me (Ps.51:5).

      Sin is very awful indeed and leads to eternal death. The Apostle James said:
      and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death (Jas. 1:15). For the wages
      of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). Therefore when sin overtakes a person, he becomes
      overwhelmed with apprehension, anxiety, guilt and instability. In fear and
      trepidation, He expects severe punishment as a consequence for what he has
      committed. But thanks be to God for sending His Son, Who became an atonement
      for us by His death on the Cross, thus abolishing sin by His resurrection from
      among the dead. In so doing, He reconciled us with His heavenly Father, Who
      wants us to be at peace with heaven in order to be worthy to inherit the
      kingdom of God. For we have been justified from the original sin when we were
      buried with Christ in Baptism, even to death, and rose with Him to a new life.
      Yet, we are humans, and are always susceptible to sin, but on Judgment Day the
      Lord shall not ask: why did you sin? but rather: why didn't you repent?

      Repentance is a return to God and an obedience to His divine laws. When a
      sinner searches his soul entirely, deeply, faithfully and honestly, and
      compares his wretched and sad state of sin, with the happy state which preceded
      his fall into sin and iniquity, when he was in his Father's abode with a clear
      conscience and at peace; he will confess his sins, and feel sorry for his
      wrongdoing and transgression against God's laws, and anxiously determine to
      return to God through repentance. He should not be content with simply doing
      so, but should also emulate the Prodigal Son who said: I will set out and go
      back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and
      against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of
      your hired men (Lk. 15:18-19). Sure enough, he (the Prodigal Son) wearing his
      worn-out and soiled clothes and with his many sins, went to his father, and lo,
      he found him impatiently waiting for his return. So, The son said to him,
      Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to
      be called your son. But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best
      robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring
      the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son
      of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found'. (Lk. 15:21-24).

      All this signifies God's love for the sinner and His anticipation for him to
      return safely to his home. Furthermore the Lord, Who is the Good Shepherd,
      always searches for the lost sheep. And when He finds him, He carries him upon
      His shoulders and brings him to the sheep's fold. Likewise, the father restored
      to his prodigal son his rank and stature, and dressed him with a new robe, to
      become a new man with a new life. He placed on his finger the ring of the
      Covenant, thus renewing with him the Covenant and his trust in him. He also
      hosted a fancy feast for the local people that they could rejoice with him, and
      joyfully welcome the return of the prodigal son into their society.

      The anger and sadness of the eldest son on his brother's return, represents the
      hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees and their lack of desire to save the tax
      collectors and sinners. They do not enter the kingdom of God and they do not
      let anybody else enter either. Those Scribes and Pharisees even objected to the
      Lord Jesus for He befriended tax collectors and sinners and sat with them and
      opened for them the door of repentance to attain salvation by saying: It is not
      the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this
      means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the
      righteous, but sinners (Matt. 9:12-13). The Lord confirmed this when He
      accepted the penitents who came back to Him with solid faith, by forgiving
      their sins. In this manner, the Lord forgave Zacchaeus and Matthew, the tax
      collectors, Mary Magdalene, the adulterous woman, the Samaritan woman at the
      well of Jacob, the apostle Peter, the remorseful thief and others. Moreover,
      the Lord Jesus still forgives all penitents who come to Him with a true and
      complete repentance. Concerning this, the apostle John says: My dear children,
      I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have
      an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the
      atonement for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the
      whole world (I Jn. 2:1-2).

      Oh, how great is God's love for the world, His mercy to the sinners and His
      desire for their return to Him in repentance! He will surely receive them just
      as the father welcomed his prodigal son. And how wretched is the sinner, who is
      ignorant of his misery while he is in a sinful state and has no desire to
      return to God in repentance. The persistence of the sinner in his sin, and his
      creation of phony excuses to justify himself, are but an insult to the long
      suffering patience of Almighty God. Whereas true repentance produces spiritual
      happiness which fills the heart of the penitent with joy for his salvation, by
      making peace and reconciliation with the Lord God. Even heaven rejoices with
      the penitent. The Lord Jesus says: I tell you that in the same way there will
      be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine
      righteous persons who do not need to repent (Lk. 15:7). This joy points to the
      true and ultimate faith which fills the heart and the mind.

      Surely, the penitent who receives forgiveness for his sins from the Lord by
      means of a valid priest, (authorized by the Lord Jesus to loosen sins) must
      continue his relationship as a son with the Heavenly Father by living
      virtuously, thus producing fruit in keeping with repentance. (Matt. 3:8).
      Likewise, John the Baptist commanded those who came to him to confess their
      sins, and then he baptized them with the baptism of repentance, and gave them
      the good news of the eminent coming of the Savior, saying: "Produce fruit
      befitting repentance...".

      A penitent should not simply be content with the forgiveness of his sins, but
      he should ask God like the Prophet David, who sinned and repented, cried and
      begged the Lord saying: Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing
      love; according to Your great compassion blot out my transgressions.... Create
      in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast
      me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy
      of Your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will
      teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will turn back to You (Ps. 51:1,
      10-13). A penitent is in need of renewal, renewal of the heart as well as of
      the conscience. He must pray to God that the Holy Spirit not be taken from him,
      because if the Good Spirit leaves a person, the evil spirit will replace it as
      in the case of Saul. David himself experienced this and prayed that the Holy
      Spirit not depart from him, but rather lead him into the proper paths, that he
      might remain firm in a state of justification and righteousness: the state
      which was restored to him after he came back to God through true repentance.

      Truly, evil has spread wildly in this corrupt generation. We are drowning in
      iniquity, and are in desperate need of true repentance, reflected by sorrow and
      regret over the sins which we committed and are determined to avoid. Again, let
      us emulate the Prophet David in asking forgiveness from God and doing penance
      to Him. And, just like the Prodigal Son, may we return to the Father's home,
      with sorrow and repentance. Moreover, let us confess our sins to a lawful
      priest, that he might enrich us with his spiritual advice, as a healing and
      protecting medicine. And by the authority of the Sacred Priesthood ascribed to
      him by God, he will recite the prayer of absolution. Through this, we earn the
      right to return to our previous state of grace, which we received from our
      Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ. Dearly beloved,

      In this evil generation, as we prepare to bid farewell to the twentieth century
      and usher in the twenty-first, we observe humanity marching in darkness, lost
      in the crooked ways of this world, enslaved by the heavy yoke of sin, and
      resembling the Prodigal Son in leaving his father's house and squandering his
      money on a wasteful life. May the sinning believer also emulate the Prodigal
      Son in his true repentance and righteous return to the home of his father, that
      the Father may receive him joyfully. The Holy Church is in need of a goodly
      number of our budding youth, of both genders, who fear God and heed His
      commandments, produce good fruits worthy of repentance, and whose hearts are
      purified and souls renewed. People who make themselves good examples to others
      by keeping God's laws and regulations. Who, along with us, listen to the Lord
      Jesus and hear His divine voice calling us today, just as He called the people
      twenty centuries ago and until now, through the mouths of His priests: The time
      has come," He said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good
      news (Mk. 1:15). If the time of our Lord Jesus Christ's coming, twenty
      centuries ago, has been fulfilled, and all prophecies have come true and
      salvation completed, then, the time for His second coming approaches according
      to His true and divine promises. He also Had appointed it since the beginning.
      Therefore, let us repent and believe in the Holy Gospel as the Lord commands
      us. May we also heed the call of the Holy Spirit as He warns and cautions us
      saying: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts (Ps. 95:7-8).
      Also, let us repent immediately because we do not know when the Lord will come
      again to judge the world, or when we are going to depart from this temporal
      life to eternity. If we are not in a repentant state, it will be too late for
      sorrow. Therefore, let us be ready, awake and anxious for our meeting with the
      Lord Jesus, so that He may make us worthy to be with the Good Thief in the
      paradise of joy.

      May God accept your repentance, your fasting, your prayers and offerings. May
      He also be merciful to your faithful departed, and prepare you to celebrate His
      Glorious Resurrection with spiritual joy and happiness. After a full life, may
      He also make you worthy to enjoy the grace of His heavenly kingdom in the
      company of the repentant faithful, the just and the righteous. Amen. Our Father
      Who art in heaven...etc.
    • Kuriakose Corepiscopa Moolayil
      Dear in our Lord, I read the many letters posted in this site upholding the values of christian witnessing in our society. All will agree that this is a shame
      Message 51 of 51 , Sep 9, 2002
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        Dear in our Lord,
        I read the many letters posted in this site upholding the values of
        christian witnessing in our society. All will agree that this is a shame on
        all Christians but nobody is willing to to be patient and prudent.
        The recent problems are created on the basis of the finding of the supreme
        court that the election at the Parumala meeting was acceptable. This is in
        continuation to the finding of the Kerala High Court in the execution
        petition 2000 that the claim of the Catholicose faction that " the Malankara
        Metropolitanship of Mathews 11 Catholicose was accepted by the SC in 1995
        Judgement " was untenable. The above claim was grounded by the verdict of
        the SC to conduct an election under an observor to find whether he had the
        mandate of the people. This direction itself proves that the former claim
        was baseless.

        Now their claim that the SC has given Mathews 11 Catholicose all the
        privileges to enter any of the parish churches is meaningless.
        It is the age old tradtion of the Malankara Church that Any spiritual head
        should be invited by the parish through its vicar for a visit. This right
        itself is the core of all the privileges enjoyed by the parishes. Moreover
        it is the most inappropriate move from a spiritual leader to seek the police
        protection to enter a church agaist the wish of its members. Here all
        propriety of the meaning of the term 'Bava' (beloved father) is lost.
        Keeping aside all the legal claims and interpretations of the findings from
        the courts, I will say it is against all the norms of the human
        relationships.

        The most tragic part of the recent move is the after effects of the HATE
        CAMPAIGN that is taking place in various places. This will release the anti
        social and politicised elements in the community to utilise the oppertunity
        to win their game at the expense of the church and the bible. The stand of
        an uncontented UDF leader is the best example . He is using this oppertunity
        to spit scandalous words agaist his rivals.

        The media coverage for this unhappy episode also will at the end be agaist
        the goodwill of the Christian works in the society.

        Finally, the legal part should start again from the Additional District
        Court of Ernakulam,Commonly known as the 'PALLY KODATHI'.This was suggested
        by the HC recently that the Catholicose side can move an execution petition
        intead of seeking police protection from the court and the government. There
        is a pending execution petition filed as per the direction of the Division
        Bench of the Kerala High Court in 2000. The Judgement of the Supreme Court
        in 1995 should be implemented in its tatality and the implemenation is not
        only the authority of the Malankara Metropolitan but other points like (1)
        the spiritual supremacy of the Patriarch of Antioch, (2)The rights of the
        parish churches, (3)The extent of meaning of the Throne of St. Thomas,(4)
        The autocephaly of the Malankara Church! as it was claimed by the
        Catholicose group,(5)Can the Catholicose group withdraw the acceptance of
        the spiritual supreme of the church?, etc. are also dealt there. (If the
        Catholicose group has any right to withdraw the relations with the Patriarch
        why not the parishes too have that right to keep away from the faction
        headed by the same Catholicose?)

        The implementing should cover all the above points.
        If someone of acceptance will come forward and find these facts and try to
        make a converging point I am sure there will be meaningful peace in the
        church.
        God bless us.
        Kuriakose Corepicopa Moolayil
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