Each of us repent of our actions home, without us being seen by anyone. But the Church has also and communautaire repentance, as now, in the Great Lent, when we repent together with all community. For we began the first day of fasting and, at Compline [Pavecerniță in Romanian], we began the canon of repentance. The Canon written by Saint Andreas/Andrew of Crete, which we find here.
And this canon is the profound expression of our ecclesial and scriptural repentance. Because the canon is served in Church, is a public service, and it is full of scriptural citations. For Saint Andreas read the Scripture ghostually and he saw that it speaks about his sins.
And if you look at the English translation from the link above, you will see that he began with Genesis, he arrived in the New Testament and saw that repentance is a reality of the whole of Scripture. For that the Church lives through the Scripture, because it interprets the Scripture through its Saints. And the Church interprets the Scripture, for that the Scripture cannot interpret itself. But the Holy Fathers of the Church, enlightened by God, can understand the Scripture and can speak to us about their divine scriptural understandings.
Therefore, the Holy Fathers of the Church wrote theological treatises, wrote apologetics of faith, wrote sermons, wrote prayers, but and liturgical chants. And the great canon is a canon of liturgical chants in which Saint Andreas cried his sins. And he wrote it for himself, but also for the community of the Church. Because the liturgical community needs a real example of repentance, for that to know to repent.
And when we read the canon and we see ourselves in those descriptions, then the repentance begins in the depths of our soul. For God’s glory is what moves our hearts to repentance and confession before God. And reading the Scripture in penitential mode, seeing on us showed with the finger by the Divine Scripture, then we live the repentance as a commandment of God, for that He fills us with His glory.
What makes us feel the true repentance? That we are fallen, that we sinned terribly in front of God and that only Him can save us. But the salvation, although is God’s gift, it requires our ascesis, our daily effort. Because the salvation is the consequence of the cleaning of passions, of the enlightenment and of our deification. The salvation is the continuous road with God, in which He makes us like Him. For that His commandments are the ones that make us like Him.
However, God’s commandments are not imperative, but they are our way. They are the way on which we choose it. And the repentance is one of God’s commandments, alongside forgiveness, fasting, charity, kindness, honesty, gentleness, purity etc. And through all we come to resemble of God, the One who strengthens us in the ecclesial life.
The canon is accompanied by large and small prostrations. Whole minutes of standing at service…and prostrations…plus painful repentance, which is full of God’s peace. So looks the Great Lent for Orthodox Christians! The Great Lent of the Church is full of holy fatigue, of fasting, of prostrations and of sacred readings. The Orthodox repentance is full of confession before God, but also and of the receipt of His glory in us.
From this motive, the ecclesial repentance, in common, does not have unhealthy accents, but is full of peace and serenity of the soul. Because the repentance of the Church is full of confidence in God and of ascesis. And the ascesis descends on us in humbleness, in the feeling of our helplessness, but, in the same time, it makes us an habitation of God, in which He comes down into His glory.