"To fall in love with God: is the greatest romance, to seek Him is the greatest adventure, to find Him is the greatest human achievement" ~St. Augustine.
Our early church Father St. Augustine is trying to explain the value of the joy we receive from loving God. It’s like the saying “if you haven’t done .......... then you haven’t lived” if we haven’t fallen love with God then we haven’t experienced a truly joyful life. To fall in love with someone means that they love you first and are awaiting you to love them back. Meaning, we are born with God's love but it is us who must learn to love Him.
So how do you fall in Love with God? It’s very simple.
Our desert Father St. Issac the Syrian says repentance is the key to all virtues. Love being one of them.
So you can’t love God unless you repent from your sins. We can’t grow spiritually unless we start off with repentance.
The difference between repentance and confession is simple. Repentance is the struggle of fighting away sin and not doing it again. While confession is telling God what we did and we’re sorry and I promise to try my best not to do it again because I’ve already repented from it, but confession is nothing without offering true repentance.
Now to talk about the three points. The first point is How to see the love of God through repentance? To repent is not to look backward at your mistakes but to look forward towards His love because it’s by His love that He accepts our repentance. It’s not about feeling bad about one's self or all my failed attempts at life but rather attempting with the love and Grace of God.
The Second point is to seek Him for He is the greatest adventure. St. Issac the Syrian says this life has been given to us for repentance do not waste it on vain pursuits. This means that you don’t only come to God when you need something from Him. He is not a cosmic vending machine. For example, I want a new job so I pray and pray and do prostrations read the Bible then God grants me a new job. Rather than continuing the worship and praising Him and offering Him thanks, we end up forgetting to even say thank you. Yes, there is a struggle to always keep up with your spiritual canons but it’s important that you start off small and work your way up with how you want to pray.
The Third point is that finding God is the greatest human achievement. Now this one is simply because you should be able to see Him on the altar every time you attend liturgy and if you look hard enough you’ll see Him in our priests, monks, bishops, and also in laymen. Even better we find him in the prayer of reconciliation in the liturgy. That entire prayer is about bringing us back to Him. He makes it easy for us to find Him because he literally right in our face. It is us who choose to look the other way or hide from His face because we are either ashamed of our sins or don’t know how to offer repentance. We assume that once we sin that God turns His face away from us but it is us who turn away from Him by sinning.
If I could get everyone that reads this to leave having gained at least one piece of knowledge I would like it to be what’s written below.
Let’s focus on a prayer from the Agpeya. In the conclusion of every hour we pray “...who does not wish the death of a sinner but rather that he returns and lives” this verse is also mentioned in Ezekiel 18:23. If this isn’t a sign that shows that He loves us then I don’t know what is. Let us turn our hearts and our hands back to the Lord and say we have sinned so that we may be worthy of His mercy. I being the first among you. May we find the courage and strength to offer repentance.
Glory be to God forever Amen.
By George Gerges
Servant of St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church Nashville TN.