The Power to Repent and Rise Again: Theognostos, Philokalia vol. 2

pp.369-370, #.44-50.

Do not die “in the winter of the passions,” Theognostos advises. He has compassion for us and wants to equip us with wings for the flight toward a state of inner peace in which we feel an assurance that we will be with God.

Just as it is impossible to fly without wings, so we cannot attain the blessings for which we hope without already in this life receiving an assurance that is beyond doubt.

This feeling of assurance stems from the peace we experience once we are reconciled with God. We become reconciled with God when we reach a state dispassion. Dispassion, in turn, can only be achieved through humility.  

Because of their extreme humility, or through the grace of the Holy Spirit, such assurance is given to those who have been reconciled with God, and who possess a dispassion that is less or more perfect in proportion to the degree of their reconciliation and purification. Those who depart from the body before receiving this assurance die while still in the winter of the passions

Theognostos makes clear that “the practice of the virtues does not by itself bring you to the dispassion that enables you to pray undistracted and in purity, by themselves…”  

Assurance is not an entitlement or the automatic result of external actions. Reconciliation with God and inner peace are the results of a gradual and continuous process or inner transformation. This is why humility and love, “the two sisters,” will intercede for us with God and please Him more than “the host of virtues deposited there by others.”

If you wish to present Him with gifts, gratefully offer from your widowed soul two tiny coins, humility and love, and God will accept these in the treasury of His salvation more gladly than the host of virtues deposited there by others (cf. Mark 1 2 : 4- 1 -4-3).

Theognostos’ writing is filled with love and compassion for his reader. He becomes our coach, holding our hand through the passage to death, guiding us toward inner peace and preventing us from sinking into despair. “When you fall from a higher state,” he tells us gently “do not become panic-stricken.”

In his depiction of sin, he presents a living, understanding God who is angry at the evil committed and not at us.

We will not be punished or condemned in the age to be because we have sinned, since we were given a mutable and unstable nature. But we will be punished if, after sinning, we did not repent and turn from our evil ways to the Lord; for we have been given the power to repent, as well as the time in which to do so. Only through repentance shall we receive God’s mercy, and not its opposite, His passionate anger. Not that God is angry with us: He is angry with evil.

His message is full of hope and joy. What a glorious and loving gift from God “the power to repent” is. And how comforting it is to know that we have also be granted “the time in which we do so.”

Theognostos does not want sins committed to become a trap for hopelessness and despair. He wants us to remember that our God-given ability to repent opens to us the path to salvation. He wants us to focus on this gift and the eternal possibility of restoration rather than immerse ourselves in remembrance of past sins and the despair this ensues.  

He wants us to always remember that no matter how many times we fall, we can rise again and again.

…through remorse, grief, rigorous self-reproach and, above all, through copious tears shed in a contrite spirit, correct yourself and return quickly to your former condition. Rising up again after your fall, you will enter the joyous valley of salvation, taking care so far as is possible not to anger your Judge again, so as not to need atoning tears and sorrow in the future.

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