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January 7, 2021

What Does the Honorable Forerunner Teach Us? (Archim. George Kapsanis)

 By Archimandrite George Kapsanis
Former Abbot of Gregoriou Monastery on Mount Athos

(Delivered in 1991)

The message of Saint John the Baptist in the wilderness of the Jordan can be summed up in the phrase: "Repent; the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand" (Matt. 3:2). Christ was the Kingdom of Heaven, because Christ was the Son of God, who would inaugurate the coming of the Holy Spirit into the world, which is the Kingdom of Heaven. For where the Holy Spirit is, there is also the Kingdom of Heaven. But Christ and the Holy Spirit cannot be received by someone without repentance. Repentance is the necessary condition for receiving Jesus Christ as the God-man and receiving the Grace of the Holy Spirit. As long as man lives unrepentant, hardened in his selfishness, in his self-reliance, in his self-love and in his passions, he can neither receive Christ as the God-man nor the Grace of the Holy Spirit. That is why the Holy Forerunner, in order to open people's hearts and accept Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, taught "repent".

But the voice of the Honorable Forerunner reaches even us and his message is an eternal message. And the Honorable Forerunner invites us today to be people of repentance, if we want to have Christ in our hearts and if we want to have the Grace of the Holy Spirit. As we have pointed out before, repentance is not something that happens once and then it's over. It is a constant attitude of life. We must constantly repent, so that the Grace of God does not leave us.

When we believe that we are perfect, that we have no need for repentance, we are already in a state of pride, which prevents the Grace of God from acting on us. Sincere repentance is not only pain, because we do not do God's will in our lives, but it is also a decision to fight for our liberation from whatever brings God sorrow.

If even a thought is made by a man of God - an indecent thought - which separates him from God, he is in pain and saddened, because he saddened God, and he repents. He feels that even from a thought that is evil and indecent, even if it is a small thought, he loses the Grace of God, and again he must repent, ask God for forgiveness, so that the Grace of God may come into him.

The Old Testament prophecy is also fulfilled in the Prophet John: "Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low" (Is. 40:4). The valleys that must be exalted, for the Messiah to come into our lives, are the spiritual deficiencies we have, and the mountains that must be brought low, so that the way of the Lord may be straight and the Lord may walk and come to us, are the passions, which like other mountains crush us and do not allow us to live a life of dispassion and holiness.

Therefore, we must have a constant concern for ourselves; what do we lack, what shortcomings do we have, what valleys do we have inside us and what mountains do we have inside us, that is, the passions that prevent us from being united with God. And let our whole life be a life of repentance, a life of struggle, so that we may cover over our shortcomings and humble our passions, so that we may be united with the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Messiah, our Redeemer and Savior.
May we have the blessings of the Holy Forerunner and Baptist John, and may we all be found worthy to fight this good fight of repentance until our last breath.

Source: Translation by John Sanidopoulos.