The Five Ways of Repentance

John Chrysostom

Do you wish that I shall speak of the ways of repentance? They are many, and various, and different, and all lead to heaven.

rasiconThe first way of repentance is condemnation of sins. “You must declare your own sins first that you may be justified.” Wherefore also the prophet said “I said, I will speak out, my transgression to the Lord, and You remitted the iniquity of my heart.” Condemn yourself therefore for your own sins. This is enough for the Master by way of self-defense. For he who condemns his sins, is slower to fall into them again. Awake your conscience, that inward accuser, in order that you may have no accuser at the judgment seat of the Lord.

This is one way of repentance, the best; and there is another not less than this, not to bear a grudge against your enemies to overcome anger, to forgive the sins of our fellow-servants. For so will those which have been done against the master be forgiven us. See the second expiation of sins: “For if you forgive” He said, “your debtors, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.”

Do you wish to learn a third way of repentance? Fervent and diligent prayer, and to do this from the bottom of the heart. Have you not seen that widow, how she persuaded the shameless judge? But you have a gentle Master, both tender, and kind. She asked, against her adversaries, but you do not ask against your adversaries, but on behalf of your own salvation.

And if you would learn a fourth way, I will say almsgiving. For this has a great power and unspeakable. For Daniel said to Nebuchadnezzar when he had come to all kinds of evil, and had entered upon all impiety, “O King let my counsel be acceptable unto you, redeem your sins by almsgiving and your iniquities by compassion on the poor.” What could be compared with this lovingkindness? After countless sins, after so many transgressions, he is promised that he will be reconciled with him he has come into conflict with if he will show kindness to his own fellow-servants. And modesty, and humility, not less than all words spoken, exhaust the nature of sins. And the publican is proof, being unable to declare his good deeds, in sight of all, bringing forward his humility, and laying aside the heavy burden of his sins.

See we have shown five ways of repentance: first the condemnation of sins, next the forgiveness of our neighbors’ sins, thirdly that which comes of prayer, fourth that which comes of almsgiving, fifth that which comes of humility.

Do not then be lazy; but walk in all these day by day. For the ways are easy, nor can you plead poverty. And even if you live poorer than all, you are able to leave your anger, and be humble, and to pray fervently, and to condemn sins, and your poverty is in no way a hindrance. And why do I speak thus, when not even in that way of repentance in which it is possible to spend money (I speak of almsgiving), not even there is poverty any hindrance to us from obeying the command? The widow who spent the two mites is a proof. Having learned then the healing of our wounds, let us constantly apply these medicines, in order that we may return to health and enjoy the sacred table with assurance; and with much glory, reach Christ the king of glory, and attain to everlasting good by the grace, and compassion, and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom be glory, power, honor, to the Father, together with the all holy, and good and quickening Spirit, now and always and for ever and ever. Amen.

— language updated by me – RAS, original taken from Three Homilies Concerning the Power of Demons, Homily II

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