The Spiritual Father’s Ultimate Task: To Enhance Repentance

In Ancient Christian Wisdom, someone who goes to the mystery of confession and repentance is characterized as “a figure with the underlying radiance of the Christian calling, darkened by the fall into sin, and brightened again by the hope of reconciliation.” I also note that “the spiritual father who sees these traits is called upon to enhance them.” It might be helpful to consider how one of the ancient spiritual masters, Abba Dorotheos, did so in training his disciple, Dositheos. In the life of Dositheos, we learn that whenever he would sometimes get angry and speak out while serving the … [Read more...]

Some Views of the Fathers on Excuses

In an earlier post I spoke about a reference in Ancient Christian Wisdom to excusing our sins instead of accusing them. One patristic source for this formulation is Blessed Augustine’s On Continence, where he writes the following about the psalm phrase “to make excuses in sins”: “What is more sinful than these words, through which a sinner denies that he is sinful, although he is convicted of a sinful work that he himself cannot deny. And since he is unable to hide the deed or say that it was good that he did it, and since he can still clearly see that the deed was done by him, he tries to … [Read more...]

Repentance: To Accuse and Not Excuse

If we are to make progress coping with our thoughts, we must make progress in repentance. And if we are to make progress in repentance, it is critical that we learn to accuse ourselves of our sins, rather than excuse them or deny them. In my book, I refer to the writings of Saint Augustine and Tertullian who make the contrast between "the word ac-cusare that implies movement toward accusation and the word ex-cusare that means movement away from accusation."  Unfortunately, even in confession, it is not uncommon for people to weave a series of excuses or denials, so that the person will appear … [Read more...]