I’m not sure how widespread this Lenten hymn is beyond the churches of Rus, but for us it is the entrance hymn sung throughout Great Lent, and it comes with a strong message.
It’s called Beneath Your Cross, and the tone is dark, almost like a funeral song. It’s from a Christian, exhausted from the battle with evil, seeking the strength to continue the fight, asking the Lord for help. At the end of the hymn he asks the Lord for the strength to repent, but that is not the part I want to focus on today, rather it is the endgame.
I want to key in on an aspect of repentance that is rarely spoken about, yet is so vital to the process, for without this piece of the puzzle we will never fully experience what it means to repent from our sins – remorse.
In order to fully repent you need to first recognize that what you have done is a sin. In today’s world, with ever changing society morals, that can be confusing. Things considered immoral just a few decades ago (ex: abortion, homosexuality, fornication) are considered acceptable behaviors now, flouted in television and movies as normal activities. Even liberal churches are accepting these as proper activities, not only for the laity, but for their clergy as well.
You must then ask for forgiveness. Whether that, in your denomination, requires involvement of a confessor or not. Simply wanting forgiveness is not enough, you must ask for it, not just assume that you have been forgiven because you are a Christian.
In between there something is missing, and rarely even mentioned from the pulpit these days- you must feel remorse. If you are not deeply sorry for your sins, if you do not really feel sorry for having committed them, then how can you be forgiven? In the television series MASH Fr. Mulchay interacts with a scared soldier who has stolen the identity of one of his dead comrades so he can take his rotation out and go back to the states. Once there he will continue to live under the assumed identity. He asks Fr. Mulchay for absolution from this sin, but the good father tells the soldier that he cannot grant absolution for a sin he has no intention of stopping…he lacks true remorse. If we are truly remorseful for our sins, and intend to do our best to stop them, then God can grant his forgiveness. But, if we merely confess our sins, with no intent of stopping doing them, we lack true remorse, how can God forgive an offense we plan on repeating?
Now, God understands that we are weak, fallible, creatures. That despite our best efforts we will probably fall again (part of the work fall-ible), and He is ready to forgive us again. But we have to be ready to make a sincere effort to stop out sin. We have to feel truly remorseful and repent. And, when we are weary from the battle, as in the hymn, we have to be ready to admit our frailty and ask Jesus for His help.