THEN said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?
Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.
Today is the feast day of St Cyril and St Methodius, two brothers from Thessaloniki in Greece who, in the 9th century, undertook arduous but immensely successful missionary work among the Slavs of Bulgaria and Central Europe.
In the extract below, Elder Sophrony says something about ‘conversion’ that I’ve found very helpful.
THE grace of repentance is given to him who in full faith accepts Christ’s dictum that if we do not believe in His Divinity and the absolute truth of all that He commanded of us, the mystery of sin will not be unmasked to us in its ontological profundity, and we shall ‘die in our sins’ [cf. John 8:21, 24].
The very conception of sin obtains only where the relation between Absolute God and created man assumes a purely personal character.
Otherwise, we are left with nothing but some intellectual assessment of the perfection of forms of existence.
Sin is always a crime against the Father’s love. Sin occurs when we distance ourselves from God and incline towards the passions.
Repentance is always bound up with abstinence from sinful leanings.
Humanism, too, involves overcoming various vices. But in so far as ignorance of the deep-rooted essence of sin – pride – persists, this evil source remains entrenched and the tragicalness of history continues to increase.
Elder Sophrony Sakharov, “We Shall See Him As He Is” (1988) p. 20. My emphases.
THEY that transgress thy law told me idle tales, but not so thy law, O Lord. All thy commandments are truth.
They persecuted me unjustly; help thou me.
It is time for the Lord to work: they have utterly broken thy law. Therefore have I loved thy commandments more than gold, or the topaz. Therefore I directed myself according to all thy commandments: I have hated every unjust way.
I beheld men acting foolishly, and I pined away; for they kept not thine oracles. Behold, I have loved thy commandments, O Lord: quicken me in thy mercy.
The beginning of thy words is truth; and all the judgments of thy righteousness endure for ever.
Ps 118(11):85-86, 126-128, 158-160 (LXX). This is mostly Brenton’s translation, but I have modified v. 85 in line with the New English Translation of the Septuagint, which I think resolves the Greek very neatly.