The single year remaining until the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution must become a year of repentance and retrieval of hope for the restoration of the church and of man, thinks the founder and spiritual father of the Transfiguration Brotherhood, Rector of St. Philaret’s Instite (SFI), Fr Georgy Kochetkov. He also stresses that repentance and hope are impossible without one another. Repentance, unlike remorse, regret or a sense of guilt, is directed not toward the past but into the future. The Greek word ‘metanoia’ (μετάνοια), which is usually translated as ‘repentance’, literally means ‘a change in way of life and thought’. It is not a question of the type of change that happens because of the reevaluation of various events or personal actions in one’s life, in the sense of their relation to our understanding of good and evil. In the biblical context, to fulfill ‘metanoia’ is to revert, that is – to turn, to shift your sight to something (or Someone) that for certain reasons you haven’t seen. Repentance, or reversion, is first and foremost a sense of amazement and unknown joy. Only after that, as was the case with Zacchaeus, comes the desire to correct what has been done wrong and to promise “to sin no more” (John 8:11).
Historically, however, the term ‘repentance’ has been serially mutilated. “There has been a lot of talk about repentance in the historic church. There are those who even think that the only thing church folk should do is constantly repent: “You are all sinners: repent, call out “Lord, have mercy!”, and do nothing else”. A significant portion of our liturgical culture even comes out of this sort of thinking. This is, of course, taking things to an extreme, diminishment of spirit and one-sidedness” – says the spiritual father of the Transfiguration Brotherhood. “Especially taking into consideration that the repentance implied here is a deeply individual thing. When somebody would call on God with the words “Lord, have mercy!”, he would have in mind only his personal repentance and the mercy that the Lord must grant to him, personally”, added Fr Georgy Kochetkov.
Individual repentance, he noted, “must be fulfilled in repentance which is both personal and collective at the same time”. “Without this, repentance will not be complete, and, therefore, neither will be the forgiveness on offer from above. We must be able to repent not only for ourselves”, stressed the priest.
“We can and must acknowledge the necessity and possibility of collective penitential prayer, even unto the repentance of the whole nation for the crimes of the soviet regime in the first place, as they relate to all the people of our country. This isn’t the only thing, of course. There were a lot of crimes committed during the 20th century, but this was the biggest and therefore the most horrible. It is essential that we must repent of this and do so very seriously. We need to prepare for this”, emphasized the rector of SFI.
Eyewitnesses to the events of those times, he continued, say that ‘post-October-1917-Russia’ became bereft of “beauty and kindness, truth and longing for justice, mercy and much more”.
“Repentance and hope are needed to bring back that beauty. In my opinion, if anything at all in this country depends on us, we should have declared this final year before the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution to be a year of repentance and hope, which – as paradoxically happens in human history – can shine out only those times and places where there is no hope, but only a lot of disbelief and despair”, said Fr Georgy Kochetkov, adding that “without repentance these things are impossible”. “But neither can repentance happen without hope! Repentance is closely connected with hope. An unrepentant person has the least possibility of hoping for something good, or of being able to rely on God or his neighbour”, he added.
“I suppose that to acquire and strengthen hope, we must make our repentance deeper, taking upon ourselves the responsibility for “everyone and everything”. When someone fosters repentance, he doesn’t point at or look upon somebody else, and blame him for not repenting”, emphasized Fr Georgy.
“Repentance, he continued, will be effective only when our hope becomes effective. If we want to repent for the entirety of the last century, distinguishing it from the rest of human history, which is something we certainly have every right to do, then we must do this in hope for the restoration of the church and the restoration of every man, in whom the image of God has not yet been exterminated”.
«I suppose the time has come to act, to put into practice our repentance – on every level from the individual level to that of the whole church and the whole nation. We must put our hope into practice…the hope that gathers the church”, said the priest.
Hope, he explained, can be of two types. “First of all it is hope as reliance upon, as confidence of a support to lean upon. We rely upon God, upon the Church, on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, on each other, on our neighbors and on the promises of God. We know that not everything that God has promised to reveal has yet come into this world. We hope for this fulfillment, trusting for now in things that we don’t see”, said Fr Georgy Kochetkov.
Hope, in his opinion, is “also a uniting quality, the ingathering quality of the Church”. “Hope gathers the Church in the same way as do faith, love and freedom. Not only in faith and trust, not only in love and freedom, but in this very hope we are gathered together in Christ. People of the same faith turn to each other if they are true believers. This is something that gathers the people here and now. We often lack this ingathering force: centrifugal forces often prevail. In the first place we see that which separates us”, said the priest.
“But there are certain ‘ultimate’ qualities to which we tend to return every now and then, and which, it turns out, have not only an internal energy, but also an energy which unites God’s world and God’s people in the why in which God wants them to be united, which differ from those ways we so often try, ourselves, to design”, said the Rector of SFI.