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True Penance

I think Columbanus reflects the very best aspect of the whole penitential component.

True penance is to refrain from committing deeds for which penance is to be done but when such are committeed, to bewail them.

- Columbanus, Penitential (Irish, 7th century)

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

- Psalm 51.10

I think Columbanus reflects the very best aspect of the whole penitential component. Penance is not merely something we perform after we have sinned, to correct our faulty behavior; it is even more important that we be practicing such behavior before we sin, so that we sin not.

Penance is thus a mindset which desires always to seek out the path of holiness and to walk in it. If we stray from that path by yielding to temptation or falling ignorantly into sin, penance corrects us and gets us back on track. If we anticipate deeds which might be the occasion of penance, and practice right conduct beforehand, those "penitential" actions may keep us from sin, or prepare us to bewail it, in case we fall.

It is this mindset - and heartset - that matters most: knowing what is sinful and displeasing to God, we adopt a manner of life that seeks to avoid sin or, having fallen, to overcome it, by works pleasing to Him. This is not a form of works salvation. Penance is a discipline for those already saved so that they might work out their salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2.12, 13).

Your soul friend can be especially valuable in helping you to think about the pitfalls and snares that might lie ahead on any day or in any situation, and to counsel you as to how to maintain a right spirit in the face of temptation. Talk sincerely about your fears and shortcomings, and seek help from one another. Let the Lord minister through each of you to help the other grow stronger in faith and to press on in holiness in the fear of God.

Today in ReVision: Who Holds the Future? Is there any place for faith in the President's outlook for the nation?

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T. M. Moore, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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