Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Kierkegaard on repentance II

The fire of repentance

The fire of repentance and of the accusing conscience is like that Grecian fire which could not be put out with water – so, too, this one can be extinguished only with tears.

Repentance means to lament the sins one has committed and not to commit any more the sins one has lamented.

There is a Savior, not merely so that we can resort to him when we have sinned, receiving forgiveness, but precisely for the purpose of saving us from sinning.

That a person wants to sit and brood and stare at his sin and is unwilling to have faith that it is forgiven is itself a further guilt. It simply ignores what Christ has done.

Repentance: First nothing, then everything

That Christ makes something big out of something small, as at the feeding of the five thousand, is usually referred to as a miracle. But Christ also works a miracle inversely – makes something big (everything that wants to be something) into something little. He makes it infinitely nothing in humility.

God creates everything out of nothing – and all God is to use He first turns to nothing.

God in heaven, let me rightly feel my nothingness, not to despair over it, but all the more intensely to feel the greatness of your goodness.

God chooses and is closest to the despised, the castoffs of the race, the one single sorry abandoned wretch. He hates this business of the pyramid.

Attending to repentance in deeds and words

Our hearts often pay far greater toll to sin than do our words or deeds. They invite us to self-excusing. Thoughts invite us, more than words and deeds, to continue in sin; for thought can be concealed, while words and deeds cannot.

It is precisely our consciousness of sin that can lead us nearer to God. For there is hope of conquering the evil, if only, every time sin attacks us, it leads us nearer to God.

How shall God be able in heaven to dry up your tears when you have not yet wept?

To grumble about the world and its unhappiness is always easier than to beat one’s breast and groan over oneself.

Repentance as the path to true self-knowledge

The all-knowing One does not get to know something about the one who needs confession, rather the one who confesses gets to know something about himself.

Be not afraid of the penitential preacher, who perhaps has terror in his appearance and wrath in his voice, who chides and rebukes and thunders. No, in the inmost depths of every man’s heart there dwells his own preacher of repentance. When he has a chance to speak, he does not preach to others. He preaches before you alone. He does not preach in any church before an assembled multitude, he preaches in the secret chamber of the heart. He has nothing else whatever to attend to but to attend to you, and he takes good care to be heard when all around you is silence, when the stillness makes you lonely.

Repentance: A terrible, singular cure

The remedy seems infinitely worse than the sickness. “But if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off.”

Whoever is intent upon confession is as solitary as one who is dying.

Teach me, oh God, not to torture myself and not to make a martyr of myself in suffocating introspection, but to take deep and wholesome breaths of faith!

Oh infinite love, I do desire to be involved with you! If I make a mistake, oh, you who are love, strike me so that I get on the right path again.


Father in heaven, open the fountains of our eyes, let a torrent of tears like a flood obliterate all that which has not found favor in your eyes. But also give us a sign as of old, when you set the rainbow as a gateway of grace in the heavens, that you will no more wipe us out with a flood.

Father in heaven, let your face shine upon me, that I may walk in your ways and not stray more distantly from you, where your voice can no longer reach me. Oh, let your voice inspire faith and let me hear it, even if it overtakes me with its terrors upon my erring paths, where I live as one sick and tainted in spirit, apart and lonely, far from fellowship with you and with neighbor!
Lord Jesus Christ, you who came into the world to save the lost – you who left the ninety and nine sheep to seek that one which was lost – seek me, lost as I am upon my erring paths.
Good Shepherd, let me hear your voice, let me know it, let me follow it! Holy Spirit, come to me with groanings that cannot be uttered. Pray for me as Abraham did for Sodom, that if there be but one pure thought, one better feeling in me, the time of probation may be prolonged for the barren fig tree. And Holy Spirit, you who give birth to the dead and youth to the aged, renew me also; create in me a new heart.

I seek you alone, you the Omniscient. If I am guilty, enlighten my understanding that I may see my error and my depravity. I do not wish to escape suffering – that is not my prayer – but let me learn never to argue with you. I must conquer, even though the manner of it is infinitely different from what I can imagine.


Soren Kierkegaard,
P r o v o c a t i o n s: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard, Compiled and Edited by Charles E. Moore. Reprinted from Copyright 2002 by The Bruderhof Foundation, Inc. Used with permission.

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