Photo from the Vigil of the Exaltation of the Precious Cross at Holy Trinity Monastery
We cannot partake deeply of the life of God unless we change profoundly. It is therefore essential that we should go to God in order that He should transform and change us, and that is why, to begin with, we must all become converts. Conversion in Latin and Hebrew means a turn, a change in the direction of things.
Conversion means that instead of spending our lives in looking in all directions, we should follow one direction only. It is a turning away from a great many things that we know are ultimately not good for us. The first impact of conversion is to modify our sense of values: God being at the center of all, everything acquires a new position and a new depth. All that is God's, all that belongs to Him, is positive and real. Everything that is outside of Him ultimately has no value or meaning.
But it is not a change of mind alone that we can call conversion. We can change our minds and go no further; what must follow is a an act of will and unless our will comes into motion and is redirected God-wards, there is no conversion; at most there is only an incipient, still dormant and inactive change in us.
Repentance must not be mistaken for remorse, it does not consist in feeling terribly sorry that things went wrong in the past; it is an active, positive attitude, which consists in moving in the right direction.
It is made very clear in the parable of the two sons (Mt. 21 :28) who were commanded by their father to go to work in the vineyard. The one said, "I am going," but did not go. The other said, "I am not going," and then felt ashamed and went to work.
This was real repentance, and we should never lure ourselves into imagining that to lament one's past is an act of repentance. It is part of it, of course, but repentance remains unreal and barren as long as it has not led us to doing the will of the Father. We have a tendency to think that it should result in fine emotions and we are quite often satisfied with emotions instead of real, deep changes.
Metropolitan Anthony, a highly respected bishop in the Russian Orthodox Church, was one of the last direct heirs to Russia's spiritual revival of the early 20th century. While living in London, he was known for his religious broad-casts into the Soviet Union. Metropolitan Anthony died in London after a long illness at age 89 on August 4, 2003.