Monday, April 13, 2009

Meta-WHAT?

"John the Baptizer appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins."
-Mark 1:4

Linguistic factoids fascinate me. It’s probably why I loved studying Ancient Greek in college. Take the word “metanoia” for example. It’s a Greek word found all over the New Testament in various forms, and it is translated into “repent”, or “repentance”. As the saying goes, though, a lot is lost in translation.

I didn’t give much thought to the concept of repentance. I was always taught that repentance means going to Church, follow the 10 commandments, being nice to people, all that stuff. Simple enough, right?

Several months ago I was listening to a presentation about a retreat center located in upstate New York, when the speaker used this remarkable word. Metanoia. The word resonated with me. I'd heard this word several times before, but it didn't hit me quite the same way as it did during her presentation. I can’t remember the context in which she used it, but I most certainly remember that word. So I went on one of my little linguistic quests.

I discovered that the word literally means “change of mind”. As I pondered this idea, I started to really get what “repentance” is all about. It’s not just recanting a former life, or suddenly acting in a manner befitting a good little Christian. Essentially, metanoia is changing the way we think, so that we can in turn change the way we live. We don’t just turn away from sin; we also turn toward something else: toward the Lord. And in our turning to the Lord, we are changing the way we think about our relationship with the Lord. In the Lord we no longer mindlessly exist for our own selfish desires, but consciously live out every aspect of our lives according to God's will.

Is this an easy task? No way. Metanoia is ongoing in my life, a series of little changes, little light-bulbs popping on, little steps away from the things that keep me from living a fully human life as God intended and toward the real me that I am meant to be. Do I have a really long way to go! Between my “past” creeping up and biting me in the butt and my own stubborn will, change is nothing short of difficult.

But the results are so worth the effort.

7 comments:

Nicole Z said...

Isn't it amazing how sometimes we can think we are headed in the right direction only to find out that we have taken a complete step back? It reminds me of when I went to my recent confession, did my penance, and went home only to commit the same sin. Change is difficult. This "change" requires our complete awareness of the entire process. We must make more than a conscious effort to make a change, we must think about how we think about this change.

Gina said...

Thank you for your comment Nicole Z! Yes, change is not just a one-time occurence, and suddenly, poof! You're a new man or woman. It certainly takes a lot of self-discovery to get to that next level.

Mary said...

I only ask, is the (Me) God intended me to be, to be fully human or, by living in His will, and with an open mind, do we transcend this human self by striving to live not in flesh but more and more in spirit? Can we accept that this is a radical change in thinking and in living? This Metanoia demands a spirit of acceptance for the idea of brotherly love and being one in the spirit.One with God, one with each other and do we believe in all that is seen and unseen? The power of Gods spirit lives! In us. Allow! Metanoia.

Gina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gina said...

Thank you for your comment, Mary! "a spirit of acceptance for the idea of brotherly love and being one in the spirit". This is a very powerful statement. And your question: do we believe in all that is seen and unseen? I think this will be the subject of my next post...

Lex said...

Wonderfully explained and written Gina! The first I heard the word Metanoia, it hit me like a Mack truck because I was experiencing it first hand!! I know that it definitely is not a one time occurence...it takes work and committment and self discovery without a doubt.

Gina said...

HI LEX, and welcome! Yes, Metanoia is just one of those words that you just don't get until you're in the midst of it. Then suddenly it's finding its way into every corner of your life.

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