Speaking to new Christians prior to baptism, Cyril of Jerusalem urges them to acknowledge their sins and wash themselves clean. They must empty themselves and be filled and renewed in the Holy Spirit, the supernatural seal conveyed through the anointing with sacred chrism. True repentance and rebirth must involve letting go of bitterness and resentment and spiritual rebirth. It entails forgiving all those who have offended us.
If there is any slave of sin here present, he should at once prepare himself through faith for the rebirth into freedom that makes us God’s adopted children. He should lay aside the wretchedness of slavery to sin, and put on the joyful slavery of the Lord, so as to be counted worthy to inherit the kingdom of heaven.
Supernatural Seal of the Holy Spirit
By acknowledging your sins strip away your former self, seduced as it is by destructive desires, and put on the new self, renewed in the likeness of its Creator. Through faith receive the pledge of the Holy Spirit, so that you may be welcomed into the everlasting dwelling places. Draw near to be marked with the supernatural seal, so that you may be easily recognized by your master. Become a member of Christ’s holy and spiritual flock, so that one day you may be set apart on his right hand, and so gain the life prepared as your inheritance.
Those whose sins still cling to them like a goatskin will stand on his left hand because they did not approach Christ’s fountain of rebirth to receive God’s grace. By rebirth I mean, not rebirth of the body, but the spiritual rebirth of the soul.
Rebirth through Faith
Our bodies are brought into being by parents who can be seen, but our souls are reborn through faith: the Spirit breathes where he wills. At the end, if you are made worthy, you may hear the words: Well done, good and faithful servant, when, that is, you are found with no stain of hypocrisy on your conscience.
If anyone here present is thinking of putting God’s grace to the test, he is deceiving himself, and he does not understand the nature of things. You are but a man; there is one who searches out men’s thoughts and hearts. You must keep your soul innocent and free from deceit.
Acknowledge Your Sins
The present is a time for the acknowledgment of sins. Acknowledge what you have done, in word or deed, by night or day. Acknowledge your sins at a time of God’s favor, and on the day of salvation you will receive the treasures of heaven.
Wash Yourselves Clean
Wash yourself clean, so that you may hold a richer store of grace. Sins are forgiven equally for all, but communion in the Holy Spirit is given in the measure of each one’s faith. If you have done little work, you will receive little; if you have achieved a great deal, great will be your reward. The race you are running is for your own advantage; look after your own interests.
If you have a grudge against anyone, forgive him. You are drawing near to receive forgiveness for your own sins; you must yourself forgive those who have sinned against you.
This post on spiritual rebirth through forgiveness of sins comes from a catechetical instruction by Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (Cat. 1, 2-3, 5-6: PG 33, 371, 375-378). It appears in the Roman Office of Readings for Saturday of the thirteenth (13th) week of ordinary time. The accompanying biblical reading is 2 Samuel 11, the story of David’s sin with Bathsheba and Uriah.
For more great resources on Repentance and the forgiveness of sins, see the LENT Section of the Crossroads Initiative Library.
For more on supernatural rebirth through Baptism in the days of the Early Church, see the BAPTISM SECTION of the Crossroads Initiative Library.