Here an anonymous Early Church Father speaks of true and sincere repentance of sin. His insistence that we must “keep the seal of our baptism undefiled” shows that the “once saved, always saved” doctrine (“eternal security”) of some Christian Churches was alien to the teaching of the Early Church.
We should repent of our sins while we are still on earth. When a potter is making a vessel and it becomes misshapen or breaks in his hands, he shapes it again; but once placed in the oven, it is beyond repair.
Now the clay in the craftsman’s hands is an image of ourselves, and it teaches us that, while still in this world, we must wholeheartedly repent of sins committed in the body and make it possible for the Lord to save us while there is time. When we have left this world, we shall no longer be able to repent and confess our sins. We must do the will of the Father, keep our bodies pure, and observe the commandments of the Lord, for this is the way to obtain eternal life.
The Lord says in the gospel: If you have not been observant in small matters, who will entrust you with anything important? For I tell you that the man who is faithful in the smallest things is faithful in the greatest things as well. In other words, in order to obtain eternal life, we must remain pure and keep the seal of our baptism undefiled.
Nor must any of you say that our bodies will not share in the judgment, nor rise again. In what were you saved? In what did you receive your sight? Think for a moment. Was it not in this very body? Our bodies are the temple of God, and as such we must guard them, for even as we were called in the body, so shall we also be judged in the body.
Since Christ, our Lord and Savior, who in the beginning was spirit, became flesh and in this way called us, it is in this flesh of ours that we shall also receive our reward.
Therefore, let us love one another, so that we may all attain to the kingdom of God. While we can still be healed, let us surrender ourselves into the hands of our divine physician and give him his recompense, the recompense of true sorrow for our sins. Since he who knows all things sees what is in our hearts, let us praise him with our hearts as well as our lips. He will then receive us as his sons. The Lord himself has said: My brothers are those who do my Father’s will.
This excerpt from a homily written in the 2nd (second) century by an anonymous Early Church Father (Cap. 8, 1-9, 11: Funk 1, 152-156) on repentance of sin. His insistence that we must “keep the seal of our baptism undefiled” shows that the “once saved, always saved” doctrine (“eternal security”) of some Christian Churches was alien to the teaching of the Early Church. This excerpt is read in the Roman Office of Readings on Tuesday in the 32nd week in Ordinary Time with the accompanying biblical reading taken from Daniel 3: 8-97.
For more great resources on Repentance, see the LENT Section of the Crossroads Initiative Library.