Approach to Penance


With characteristic Benedictine discretion, Van Zeller here sets straight common misapprehensions of penance, steering the reader past the Scylla of extremism on the one hand and the Charybdis of avoiding this essential virtue of the Christian life on the other hand. “Take up your cross and follow me,” Christ asks each disciple in turn. It is thus a joyful duty for all to understand and approach the penitential cross correctly. Rather than a frightful self-punishment, penance is rather a means to an end—God—and thus must always be tempered and exercised according to that end. Cast in this light, what Van Zeller teaches here is not how one is to do penance, but how one ought to approach penance: “In the last analysis we cannot guarantee the measure of asceticism which will atone for our sins or bring us one single step closer to union with God. Is it not much wiser then to make for something which can be guaranteed? Is it not better to have recourse to Christ, and learn from him a lesson of love? Christ atones for us; love draws us nearer to union.” Equipped with this knowledge, each reader may go forth with complete freedom to gladly bear the cross that Christ has fashioned.




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Approach to Penance