On Satisfying Divine Righteousness

St. Nektarios of Pentapolis 1846-1920

[B]oth the Holy Synods as well as the Holy Fathers — St. Athanasios the Great and Peter Patriarchs of Alexandria, St. Dionysios, St. Gregory Thaumaturgos, St. Basil, the divine Chrysostom, and others — precisely designate the satisfaction required of sinners according to the quantity and degree of sin; because the person who does not obey [these canons] will be sent to the future courthouses to give an account of the improprieties that he has committed, as having rejected the laws of the Church. Therefore, the satisfaction of the insulted Divine Justice is an unavoidable requirement. So then, an urgent need obligates us to hasten towards propitiation of God, especially since we do not know what tomorrow will bring. We should hasten with tears. We should appear before the sympathetic judge and therapist, the affectionate spiritual father, with contrition of heart and compunction. We should pour out our heart wile confessing our sins, so that we may be acquitted from the condemnation of the future tribunal — where everyone who did not give an account of the deeds they committed to the earthly courthouses will be sent — so that we may reconcile with God and become communicants of eternal life. (Repentance and Confession, Part 2: Confession, 4. The Person who has Sinned is Obligated to Satisfy the Divine Righteousness, pp. 48-49)

Note by the translators: They who reject the idea of the necessity of satisfying/compensating Divine Righteousness as a denial of the satisfaction made by our Savior Christ to God the Father, these people neglect that this is in reference to sinful Christians and not to unbelievers. Yes, reconciliation has already been made through Jesus Christ. St. Nicodemos says that “the satisfaction and payment made by our Lord on behalf of our sins was so bountiful and rich that this satisfaction resembles a boundless ocean, while all the sins of humanity — past, present, and future — represent a drop of water.” (Unseen Warfare, p. 207) However, having sinned after baptism, we have “saddened” the Savior Himself, and it is Him Who we are seeking to please through repentance, confession and good works. This is what St. Nektarios is calling “satisfaction of Divine Righteousness”. This is what all the saints have spoken about in their own manner. St. Mark the Ascetic says: “A sinner cannot escape retribution except through repentance appropriate to his offense.” (Philokalia, Vol. 1, p. 130) St. Maximos the Confessor says: “No sinner can escape future judgment without experiencing in this life either voluntary hardships or afflictions he has not chosen.” (Philokalia, Vol. 2, p. 76) (ibid., p. 44) 


  1. I believe the forward to the Exomologitarion also speaks of this idea, which is rather different from the Latin idea of satisfaction as the temporal punishment which is not expunged by confession. Rather, satisfaction is just that– we satisfy Christ by doing what we must to cleanse ourselves properly of the sins and passions we have committed after baptism: temporary excommunication (which St. Nikodemos says is very effective), tears (which St. John Klimakos says is a second baptism), prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and forgiving others their sins and injustices against us (a very powerful thing that God uses often to justify us), and unmurmuringly enduring the “penances” and the cross sent us by God.

    One monk told my friend that the sins are like falling in mud or muck in various degrees. Some messes require a handwashing. Others require a whole bath, or rigorous scrubbing. Confession is a seal of it, or a means toward it, and is certainly, when done with sincerity and contrition over having wronged God, salvific. But to be fully forgiven and cleansed is to never fall to that sin again. This, I think is what he is saying, and what the forward to the exomologetarion was saying.

    The shorter life of St. Silouan also discusses this idea. That while God forgives with even one sincere “Lord, have mercy”, to truly be restored to our position as sons takes work. Every sin leaves a hook in the soul that must either be torn out or disintigrate naturally over time, but while still in it must be struggled against, often violently, lest we be dragged back into the net of hell.

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