Repentance is essential to life with God. It was essential to the ministries of the prophets, up to and including John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus Christ. During His earthly ministry, the Lord both preached it and taught it. Two examples:
Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.
—Mark 1:14–15 (AV/KJV)
I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
Repentance is also a theme of two seasons of the liturgical year: Advent and Lent. Both seasons are traditionally times in which Christians examine themselves and repent of their sins. Thus they are seasons of penitence.
—Luke 13:3 and 5 (for context, read verses 1 through 9) (AV/KJV)
What is penitence? Oxford Languages defines it as follows: "the action of feeling or showing sorrow and regret for having done wrong; repentance".
Seven of the psalms are known as the "Penitential Psalms", namely: 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143 (according to the numbering of the Septuagint: 6, 31, 37, 50, 101, 129, and 142).
The Wikipedia article "Penitential Psalms" says:
These psalms are expressive of sorrow for sin. Four were known as 'penitential psalms' by St. Augustine of Hippo in the early 5th century. The fiftieth Psalm (Miserere) was recited at the close of daily morning service in the primitive Church.
Thus, the following spiritual disciplines are suitable for observing Advent and Lent:
1. Reading the Penitential Psalms
2. Reciting the Penitential Psalms
3. Praying the Penitential Psalms
4. Singing the Penitential Psalms (they have been set to music many times)
5. Studying the Penitential Psalms
6. Memorizing the Penitential Psalms
7. Meditating on the Penitential Psalms
Since there are seven of them, and there are seven days in a week, it would be fitting to read, recite, pray, etc. through these psalms once a week during Advent and Lent, each day with a different psalm. For example, reading Psalm 6 on Sunday, Psalm 31 on Monday, Psalm 37 on Tuesday, and so forth.
It would also be fitting to spend each week of these seasons meditating on a different psalm, e.g. meditating on Psalm 6 the first week, Psalm 31 the second week, Psalm 37 the third week, and so forth.
As one would expect, through the ages much has been written about the Penitential Psalms, e.g. studies, commentaries, and meditations. Many of these can be read in books which are currently in print. (For example, Savonarola's meditation on Psalm 51, which has been read by devout Christians since it was first published over five centuries ago, is currently available in a contemporary English translation in the book Prison Meditations on Psalms 51 and 31, published by Marquette University Press. One can learn more about it here: https://www.marquette.edu/mupress/Savonarola.shtml)
One can also learn about the Penitential Psalms from articles which are accessible online.
In conclusion: Whether or not one observes Advent and Lent, I recommend one pray for divine assistance with self-examination—always bearing in mind not only that the Lord's calls us to repent, but to believe the gospel of the kingdom of God.
Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.
—Psalm 19:12 (AV/KJV)
Questions for consideration
1. Do you agree that repentance is essential to life with God? If so, why? If not, why not?
2. Would you like to observe Advent and/or Lent by practicing spiritual disciplines? If so, why? If not, why not?
3. Would you like to observe Advent and/or Lent by practicing spiritual disciplines with the Penitential Psalms? If so, why? If not, why not?
4. Would you like to learn more about the Penitential Psalms? If so, why? If not, why not?
5. What are some other spiritual disciples one could perform with the Penitential Psalms?
6. Would you like to pray for divine assistance with self-examination? If so, why?If not, why not?
7. Would you like to pray Psalm 19:12? If so, why?If not, why not?
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