Metanoia

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Image Description: The front entrance to Canterbury House, a blue building with white trim. 

“Maybe repentance gets a bad rap,” my friend and colleague Matthew said. He’s the Chaplain at Canterbury House, the Episcopal Campus Ministry at the University of Michigan. We were having a discussion about this with a group of students during Compline, a candlelight service at the end of the evening.

We tend to associate the word “repent!” with fire and brimstone preachers, so it might not be our favorite. But it’s actually a lovely invitation. The Greek root word is metanoia. Meta gives a nod to change; we might think of words like metamorphosis and metabolism. Noia is associated with the mind.

Metanoia… repent… a change of mind…

Meta literally means ‘after’ or ‘beyond’ — we we might think of expansion… the mind expanding beyond… recognizing new possibilities.

And sometimes this word metanoia has been used with the imagery of literally turning around. This might be a dramatic 180. Or it might just be a simple turn, stopping still, without yet taking a step. We look in a new direction or a previous direction with bigger expansion, insight, and possibility. Sometimes, it might just involve looking over our shoulder to see that there are other pathways.

So where are we called to go? What is expanding for us? What might reveal new possibilities? Which directions are healthy and flourishing for us? How can we transform, grow, and change? Dramatically or gradually?

Renee Roederer

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