Penitence is not just doing better on my checklist...this is a struggle for me, I live with the mentality that if I can just do better at this or stop doing that or focus harder on this, then I will be fixed, or be more holy. Not true. Only when I completely "die" to myself and take on Christ to live inside us. I can't just be a "better me", I have to die to that old sorry self. C.S. Lewis's take on it is this....we are like eggs, we strive to be/want to be a better egg, BUT we aren't meant to be eggs at all, we are to be that new life (chicken/Christ) inside the egg. So we either hatch into what we were meant to be or we rot!
Penitence is sorrow for sin. The litany of penitance (recited after the imposition of the ashes, which represent death to self) is below:
Most holy and merciful Father:Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who desires not the death of sinners, but rather that they may turn from their wickedness and live, has given power and commandment to his ministers to declare and pronounce to his people, being penitent, the absolution and remission of their sins. He pardons and absolves all those who truly repent, and with sincere hearts believe his holy Gospel.
We confess to you and to one another,
and to the whole communion of saints
in heaven and on earth,
that we have sinned by our own fault
in thought, word, and deed;
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord.We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us. We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, Lord.We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to commend the faith that is in us,
We confess to you, Lord.Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done: for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty,
Accept our repentance, Lord.For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us;
Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,
That we may show forth your glory in the world.By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,
Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.
Therefore we beseech him to grant us true repentance and his Holy Spirit, that those things may please him which we do on this day, and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure and holy, so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord.