Hieromonk Gabriel on Repentance…
So how exactly did Adam and Eve lose Paradise? Yes, they chose obedience to the Devil and disobedience to the Lord, they broke the fast ordained by God and ate of the forbidden fruit, the one thing in all of Creation which was not freely given to them from the beginning. But, my brothers and sisters, let us note well: though from that moment “the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked” (Gen. 3:7), nevertheless they remained yet in Paradise. And though they “hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:8), nevertheless when God called them into His presence He did not immediately cast them out, nor did He even show forth any wrath or fiery indignation! No, He rather came to them as a loving father comes to his injured children, gently calling them by name and asking them how such an injury had befallen them. And it was perhaps only then that the final and complete Fall of Man occurred: for instead of humbly acknowledging their fault and begging for the forgiveness which God would certainly have not withheld, they instead began to justify themselves, even to the point of blaming God Himself for their sin! And so perhaps it is not too bold to say that while it was through disobedience that mankind first fell, it was through self-justification that mankind truly lost Paradise.
And even till this day, self-justification remains just as much a complete and inviolable barrier between a Christian and the Kingdom of God. Even our most grievous sins are no obstacle to our Christianity (as St. Herman of Alaska witnesses); there is no sin which God cannot forgive, there is no possible transgression which can drive God’s ineffable love and mercy away from us. But if we ourselves stubbornly cling to our sin, if we obstinately refuse to allow God to offer us His forgiveness, then He will not force us to receive it in violation of our free will. This is why the Holy Fathers tell us that the only unforgivable sin is the unrepented sin. And what is self-justification, other than the stubborn insistence that we have no need of repentance?
– ‘Remembering Sion’ blog