I was reading an article [by Richard Rohr, an American priest focusing on spirituality] and came across the following explanation of metanoia, and it surprised me. "Remember, presence does not happen in the mind. All the mind can handle is before and after; it does not know how to be present in the now. That is the mind’s great limitation. This is why all teachers of prayer give us methods for literally moving 'beyond the mind' (meta-noia), which so many Bibles since St. Jerome’s unfortunate Latin (poenitentia) translate as 'repent.'" I would value your input. — D.P.

I am afraid I cannot agree with the writer. In the Latin Vulgate, paenitentia = penance — not repentance. Even Luther rendered the Greek word repent (metanoesate) in Acts 2:38 as “tut Buße”, “do penance.” Teshuvah is Hebrew for repentance (turning), and largely corresponds to the Greek metánoia. Neither word entails the notion of penance, or making satisfaction for sin. Rather, it is the heartfelt decision to surrender our lives to God.

Further, if the mind could not handle the present, then it’s hard to see how there could be any free will. This seems to be a variety of Augustinian thinking. Perhaps equally misguided, although sometimes the mind can get in the way of the heart, so to speak, the encouragement to move beyond the mind seems to contradict Paul in 1 Cor 14:13-15. We are to pray with our spirit and with our mind. When the mind is bypassed, we may open ourselves to the dark world.

I like your response. I wish my knowledge of Greek was better. In time. Although I agree with your arguments, does Rohr misinterpret μετά? It seems to me that he is using an English equivalent for meta which doesn’t seem to be the same definition at μετά. I am finding that some Catholics read into the text their peculiar theological perspective (as we all do). Because they come from a much different culture, they tend to see many things different than we do. Some have made me ponder. Some, like this one, seem to be a stretch.—D.P.

Meta = with (when it takes the genitive), otherwise after (or beyond) (when it takes the accusative). It corresponds roughly with the Latin preposition trans. Yes, I believe Rohr is reading too much into the text.