The Importance of Confession

Translation of the relics of St Lazarus “of the Four Days in the Tomb” the Bishop of Kiteia on Cyprus

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


O Jesus Christ, the good name above all names, my sweetness, my longing and my hope, You became man for us and in wisdom planned and assigned everything for our salvation. With all my heart, O Lord my God, I confess to You. I bow down upon the knees of my body and my soul and recount before You, my God, all my sins. May I hope that You too will incline Your ear to my supplication and will forgive the irreverence of my heart. Amen. [Saint John Chrysostom]



On October 17th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors, and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefather, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers and every righteous spirit made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Holy Hosea the Prophet; Holy Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damianos in Cilicia, and their brothers Leontius, Athimos, and Eftropius; Translation of the Holy Relics of Saint Lazarus, Bishop of Kitrion on Cyprus; Saint Alexander of Semipalatinsk (+1937); Saint Anthony of Novgorod (+1611); Saint Shushaniki (Susanna) Queen of Georgia; Saint Andrew of Crete; Saint Cosmas of Arabia; Saint Joseph, Catholicos of Georgia (+1770).

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Prophets, Holy Queens, Holy Ascetics, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

TRANSLATION (ANAKOMIDE) OF THE HOLY RELICS OF SAINT LAZARUS, FRIEND OF CHRIST AND BISHOP OF KITION ON CYPRUS. Saint Lazarus, the friend of Jesus Christ, whose sisters Mary and Martha, and whom Jesus raised from the dead, was in grave danger of being killed after his resurrection in Jerusalem because he was attracting many Jewish people to Christianity. He escaped to the Island of Cyprus, taught the faith there, and was made a bishop by the Holy Apostles. While there, Saint Lazarus wrote to the Theotokos and told her that he hoped to see her again but was reluctant to return to Jerusalem. The Theotokos asked him to send a ship, and with Saint John the Theologian and Evangelist and others, she made the trip and presented Saint Lazarus with a bishop's stole that the Mother of God had made for him. Thirty years after being brought back to life, having served the Church well, Saint Lazarus died and was buried on the Island of Crete. Eight centuries later, Emperor Leo the Wise had the holy relics of Saint Lazarus moved to Constantinople and place in a new church dedicated to his memory.


Holy Epistle Lesson: Romans 9:18-33:

"Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. You will say to me then, 'Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?' But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the things formed say to him who formed it, 'Why have you made me like this?' Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As He says also in Hosea: 'I will call them My people, who were not my people, and her beloved, who was not beloved.' And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, 'You are My people,' There they shall be called sons of the living God...' "...What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone."

Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 9:49-56


"When God created Adam he did not give him bodily wings like the birds but prepared for him in advance the wings of the Holy Spirit--the wings he desires to give him in the resurrection--to lift him up and carry him wherever the Spirit wishes. Saintly souls receive these wings even now when they take flight in the spirit toward heavenly thoughts". [Saint Macarius the Great]

by Elder (Geronda) Cleopa of Sihastria

The elder emphasized the importance of repentance, insisting that the faithful seek the sacrament of confession a minimum of four times each year. He always emphasized that it was up to the father confessor to decide it, when, and how often, the individual would partake of the Holy Body and Precious Blood of Christ. Reception of Holy Communion in Romania is not done frequently, in fact is very rare, even though most monasteries celebrate the Divine Liturgy daily. Regardless of how often one would have the blessing to approach the Holy Chalice, Fr. Cleopa insisted that confession be frequent and very thorough. He labored to draw the people back into a more sacramental life, instilling in them that they must not partake of the Body and Blood of the Lord in a carless manner, but that they must first and foremost be cleansed of their sins.

He would frequently tell people, "When you see that someone in your home is sick, your mother or father, whoever, do not call the doctor right away, but call the priest first. The doctor cannot give someone an extra second of life; if he could, he would not give it to you, but to himself. Everything is according to the will of God! Call the priest and tell him, 'Father, hear my mother's/father's/etc. confession,' and the priest will hear what the person confesses and also ask him if he has committed this sin or another."

"In confession, the penitent should say that he has committed all sins, because if we do not commit a sin in deed, we do so in the mind or in thought. Finally, the priest will absolve the person through the grace that has been given to him by Christ. Then, you call can call the doctor. If the person dies, having confessed sincerely and completely, the prayers of the Church can deliver him from the torments of hell during those next forty days, sometimes a little longer, but the Church does deliver him. But if the person dies without having confessed and is guilty of grave sins, he can find no deliverance, for without confession, there is no salvation."

Another counsel that he imparted to those who were sick, after writing down their names to be remembered at the Divine Liturgy, was this: "The most important service for those who are sick is Holy Unction; however, this should not be done for someone who has not confessed. First, you must confess all your sins, and then ask for Holy Unction with no less than three priests serving."

He was often heard saying, "The time will come soon when you will not find true spiritual fathers to hear your confession; then you will go off into the woods and confess to the trees and birds!"

When one of the faithful asked him, "Fr. Cleopa, what can I do? I cannot find a spiritual father for my soul?" The elder replied, "You can't find him? He will find you!"

Throughout his own life, Fr. Cleopa had a number of spiritual fathers, all of whom left an imprint on the elder. There was never a time when he was without a spiritual father, even during his seclusion in the wilderness.

The Elder spoke on the topic of confession quite often. "One of the foremost obligations that we have, both as monastics and as lay people, is to confess our sins. We must first recognize that we all sin against God, some more than others, but no one without sin. Holy Scripture bears testimony to this fact, saying, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:8-9).

"If I confess all my sins, both physical and spiritual, thoroughly and with true repentance before the priest, if he does no more than simply put his hand on my head and say, 'May God forgive you,' then my sins have been lifted from me.

If, however, I did not approach this sacrament with a spirit of repentance and did not prepare myself properly; if I chose to go to a priest who is somewhat lax in these matters; if I did not confess thoroughly; if I hid my sins and did not follow the penance I received for them; if I did not later abandon these sins; then even if I were to be absolved a thousand times, the sin would still be in me like poison because I did not approach the sacrament of confession properly prepared.

So, you see, the benefit and precious value of holy confession does not depend on the priest, but on the penitent. When I approach this sacrament, it must be with complete piety, with absolute conviction before the face of God--when I stand before the priest, I am truly standing before God since the priest is only a witness--then I must reveal all of my sins. Do you think the priest can otherwise be of any help to you on the judgment day if you did not confess completely? God forbid! The priest cannot absolve things that you did not reveal in confession. If you held back and did not confess a particular sin, then all of the other sins will come back on you. This is what the Holy Fathers themselves have said, because this reserve, this refusal to confess something, shows that you think God does not know what you have done.

These are some of the aspects that go into a full confession:

"First, confession must be made before a priest.
Second, confession must be thorough, with nothing hidden as I have already said.
Third, confession must be done of one's own free will, according to the Holy Spirit Who says, "You shall offer it of your own free will" (Lev. 19:5).
Fourth, confession must be made with humility, for "A broken and contrite heart, God will not despise" (Psalm 50[51]:17).
Fifth, confession should never be accusatory; in other words, blame should never be place on someone or something else, neither another person, another being in God's creation, not even the devil. In confession, we should blame only ourselves, as Saint John Climacus says, "It is my sore, it is my wound; it is the result of my slothfulness, not someone else's."
Sixth, confession must be completely truthful. Tell how you have committed all your sins, without being embarrassed. The shame that you endure in confession will release you from the shame that you would suffer with everyone on the fearful Day of Judgment before God.
Seventh, confession has to be decisive. As we stand before the priest we must be determined that, with the help of Divine grace, we will no longer commit those sins that we have confessed. We should be more willing to die a thousand times rather than to willingly sin again.

Saint Basil the Great tells us confession is ineffectual if the person says merely that he has sinned but then persists in the sin that he so abhors. No one should confess in this manner! All of your remorse is dependent on your determination to change your life.

Do you want to know something else? "Nothing unclean shall enter into the kingdom of heaven" (I Cor. 6:9). That is why the greatest thing you can do for someone is to summon the priest, not the doctor, when that person is sick. The priest is the one who has grace from God. Haven't you heard the Gospel? "Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." If you confess thoroughly before death, your soul is saved. As the soul passes through the tollhouses, any sins that were absolved by the priest on earth have been erased from the record by the Holy Spirit. The devils are furious over this, but there is nothing they can do. 'Look at that! W had him in our hands before!' But now, the Holy Spirit has erased all those sins.

This is the power that God has given to the priests; if it were not for this power that God bestowed on the priests, no one among men could be saved. God, Who made heaven and earth, also knew what to do for the salvation of the world. When Christ was Resurrected, He gave this authority to the Apostles. What did He say to the Apostles? "He breathed upon them and said to them: Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any they are retained...what you bind on earth will be bound in heaven" (St. John 20:22-23; St. Matt. 18:18).

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George