Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,
Good morning! A blessed day and week to all of you.
On the Saturday of Lazarus following the Divine Liturgy I will be offering the Mysterion of Repentance and Holy Confession to adults and children alike. However, just as in any of the other Mysteria (Sacraments) there is preparation involved. The Orthodox Christian believer must reflect on his/her life, actions, thoughts, sins that he/she has committed and be willing to repent of them with sincerity, remorse, grief, tears, broken heart and the conviction that by the grace of God he/she will not repeat them again but instead to conform to the Will of God and abide by the commandments of Christ our God and Savior.
The Holy Mysterion (Sacrament) of Repentance and Confession can rightly be called "the Forgotten Medicine." The whole world is lying in evil. Every one of us is infected with the deadly disease of sin, and one can be cured from this disease! The medicine is provided, and it is miraculous at that. You are healed the moment you take it. But we do not reach for it, to be healed and to lighten our conscience. Why? Because we have forgotten and neglected it.
The omnipotence of the Lord can forgive human sins. Look how unfathomable is God's mercy! God has given His power of forgiving the sin of men to the Holy Apostles and their successors in the persons of the bishops and priests. Why has God done so? To make repentance, and therefore forgiveness of sin, even closer, more accessible and more certain. "Receive ye the Holy Spirit," said Jesus Christ to His Holy Apostles. "Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained" (St. John 20:22-23). "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (St. Matthew 18:18).
How does the forgiving of sins occur?-through the Mysterion of Confession. The Christian believer burdened with sins goes to the priest with deep repentance (metanoia) in his/her soul and with a sincere desire to change and reveals to him in a detailed, frank, and full confession the secrets of his heart and conscience. The priest (Father Confessor) convinced of the sincere repentance of the Christian and after the suitable introductory prayers, reads to him the sacramental prayer: "May our Lord and God Jesus Christ, according to the grace and kindness of His love for man, Forgive you, child (Name), all your transgressions; and I, the unworthy priest, through the power given to me by Him, forgive you and free you of your sins, in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
In that moment, whatever the priest (Father Confessor) is forgiving on earth is also being forgiven in Heaven! Is there a greater mercy then this? We could not have believed that this is possible, if it had not been told us by the One Who never spoke an empty word or a lie (cf. 1 Peter 2:22).
Sin is a great evil with immeasurably heavy consequences--eternal torments in hell! But its cure, established by Jesus Christ, turns out to be so easy! This is simply incredible---just as Jesus Christ told the ten lepers: "Go show yourselves unto the priests" (St. Luke 17:14), and they, when they went, were healed, so it is as if He were speaking to us, sinners: "You are weak with spiritual leprosy?! Do not be afraid! You will be healed. Just do this: go show yourselves to the priests."
If we ignore such a mercy of God, how many more punishments we will deserve, because we have not done for our salvation even that small thing which is given to us to do and which is so easy.
There are four elements necessary for the Mysterion of Repentance and Confession:
- Contrition, or sincere sorrow for sins committed and a strong determination not to repeat those sins. "Sacrifice to God is a broken spirit: a broken and humbled heart God will not despise" (Psalm 350 (51).
- Examination of conscience, or comparing your way of living with the Commandments of God.
- Confession of sins to your Spiritual Father or Father Confessor (Priest, monk priest or Geronda [Elder]).
- In order to make a good confession it is first necessary to admit your own responsibility for sins committed and not to blame anyone else. You must take the total responsibility and regret genuinely for committing them. You must not be selective which sins you are to confess but rather your confession must be complete and specific.
What should we do when we are with the Confessor and Spiritual Father?
We have to do the following:
- Remember that we have come to Christ's infirmary. Here, the visible doctor is the Priest, and the invisible Doctor--Christ Himself
- Confess our sins without false shame.
- Not seek excuses or justifications for our sins.
- Consciously conceal absolutely nothing.
- Do not confess with general phrases which have no meaning.
- Confess briefly, but precisely, the character of each of our sins.
- Not reveal other people's sins, and conceal, whenever possible, the names of the persons who have tempted us or who have sinned with us through our fault.
- Not to boast before the Priest of any virtues of ours but instead to come before him as before Christ with a sense of unworthiness, humility, sinfulness and heartfelt tears.
- Not to transfer the blame on others, but only on ourselves.
- Have a sincere desire to be obedient to Christ and His Commandments and not to be disobedient, prideful, or rebellious in the future.
THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS: