My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
MANY CONFESS, FEW REPENT (PART II)
By Monk Moses of the Holy Mountain
ELEMENTS OF A SOUND CONFESSION
According to Saint Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain, "confession is a willed, verbal revealing of one's evil deeds and words and thoughts; solemn, accusatory direct, without shame, decisive, to be executed before a legitimate spiritual father." This God-bearing Saint has succinctly, fully and meaningfully clarified that confession must be willed, free, effortless, without the confessor straining to extract the person's confession. It should be with solemnity, in other words, with an awareness of the sorrow that he caused God with his sins, and not with sentimental, hypocritical tears.
Genuine "solemnity" implies an inner collapsing, remorse, a hatred towards sin, a love of virtue, and a feeling of gratitude to the gift-giver God. "Accusatory" implies a responsible confession, without attempts of justification, subterfuge, chicanery, irresponsibility and scapegoating; with sincere self-reproach and genuine self-humiliation that carries the so-called "happy-sorrow" and the "joyous bereavement" defined by the Church. "Direct" implies a confession with all sincerity, directness and precision, valor and courage, severity and bravery.
Furthermore, confession should be continuous, so that the willingly recurring passions (according to Saint John Climacus or of the Ladder) "are not strengthened, but rather, are cured sooner." Thus, old sins will not be entirely blotted out from memory, there will be a regular self-monitoring, self-observation, self-awareness and self-reproach; Divine Grace will not abandon; demonic entrapment will be averted much more easily, and reminiscence of death will not seem as horrid and terrible.
A basic prerequisite is a purity of heart; a purity that is rid of the spirit of avarice and blissfulness inspired by today's hyper-consumerist society; the spirit of God-despised pride in a world of narcissism, individualism, non-humility, non-philanthropy, arrogance and the bizarre; the demonic spirit of mischievous thoughts, fantasies, and imaginations and unclean and obscure suspicions and envy.
Purity of heart has become a rare ornament-in brotherly and conjugal relations, in obligations towards colleagues, in friendships, in conversations, in thoughts, in desires, in pastoral callings. Forgotten are neptic awareness, ascetic sobriety, traditional frugality, simplicity and gallantry. This has led to a polluting of the soul's rationalization ability, an arousal of its desirous aspect towards avarice, while its willpower has become severely blunted, thus drawing a weakened person towards evil, without any impediments or limitations.
Nowadays prevail self-justification, excuses for our passions, beautification of sin, and its reinforcement through modern psychological supports. The admission of mistakes is regarded as belittlement, weakness and generally improper. The constant justification of our self, and the meticulous transferal of responsibilities elsewhere have created a human being that is confused, divided, disturbed, worn-out, miserable and self-absorbed, taunted by the devil and captured in his dark meshes.
In view of all the above--none of which I believe has been exaggerated--it is our belief that the opus of a confessor is not an easy one. Ordinary coercion to repent and the cultivating of humility are nowadays inadequate; the fold requires catechesis (instruction), re-evangelizing, spiritual training, as well as a spiritual about face, in order to acquire powerful antibodies. Resistance, reaction and the confronting of the powerful current of de-sanctification, of secularization, of demoting heroism, of eudemonism and of amassing wealth are imperative. The young generation is in need of special attention, instruction and love, given that their upbringing has not proven to be of any help in their becoming aware of the meaning and the purpose of life, or of the void and the indecorousness, the lawlessness and the darkness of sin.
OBSTACLES IN MODERN TIMES
Another serious problem--even for our Christians--is the often over-zealous quest for a labor-less, toil-free and grief-free life. We are in search of Cyreneans to carry our crosses. We refuse to lift up our own personal cross. We have no idea of the depth and breadth of our own cross. We bow in reverence before the Cross in church, we cross ourselves, but we do not embrace our personal cross. In the long run, we would like a non-crucified Christianity. But there cannot be Pascha Sunday without a Holy and Great Friday.
We honor Martyrs and Saints, but we ourselves do not want to suffer any hardships, any postponements, any difficulties. Fasting is too difficult a task to accomplish; we feel resentful during an illness; we cannot tolerate any harsh words, not even when we are to blame, therefore how could we possibly tolerate injustice, slander, persecution and exile, the way our Saints did? Our contemporary, secular spirit of convenience, leisure, and excessive consumerism has greatly affected the measure of spiritual living.
One other serious problem of our time is man's morbid and undue reliance on logic, intellect, and personal judgment--we are referring to rationalization. Neptic, Orthodox theology teaches us to "consider our nous a tool, to lower it into the heart." Our Church does not cultivate and produce intellectuals. Rationalization is for us a clearly sin-oriented life view--a form of atheism--since it does contrary to the commandment of placing our faith, hope, love and trust in God. A rationalist judges everything using the filter of his own mind and only with his finite mind, with his sovereign ego as the epicenter, placing no trust in Divine Providence, Divine Grace and the Divine Assistance in his life.
By often regarding himself as infallible, a rationalist does not allow God to intervene in his life and thus becomes convinced that he is not in need of confession.
(My personal comment: An attitude which exists in every Greek Orthodox parish today both among the members of the Parish Council and the parishioners. How often do we hear at our meetings the words "by the grace of God all will be accomplished"? It is strange for a Christian community and an administrative body not to ever use the name of God in their deliberation, although every assembly and every meeting begins and ends with a prayer. It is as though we can do all things without Him. However, He says, "I am the vine, you are the branches, He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing" [St. John 15:5].)
Saint Symeon the New Theologian says however that, "for one to believe he has not fallen into any sins is the greatest of falls and fallacies, and the greatest sin of all." Certain newer theologians speak of "missing the target" and not of "sinning," in their desire to blunt the natural protesting of one's conscience. The self-sufficiency displayed by certain churchgoers and fasting Christians can at times be hiding a latent pharisaic stance, i.e., that "they are not like the others" and therefore are not in need of confession.
(To be continued)
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God