The Holy Nativity Fast and the Sacrament of Holy Repentance and Confession

Martyr Platon of Ancyra

Martyr Platon of Ancyra

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.

PRAYERS AND BLESSINGS OFFERED AT THE SACRAMENT (MYSTERY) OF REPENTANCE AND CONFESSION

The penitent says:

"I have sinned, O Lord, forgive me.  O God, be merciful to me a sinner."

Let us pray to the Lord. Lord have mercy.

O God our Savior, Who through Your Prophet Nathan granted remission of sins to the penitent David, and accepted the penitent prayer of Manasse, do You Yourself, O loving Lord, accept this Your servant (Name), who laments over the transgression which he (she) has committed, overlooking all that he (she) has done. You who forgive all unrighteousness and pass by all transgressions; for You, O Lord, have said, "You have no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but rather he turn from his wickedness and live"; and that "sins shall be forgiven even unto seventy times seven." For as Your greatness is incomparable, so is Your mercy immeasurable. For if You should mark iniquities, who shall stand? For You are the God of the penitent, and to You do we send up Glory: to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

The penitent, kneeling and holding up his hands, says:

"Father, Lord of heaven and earth, I confess to You all the hidden and open sins of my heart and mind, which I have committed to this day. Therefore, I beg of You, the Merciful and Righteous Judge, forgiveness and grace to sin no more."

The Priest then says kindly to the penitent:

Brother (sister), inasmuch as you have come to me and to God, be not ashamed; for you speak not to me, but to God, before Whom you stand.

The Priest then questions the penitent in detail about his (her) sins, after which he says as follows:

My spiritual child, who has confessed to my humble person, I, humble and sinner, have no power on earth to forgive sins, but God alone; but through that divinely spoken word which came to the Apostles after the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, saying, "Whosesoever sins you remit, they are remitted, and whosesoever sins you retain, they are retained," we are emboldened to say: Whatsoever you have said to my humble person, and whatsoever you have failed to say, whether through ignorance of forgetfulness, whatever it may be, may God forgive you in this world, and in the world to come.

Priest adds this prayer:

May God Who pardoned David through Nathan the Prophet when he confessed his sins, and Peter weeping bitterly for his denial, and the sinful woman weeping at His feet, and the publican and the prodigal son, may that same God forgive you all things, through me a sinner both in this world and in the world to come, and set you uncondemned before His terrible judgment seat. Having no further care for the sins which you have confessed, depart in peace.

(Small Efchologion or Priest's Orthodox Prayer Book)

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A Note of Introduction

"Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." (St. Matthew 5:8)

In reading these words, every Christian feels a natural yearning of the heart towards God, a true desire to taste the sweetness of communion, of being with Him as He created us to be; but the impurity of our hearts--full of passions, conflicts, and fears--bars the way. Yet, there is a cure for the weight of sin which burdens the hearts and soul of each one of us and afflicts the conscience, keeping us from inner peace and from peace with our neighbors and loved ones.

"In the Mystery (Sacrament) of Repentance the spiritual afflictions of a man, having received forgiveness of sins, again becomes innocent and sanctified, just as he came out of the waters of Baptism." Saint Theophan the Recluse tells us that "in the Sacrament...of Confession, the Lord enters into man by His grace, vividly establishes communion with him, and gives him to taste of all the sweetness of the Divine..."

If such blessed transformation and heavenly consolation come through the Mystery (Sacrament) of repentance, why do we not hasten to partake of it? Archimandrite Seraphim in "the Forgotten Medicine" details the reasons many have for not coming to Confession, and for each of these he clearly brings forth the truth of the matter.

The Rich Traveler

Into a remote and beautiful mountain village came an unusual stranger for his summer vacation. He was a very rich man. He was travelling alone, and, being quite tired, he wanted to find a place to stay and rest. He had the intention of rewarding the people who could give him a quiet and pleasant stay. Since he had countless riches, he wanted to give his cordial hosts a present that they had never even dreamed of.

He saw what seemed to be a beautiful house situated on a wonderful spot and decided to ask for shelter there. He knocked on the door, but when it was opened and he was invited to come in, he instinctively shrank away. An unbearably foul-smelling air reached him from inside. What was the matter? The home of these people and their pigsty were under the same roof. Without even mentioning the reason for his visit, the traveler excused himself and went back out into the yard.

He went along the clear river which was running through the village. Close by was another beautiful, newly built house which attracted his attention, and he decided to knock at its door. However, the owner of this home was a very cruel man. When he saw a stranger approaching the gates, he set his dogs on him and did not even let him come into his yard.

The traveler sought shelter in a third house as well. The people there invited him kindly, and he went inside. But after he saw that everything in this home was lying around in disorder, covered with dust and soot, and buried in waste and cobwebs, he decided that he would not be able to find the longed-for peace.

By that time, he was so tired that he decided to stay in the next, fourth house no matter what is condition. But there, besides the untidiness and the dirt, he noticed something else. There were signs of bedbugs on the walls, and he could not stand the parasites. Also, fleas crawled all over him, so he hurried to get out of there, too.

In this way he went about the whole village, but he could not find a clean home where he could rest peacefully...

At the end of the village, exhausted, he dropped by a small house in which, as it turned out, lived a good housewife. There he was met with great cordiality and with friendly, smiling faces. The moment he entered one of the rooms, he noticed that everything there was simple, but clean and well ordered. The windows were shining with cleanliness. There were no cobwebs in the corners. The boards of the floor were recently cleaned. The air in the room was fresh. It was evident that the fragrance of the near fields and forests was often allowed to come into the house through the open windows.

The traveler sighed with relief and stayed in this home. At last he had found a quiet, pleasant place to rest. It was there that he left his magnificent gift.

Dear readers, have you asked yourselves: if our Savior were to come, He Who is bringing the greatest gift--His heavenly grace with which He makes our souls happy and saves them--and if He were to seek a shelter for Himself in our souls, where could He find a place fit for rest? Saint Macarius of Egypt says: "Just as God has created the heavens and the earth for man to inhabit, so He has created the body and the soul of man to be His abode, that is why the Apostle says, His "house we are" (Hebrews 3:60.

Jesus Christ, this Wondrous Heavenly Guest, often comes among us and wishes to enter the roof of our soul. He appears among us through the unfathomable mystery of Holy Communion. He knocks on every door, longs to come into every home, desires to talk with every heart, wants to make every believing soul happy and to give it His heavenly gift...

(Source: The Forgotten Medicine: The Mystery of Repentance by Archimandrite Seraphim Aleksiev). Our Bookstore has this small book if you wish to learn more about the Sacrament of Repentance and Confession.)

Please note: The Sacrament of Repentance and Confession is necessary for our salvation. Metanoia (Repentance) is the key to the kingdom. As our Holy Fathers and Holy Mothers state, 'It is not the sin that condemns one, but the unwillingness to acknowledge it (to confess it), and repent of it. It is not enough for an Orthodox Christian to abstain from certain foods and drink. What brings us true cleansing is to participate in this healing Sacrament as often as possible. One of our parishioners asked me recently how often should one confess his sins? Should an Orthodox Christian confess regularly when he/she believes that he/she will sin again? My question to you is how often do you bathe? And if the answer is daily, my question is why? Especially if you know that you will get dirty again. It is sheer common sense that if one does not wash himself as often as possible, one will offend those around him/her with one's stench.

Every practicing Orthodox Christian understands that it is his/her father confessor that determines how often his spiritual child or children should participate in the Sacrament of Repentance and Confession, how they should fast, and how often they should receive Holy Communion. It is not left up to the individual Orthodox Christian to decide. The father confessor will base his decision on the spiritual health or condition of his spiritual child or children. The spiritual child is always obedient to everything that his/her spiritual father advises him/her to do with complete trust and respect. In other words, the very same way as one places his/her total trust to his/her physician.

We all sin constantly and therefore we need to participate in the Sacrament of Repentance and Confession as often as possible, otherwise, we offend God with our spiritual stench. As He begins His earthly ministry, our Lord Jesus Christ calls all to "Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand" (St. Matthew 4:17). Christ's first word, like that of Saint John the Baptist, is "repent", because repentance is necessary to enter and continue in His new way of life. Repentance is man's turning from himself to God. It is true conversion!

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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.

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Glory Be To GOD For All Things!

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

+Father George