Orthodox America

How to Make a Confession  

      One should come for confession in the evening, i.e., on the eve of the day one plans to receive the Holy Mysteries of Christ. Before confession you should try to bring to remembrance all your sins, whether committed voluntarily or involuntarily; you should carefully examine your life in order to recall all your sins, not only the ones committed since your last confession, but past sins which you have forgotten to confess. Then, with compunction and contrition of heart, approach the Cross and Gospel and begin your confession. 

Confess your sins openly; remember that you are telling them not to a man but to God Himself. He already knows your sins but He wants you to acknowledge them yourself. And there is no need to be ashamed before your spiritual father. He is a human being just as you are, he knows well human failings and man's inclination to sin, and for this reason he cannot be your dread judge. But are you not ashamed before your spiritual father because you are afraid of losing his good opinion of you? On the contrary, a spiritual father, seeing your sincere, honest confession, will cherish an even greater love towards you. Furthermore, if you are ashamed and afraid of revealing your sins before one man, a priest, then how will you bear that shame when you appear at God's Dread Judgment, where your sins, it you were not cleansed of them through sincere repentance, will be opened before God Himself, the angels and all the people---acquaintances and strangers alike. 

Confess all your sins thoroughly, each sin separately. St. John Chrysostom says: "One mustn't say simply 'I sinned,' or 'I am a sinner,' but you must indicate the various forms of these sins.," i.e., you must mention each sin individually. "The revelation of sins," says St. Basil the Great, "is subject to the same laws as the revelation of physical infirmities..." A sinner is one who is spiritually ill, and the spiritual father is the doctor or physician; consequently. you must confess or tell your sins to the spiritual father just as a man who is physically sick tells his physical woes to the doctor, hoping to receive healing through him. 

Don't involve other people in your confession; don't complain about anyone. That is not confession but judgment, and this judgment is yet another sin. 

During confession don't try to justify yourself in any way, giving the excuse of illness, habit, etc. In confession, the more a person justifies himself the less he will be justified by God. And conversely, the  more a person reproaches himself, judges and blames himself the more he will find justification before God. 

When the father confessor asks you about something, don't say "I don't remember; maybe I'm guilty of this also..." God has exhorted us always to remember our sins. In order not to use forgetfulness as an excuse, we should confess as often as possible; because those who, through indifference or carelessness, rarely prepare themselves for Holy Communion and give time to forget their sins are themselves at fault and cannot therefore expect to be absolved of sins, they have not confessed. For this reason we must unfailingly try to recall our sins. When someone is indebted to us, we have no trouble remembering the debt, but we forget our debts to the Lord! Does this not show on our part an utter carelessness and negligence towards our soul? So, to, if the father confessor asks you about a certain sin, you shouldn't answer, "I try not to do this" This is not an answer; it only masks the substance of the reply and appears as a cover-up for sin. 

Unless asked by the father confessor, don't speak about that of which you are not guilty, or what you did not do like the pharisee in the Gospel. In doing you are boasting rather than confessing your sins and this only increases your condemnation. 

You should make your confession with sorrow and heartfelt contrition over your sins through which we grieve the Lord God. It is not good that many people relate their sins without any feeling, with out any remorse, as though they are conducting an ordinary conversation. What is worse, some people even allow themselves to smile at their sins. All this indicates a lack of repentance; and if we confess in this manner we are not cleansed of our sins but only add to them. 

Finally, confess your sins with faith in Jesus Christ and in hope of His mercy. For it is only through believing in Jesus Christ and hoping on Him that we can receive forgiveness of our sins. Without faith this is impossible. We have as an example, Judas, the traitor. 

Here, then, is how we should confess in order to receive from the Lord God forgiveness of our sins. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9) 

Translated from Blogovest, Parish Bulletin of the Holy Virgin Cathedral in San Francisco; March 1989

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