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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