Excerpt from “If We Confess Our Sins,” by Fr. Thomas Hopko
‘In his spiritual diary, Fr. Alexander Elchaninov gives advice about confession. Advice is also found in the writings of Fr. John Kronstadt, and in such books as Unseen Warfare and The Way of the Pilgrim. Christians should read writings of this sort to help them with their confession. Theophan the Recluse advised those preparing for confession to study the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7) and the first letter of John, together with 1 Corinthians 13 and Romans 12 to 14. These, and other sections of the scriptures, focus sharply on what is expected of Christians in their daily behavior. Fr. Elchaninov writes that confession “springs from an awareness of what is holy, it means dying to sin and coming alive again to sanctity.” It begins with “a searching of the heart.” It moves to a sincere “contrition of the heart.” It expresses itself in the “oral confession of sins,” accomplished “with precision, without veiling the ugliness of sin by vague expression.” It is fulfilled in the resolution never to sin again, although realizing that we will fall because we are not God. It is sealed by our subsequent sufferings to remain steadfast in our struggle against sin. Such confession is at the heart of our spiritual efforts, especially during the Lenten spring.
‘“Behold, my child, Christ stands here invisibly and receives your confession. Wherefore be not ashamed nor afraid and conceal nothing from me, but tell without hesitation all things which you have done, and so you shall have pardon from our Lord Jesus Christ.
Lo, His holy image is before us, and I am but a witness, bearing testimony before Him of the things which you have to say. But if you shall conceal anything you shall have the greater sin. Take heed, therefore, lest having come to the physician, you depart unhealed.”’ (from the service of Confession)
One of the great victories of the Evil One in the Church herself is the neglect and even avoidance of the sacrament of Holy Confession by so many Orthodox Christians. This Sacrament is for healing, growth in the Life in Christ, the laying down of heavy burdens, and spiritual counsel. Every Orthodox Christian (except for small children) should come to Holy Confession regularly and at least once during the Great Fast. It is for our salvation.
Confessions are heard on Saturdays after Vespers, Sundays during Orthros, Monday evenings after Great Compline, Friday evenings after Akathist and by appointment.
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