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How Can I Benefit From Confession?


H. G. Bishop Moussa

One of the most important areas of individual work and one of the most important ways to make the acquaintance of the sheep of the flock, to get to know their names and their needs, is the confession session held by the priest with his son.

The meeting of the son with his spiritual father is the true Christian discipleship which prepares the believer for the spiritual graces that help him achieve quiet and continuous growth in his life. Holy Communion is one of those spiritual graces which makes a person worthy of a life of discipleship.

When the Lord Jesus Christ, glory be to Him, instituted the Last Supper in the per Room in Zion, He gave His Body and Blood to His disciples only. Therefore, only those who are disciples should partake of the Holy Sacraments; that is, only those who have a father confessor and a spiritual guide from among the clergy. Thus, one becomes the priest’s disciple and learns spiritual economy and the Christian virtues from him. He confesses to him the sins and mistakes he has committed as he leads a life of discipleship and repentance.

I am aware that most priests schedule confession after the offering of Evening Incense or after general evening meetings in Church in order to make things easier for people. When the priest begins hearing confessions, the confessors enter one by one in turn, quietly and in accordance to the system in place.

During the waiting period before you go in for confession to your father confessor, occupy yourself with some spiritual readings from a book that you get with you in order to increase your spiritual fervor, to keep yourself from evil thoughts and from the attacks of Satan who tries hard at that moment to prevent you from confessing and, subsequently, from taking Holy Communion. When your turn comes, enter with reverence and greet your father with respect, kissing his hand and the cross. Sit quietly and know well that you sit as one accused before the judge, no matter what your position or status may be. Be prepared to make your confession, whether this preparation is done mentally or on a piece of paper that you have with you and which contains what you want to confess as well as the questions you want to ask your father.

Church history tells us that one of the Patriarchs would sit on the ground when he was confessing to his father confessor and when the latter said to him apologetically, “Sit beside me, Father,” the patriarch would insist on sitting humbly and submissively on the ground, saying: “You now represent God and in your hands is the authority to forgive my sins. Allow me to feel that I am a defendant before the judge who has the power to acquit me.”

Confess your sins and errors in detail, whether they are in your mind or on the paper, and be careful not to hide anything no matter how ugly or embarrassing it is, keeping in mind the advice of the apostle: “ If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1Jn. 1: 9). Do not blame others or your circumstances and justify yourself of wrongdoing, remembering what the apostle said: “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1Jn. 1: 10).
Confess all you know of your
failings, recalling what the prophet said: “Pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord” (Lam.2: 19). The prophet mentions water in particular, for water does not leave any trace or odor after it is poured from the vessel in contrast to oil which inevitably leaves some remains in the vessel no matter how thoroughly you pour it, and in contrast to vinegar which leaves an odor in the vessel after it is poured out.
Therefore, your confessions should be a total outpouring of your sins before God in the presence of the priest so that no trace or odor of sin is left within your heart. Know that the pouring out of your sins in confession is done before God, “before the face of the Lord” and not before a human being because the Holy Spirit is present to hear and forgive. The Holy Bible tells us this story:

When the people of Israel entered Jericho, the Lord warned them and forbade them to take anything, but Achan, the son of Carmi, found some valuables and stole them. The anger of the Lord burned against the children of Israel and they were defeated by the small town of Ai. When Joshua asked the Lord about the reason for this unexpected defeat, the Lord said: “There is an accursed thing in your midst, O Israel; you cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the accursed thing from among you.” (Jos. 7: 13). So Joshua fetched Achan son of Carmi and ordered him to confess to the Lord before him (Joshua) saying: “My son, I beg you, give glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession to Him, and tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me” (Jos. 7: 19). And so Achan son of Carmi confessed before the Lord in the presence of Joshua son of Nun.
Know that you are in the presence of the spiritual physician who will heal you of all your sins and weaknesses, recalling the apostle’s advice: “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (Jm. 5: 16)
We know that a sick person does not hide anything about his sickness from the doctor, no matter how secret, ugly, or shameful, so that the doctor can know all the patient is suffering from: the symptoms of his disease, its causes, and its complications. Thus, he can prescribe the appropriate medicine which will bring about his full recovery.

Since spiritual diseases are harder to diagnose and discover and are more dangerous to the patient than physical diseases as they lead to eternal perdition, we have to help our father confessor discover and diagnose our diseases so that it is easier for him to know their causes and motives and to prescribe the effective medicine that will lead to a speedy recovery.

Would that you remembered what the psalmist said: “I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.” (Ps. 32: 5) Solomon said: “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” (Pr. 28: 13). The Lord encourages you to confess saying: “Put Me in remembrance; let us contend together; state your case that you may be acquitted” (Is. 43: 26).

Repentance is a second baptism; its action is strong and its effect is great. Listen to what St. Athanasius, the Apostlic, says: “Just as the one who is baptized by a priest is enlightened by the grace of the Holy Spirit, so is the one who confesses his sins to the priest granted forgiveness through the grace of Christ.”
My brother, the courageous fighter, after you are through with your confession, after you have addressed to the priest all the questions and the inquiries you have, after you have listened to his wise and fatherly answers to your questions and his useful replies to your inquiries, and learned from him the healing remedies for your ills, and after you have heard the practical and spiritual solutions to your problems, kneel with reverence in the spirit of prayer and supplication and accept the absolution from the mouth of God.

Some Remarks About the Practice of the Sacrament of Confession

Some people believe it is enough if they tell the father confessor some of their sins during the readings of the Mass “the Pauline epistles....”. The problem with this method is that the time is very limited, especially if the priest is serving the Mass alone and there is no other priest in the church. Because of the lack of time, the penitent cannot confess all his sins and the priest cannot listen with concentration and give necessary advice, good solutions, or useful exercises. Moreover, the climate is not appropriate to the sacredness of this Holy sacrament.

What is even worse is that some people do not go for confession and in spite of this awful shortcoming in the care of their souls, they partake of Holy Communion. All they do is that they ask the priest to give them absolution just before Holy Communion. Unfortunately, some priests respond to these people and do grant them absolution without knowing anything about them or even asking them some basic questions. After they get the absolution, they feel relieved and their consciences are drugged. They partake of the sacraments without repentance or worthiness and so add a new sin to their other sins and incur a greater judgment.

What I ask now is: what is the use of absolution if it is not preceded by confession? Is it a magic formula that forgives and removes sins that the person has not confessed to, revealed, or exposed before God in the presence of the priest, the steward of God’s sacraments?

There is another very strange and widespread phenomenon in our churches. Some people who have confessed their sins, are prepared for Holy Communion, attend Mass from the beginning and attend all the ritual absolutions, might ask the priest, before Holy Communion, for a special absolution. Why? I wish the priests would draw the people’s attention to this prevalent error.

Know, dear reader, that if you come to church after the gospel is read, you have no right to partake of Holy Communion as the Church rites teach us. However, if you come between matins and absolution and the reading of the gospel, and if you have confessed and are prepared to take Holy Communion, do not request a special absolution. This is for the following reasons:

1. You have confessed and are prepared and have received the absolution at the end of your personal confession.

2. The priest will grant a general absolution after the Fraction prayer of division. You will attend these absolutions and will offer repentance and contrition with the whole church at that time.
Therefore, you do not need a special absolution which everybody is in the habit of asking the priest for separately, as though it were an official permission to partake of Holy Communion. This wrong procedure on the part of the congregation harasses the priests and affects their performance of the liturgy in the correct way.

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