Confession is one of the spiritual means for one’s repentance :
In the church belief, the sacrament of confession is even called ‘The Sacrament of Repentance’. It actually leads to repentance if practised in a proper, spiritual way. Confession is not mere words said by the confessor to the priest. It must be mixed with specific feelings that would lead the sinner to true repentance. How is this so?
ELEMENTS OF CONFESSION
What are the elements of confession that make it complete ?
Confession consists of four elements that should be completed:
1. Confession to God Himself:
the Prophet David says in Psalm 51, the Psalm of Repentance: “against
You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight”. In this confes-
sion, we ask forgiveness from God, as we say in the Lord’s prayer: “Forgive
us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” And you ask God
to remove His anger from you, though you deserve it because of your sins.
As we say in the Psalm: “Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger, nor chasten me
in Your hot displeasure. Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak” (Ps 6:1,2).
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2. And as we confess to God, we also confess to our confession father:
confess to him as a steward of the mysteries of God (1 Cor 4:1), and
(Mal 2:7). You confess to him so God may grant you forgiveness and abso-
lution (Jn 20:22,23), and (Mt 18:18). He would also give you permission to
partake of Holy Communion, for which you will become worthy (1 Cor
11:27). It is also for spiritual guidance, as he will guide and help you in over-
coming your problems. You also confess to the priest for a practical reason,
as one often feels ashamed when he recalls his sins before a spiritual person,
and especially before clergy. This shame will help him not to commit sin in
the future. And the Bible says: “Confess your trespasses to one another” (Jas
5:16), that is, from one human being to another human being.
3. You confess to the one against whom you have trespassed with all offences done against him:
is to wipe away any anger he may feel, or sadness because of your
offence, so you will be able to partake of Holy Communion with a pure heart
towards all. This is what the Lord taught in the Sermon on the Mount: “There-
fore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has
something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First
be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mt 5:23,24).
And so if you find that in every trespass against others, you will go to that person and reconcile with him, apologizing and confessing the wrong that you have done to him ... this no doubt will lead you to be more careful in your dealings with others, to stay away from offending others, and hence not feel obliged to apologize for it.
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4- There is another type of confession, and that is confessing to yourself that you have sinned ...
This is because if you do not confess within your heart and your thoughts that you have sinned, you will never of course confess the sin before God. You will also be reluctant in confessing to the priest. And you will not go to your brother to reconcile with him ...
confessing the mistake or the sin starts within the person first, by
having an inner feeling that he has sinned and that he is mentally convinced
that he has done a mistake. He then feels the necessity of confessing it in
order to receive forgiveness and achieve reconciliation with God and with
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Many lack the inside feeling of being wrong, therefore they do not practise repentance or confession...
because their spiritual measures are not correct, or because they
always justify their deeds. Their ego prevents them from confessing or ad-
mitting being wrong. They see themselves as being right, so what would
they have to confess?! Many sinners even disguise their sins with the appearance of virtue and they boast about this sin ... just as the scribes and
Pharisees used to see themselves right in their enmity towards the Lord Je-
sus Christ, defending the law of Moses and the traditions of their fathers!!
And so they said in boldness and boasting of sin: “Do we not say rightly that
you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” (Jn 8:48). They were insulting and re-
viling Christ as such and considered themselves righteous!
FEELINGS OF THE CONFESSOR
The confessor then must feel that he has sinned. He also must repent and have a contrite heart because of his sins.
the Prophet, due to his great remorse, would cry bitterly over his
sins and drench his couch with his tears (Ps 6:6). He felt that he needed to
be cleansed from his sins, so he said to the Lord. “Wash me thoroughly from
my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin... Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be
clean ...” (Ps 51).
go to confession with no regret and no feeling of embarrassment,
shame or disgrace because of their sins. Therefore they do not benefit from
their confession. It becomes a mere talk, with no spirit!! As for you, as much
as is your regret, so would be your repentance and your benefit from con-
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regret, there has to be a firm determination to change your con-
Insistence on leaving the
sinful past and shutting all passages leading
to sin. Because confession does not mean closing an old account to open a
new one but to cut all connection with sin, confessing that it is a sinful way
that prevents life with God and the dwelling of His Spirit in the heart.
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The confessor must also be certain that he has sinned against God Himself ...
is disobedience to God and breaking His commandments. It is re-
belling against God, preferring the love of the world, the material and the
flesh to the love of God. And as St James the Apostle said: “Do you not know
that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be
a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (Jas 4:4 ). And St John the
Apostle said: “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 Jn
2:15). Then sin is against the love of God. It is at the same time a rejection of
the fellowship with His Holy Spirit, because: “What fellowship has righteous-
ness with lawlessness?” (2 Cor. 6:14) ... And because sin is against God, then it
is unlimited because God is unlimited ...
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Therefore we find David the Prophet saying to the Lord: “Against You, You only have I sinned and done this evil in Your sight” (Ps 51 ). He did not say: ‘I sinned against Uriah and his wife Bathsheba’... And also when sin was offered to the Righteous Joseph he refused it saying: “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Gen 39:9). Keep this then in your mind and you will know that you have sinned against God.
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Also confession is not just a relationship between you and the confession father. It is before anything else a relationship with God ...
You confess to God through the priest, as it was said by Joshua, the son of Nun to Achan: “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 ...” (Josh 7:19). In the absolution also, you take it from God through the mouth of the priest. So you feel the presence of God during confession and you benefit spiritually from your confession. Many forget the presence of God during confession and so the reverence and benefit of confession are lost.
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CONFESSION AND THE BLOOD OF CHRIST
There is also another
important point to help you benefit from con-
fession and that is understanding the meaning of forgiveness and how it
The sinner used to bring
his trespass sacrifice (an animal) to the Lord
for the sin which he had committed, put his hand on the head of the sacri-
fice and confess his sins (Lev 5:5). He would fully understand that this
offering will die instead of him. He deserves to die but this slaughtered lamb
dies in his stead. The placing of the hand on the lamb’s head proved that
the sinner agreed for this offering to replace him and by putting his hand on
its head during confession, the sin is transferred from him to the animal...
do we apply this to the sacrament of confession? It means that the
sin has been transferred from you to Christ’s account, to be blotted out by
His Blood ...
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confessing your sins means that you are asking Christ to carry
it on your behalf. It is transferred from you to Him, and He will bear it
for you ...
you feel and understand the meaning of forgiveness. It does not
mean that God has renounced His right. The Divine justice has to be ful-
filled. But how? By having Christ carry your sin and blot it out by His Blood.
This is what was said in the book of Isaiah the Prophet: “All we like sheep
have gone astray ... And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all... But He
was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities” (Is 53:6-5).
With this correct understanding, your feelings should be towards confession and its seriousness; forgiveness and how it is achieved ...
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Here, confession is not separated from Christ and His Blood ...
you are saying to the priest: ‘I came, my father, so you can take all
my uncleanliness and transfer it to the head of Christ to carry it for me; all
impure thoughts of the heart, tongue and the body... All my sins with no exception. Then it is an act of transferring and without this transference there is no remission.
And so when David confessed that he had sinned, Nathan said to him: “The Lord also has put away your sin, you shall not die” (2 Sam 12:13). Put away to where? To Christ’s account. And why you shall not die? Because He will die instead of you.
is the only way to achieve forgiveness. Because without the shed-
ding of blood, there is no remission of sins (Heb 9:22). God hears your sins
when you confess them before the priest. He transfers them to the account
of His only begotten Son whom He sent to be the propitiation of our sins (1
Jn 4 : 10) ... “And the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn
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Then place the Blood of Christ before you in every confession and if you are ashamed, feel for Him...
for Him who is all purity and is carrying your impurity. The Holy
One who knew no sin but was made to bear sin for us, that we might be-
come the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor 5:21). This true shame in its
theological understanding is what makes you ashamed to commit sin once
more... And it is not only your shame before the priest when he listens to
your sins, but also your shame for hurting the Holy Son who carries your
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Faith and repentance are the two ingredients necessary for Christ to carry your sins ...
Faith in His amazing redemption that He presented for your salvation. The Bible said about this: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn 3:16) ... Whoever believes in Him ...
As for repentance that it
is necessary for you to be worthy of forgive-
ness, the Lord said: “unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Lk 13:3,5 ).
Do you think confession without faith or repentance will save you? No. Your confession then should be mingled with regret, repentance and true determination to change your conduct. In this way you will be worthy of the Blood of Christ which will cleanse you from all sins. And so you come out of your confession, washed with the Honoured Blood ...
ADVICES FOR CONFESSORS
You should consider the time, responsibilities and health of your con-
fession father. You should also consider the rest of those who are waiting
for their turn to confess after you. So do not expand more than is necessary
and do not waste time in introductions and details that are not needed, or in
trying to remember what you want to say: Be prepared for your confession
beforehand, with full concentration during your confession.
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2- You should know that your spiritual benefit will be as much as you are open and honest during confession.
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3- You must keep the secrecy of the directions given to you by your confession father, as he keeps in secret whatever you say about your sins. Your confession may concern a certain person who is causing you to stumble; your confession father therefore may advise you to keep away from that person. This does not mean you then go out and say to others: “My confession father ordered me to keep away from this person.” In so doing, you may cause embarrassment to your spiritual father .
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4- Do not request from your confession father to agree on certain decisions you have already made, and thereby waste time in arguments, crying and pain if he does not agree with you. The right way is to consult him and ask for his advice but not to present to him your decisions without firstly discussing the matter. At the same time do not try to hide from him what you see as being unsuitable for you.
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5- Do not ask your confession father about matters that are not right for you to know, or are not your place to know, such as issues relating to church policy and news.
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You must have confidence in your confession father. Do not make it
necessary every time he gives you advice, to have it supported by evidence
so that he may convince you. This would be a waste of effort and time.
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7- If you have a doubting thought concerning your confession father, do not mention it in an offensive manner, but in polite frankness.
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8- Do not treat your confession father as an equal and do not harshly reproach him. Remember always that when you confess to him, you are standing before the Lord’s delegate.
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not be jealous from the way your confession father may treat oth-
ers who have a special case. And do not try to pressure him to know what
this case is, because by doing so you are interfering in the secrecy of their
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10- Do not frequently visit your confession father to consult with him matters of triviality, lest others wonder why the priest meets with you more than them, and this may cause the priest embarrassment.
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11- You have to be obedient. And let it be wise obedience.
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12- If your confession father rebukes you for a sin, do not be annoyed, because he does it for your own benefit. And do not try to justify yourself in whatever you are confessing.
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13- If you ask something from your confession father and he remains silent, do not take this silence as a sign of agreement. It could be that what you are asking for causes embarrassment or uncovers some people’s secrets or that the answer would cause you more harm than good. Or maybe he has already answered the same thing before. Or perhaps he is silent because the question is inappropriate.
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14- In your confession do not say half the story, but the whole story.
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15- Do not use confession time as an opportunity to complain about others or to talk about their mistakes. Concentrate on your own mistakes.
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