Holy Confession - April 1/14,2002
by Fr. Rodney Torbic
Participating in the Sacrament of Holy Confession requires a conscious choice by the Orthodox believer to draw closer to God. It is a journey back to God.
Holy Confession involves action of the mind, the body, and the heart. It has a direct bearing on the soul of a person. Holy Confession brings about a cleansing, a restoration of spiritual health, a uniting with Jesus Christ.
Participating in Holy Confession is a serious statement by the Orthodox believer to God and to the Church community. It is an expression of belief in God and the forgiving and healing nature of God. It is an expression of trust that God will heal the hurt and restore a sense of spiritual wellness to the person.
Holy Confession is done freely by the Orthodox believer. The person comes to the priest without being coerced. The opening of the heart, the act of contrition, the exposure of sins is done completely voluntarily.
Preparing for Holy Confession requires forethought. The Sacrament is very serious and is to be treated with the greatest of seriousness and care. Honesty about the self and honesty to God characterize preparation for Holy Confession.
Holy Confession brings about reconciliation with the Church. It closes the gap created by sin and unites the person with God.
Participation in Holy Confession is not done as a "duty" or as an "obligation." Careful consideration to the importance of the Sacrament and the nature of personal sinfulness characterize the confessor attentive to the "sacramental nature"..."the holiness" of Holy Confession.
Believers, while coming to Holy Confession voluntarily, certainly are expected to confess with reasonable regularity. The serious believer comes to increasingly know and appreciate the value of Holy Confession. The serious believer realizes the helpfulness of Holy Confession for growth in Christ.
The confessing believer acts individually. The person comes to the Sacrament with attention on his or her sinfulness and desire to be better. The act of confessing is done within the context of the Church. Confession is an act of the individual that has a very definite "community" nature to it. The well-being of the "Church community" is enhanced by the growth taking place in the confessing believer.
The parish community is strengthened by the regularity of Holy Confession of parishioners. The cleansing action taking place, the restored focus on the place of God in each individual life gives rise to the recognition of the place of God in the parish and beyond.
No sin is too great to confess to God. No sin is too small to confess to God. When major sins are confessed, great weight can be lifted from the heart of the believer. The believer can rely on the goodness of God to help with his or her continued Christian journey.
The way of the Cross is difficult. Our Lord Jesus Christ showed us the way. We need only be faithful and follow Him consistently.
When seemingly small sins are confessed, direct action is taken to avert travelling the perilous road to greater sin. Our Lord said: "Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."(Mt.5:19)
The content and frequency of Holy Confession will vary with the individual. The need for Holy Confession can arise unexpectedly when something dramatically sinful takes place and Holy Confession is needed with the greatest of urgency. At other times, individuals plan with a certain consistency and regularity to actively be confessors.
P articipating Holy Confession with regularity in no way lessens the seriousness and in no way compromises the required preparation.Individual believers are at different stages of growth in Christ and this can affect the frequency of Holy Confession.
Fasting and prayer are important and necessary parts of preparation. They sharpen and increase our attention on our own sinfulness and reveal to us the need and content of our confession.
The Church provides a definite structure for Holy Confession. A certain set of prayers precede and follow the confession. The priest and believer actively consider the content of the confession and the steps to be taken.
Advent and Great Lent are the two periods of the liturgical year when Orthodox believers most commonly participate in Holy Confession. Holy Confession is not limited to these two fast periods. Holy Confession is appropriate throughout the year.
Our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to health and growth. He calls us to inner peace and unity with Him. Unity with Christ and peace which passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7) becomes a reality for the believer when Holy Confession is treated with the greatest of care and seriousness.