Holy Ghost Orthodox Church
Orthodox Church in America (OCA)
210 Maplewood Avenue, Ambridge, PA 15003
A Good Confession

Pastoral Thoughts - What Makes a Confession a “Good” Confession


I was asked in an email, “As a priest, how do I define a Confession as being a “good confession?” A good place to start is to remember that this Holy Mystery was given us by Jesus Christ Himself. Through it, we sinners are able to meet the Lord in faith, receive His forgiveness in a tangible way, and begin our lives anew in His peace. In Holy Confession, the sins we commit after our Baptism are forgiven - literally, “forgotten” by God. We are restored to the grace of God that none of us deserve, yet are offered by our Savior through His Body, the Church. The power to forgive sins (i.e. “missing the mark”) belongs to God; as the Son of God, Jesus has that power. Jesus then gave that power to forgive sins to His apostles - - as He appeared to them following His Resurrection, He breathed on them saying,

“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven.” (Jn. 20:21-23)


The Mystery of Holy Confession (i.e. Penance) has been called a “Second Baptism” by the Ancient Holy Fathers of the Church - - it washes away our sins; it gives us God’s grace; it enables our souls to become pure and holy as they were supposed to be when God created us in His likeness and image. The Bible is filled with the hope of forgiveness - - the story of the Prodigal Son is the example per excellence. The story of the Publican and the Pharisee is another - - both of which are chanted liturgically annually as we prepare ourselves for Great Lent - the ultimate season of repentance in advance of celebrating Holy Pascha. In James (5:13-16), the Apostle writes: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” I John (2) reads, in part: “If we say we have not sinned, we make Him (i.e. God) a liar, and His word is not in us.”


Practically speaking then, how do we put this into

practice personally for a “successful Confession?”

+          First, a penitent should examine themselves honestly and without shame prior to coming to the confessional. Think about the sins you’ve done; think about the things you should have done as commanded by Christ but haven’t, since your last Confession. Think about the commandments of God and the teachings of the Holy Scripture and the Church - - have you been remiss in living these practically? Also - do not approach the confessional hurriedly!


+          Second, the penitent must truly be sorry for their sins. It’s important to feel sorrow in your heart for these things - for without this humility, you are cut off from God’s loving embrace.


+          Third, the penitent must promise God to try to do better in daily life. This means a commitment to the best of our ability to keep away from sin as best as we can. This can only be accomplished by turning ourselves over to God daily and seeking His presence wherever we go; no matter what we’re doing.


+          Fourth, we must openly confess our sins. This means unashamedly telling our sins - out loud - to our Father Confessor. Periodic confession is important because it forces us to evaluate ourselves honestly and not trust ourselves to “self-delusion” or the promptings of the devil, our ancient enemy. We cannot hide any sin, we can’t allow our pride to make us feel ashamed, because the Father Confessor stands as God’s servant to witness to our repentance and to help us feel joy in our sorrow for that sinfulness. Have you noticed recently the picture & saying I put in the confessional? “Be ashamed when you sin - not when you repent.” In other words, the Father Confessor is the witness to our sorrow - he represents the entire community of faith.


Following Confession, you are encouraged to light a candle as an offering to Christ, and either say the “Our Father” standing before that lit flame or light the candle and then return to a pew, kneeling down, and saying those words.


So, rather than let our spiritual problems build up to serious size, Holy Confession is an excellent opportunity to work out those problems. We need to have a healthy soul just as much we need to exercise our bodies to keep them healthy - confession is a “spiritual check-up.” The more we come to (Private) Confession successfully, the more we come to feel Christ’s love - and - it prepares us to receive “The Fire of the Holy Spirit” in the Holy Eucharist - the very Body and Blood of the All-Pure Christ - and NONE of us should DARE to receive it UN-worthily or carelessly to avoid condemnation and instead receive healing.


Please contact me should have any questions about this critical Holy Mystery! See you soon?!

- Fr. Bill

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