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The Forgotten Medicine

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The Forgotten Medicine - St Shenouda Monastery Pimonakhos Articles

Go show yourselves to the priests
Luke 17:14

The holy sacrament of confession can rightly be called “the Forgotten Medicine.” The whole world is lying in evil. Every one of us is infected with the deadly disease of sin, and one can be cured from this disease! The medicine is provided, and it is miraculous at that. You are healed the moment you take it. But we do not reach for it, to be healed and to lighten our conscience. Why? Because we have forgotten and neglected it. Why will ye die, O house of Israel? Cries with sorrow the holy prophet Ezekiel. “Why will you die in your sins, Christians?” our Redeemer Jesus Christ calls to us with even greater sorrow. “Is there not deliverance from death for you? Why should you gladden the enemy of your salvation-Satan? Did I not establish all-powerful repentance in My Church?” I desire not the death of the ungodly, but that the ungodly should turn from his way and live: turn ye heartily from your way (Ezek. 33: 11). Repentance, this infinitely good gift, is given to you “at any time of life, and it works with the same power for any sin: it cleanses every sin, saves everyone who turns to God, be it even in the last minutes before death.”

There are earthly medicines for earthly diseases and there is an Omnipotent Heavenly Doctor and heavenly medicines for the most terrible disease called sin. This Doctor is Jesus Christ because every sin is a transgression of God’s holy law, only God can forgive sins with His wondrous omnipotence. He can blot out sins as if they had never existed. Though your sins be as purple, I will make them white as snow; though they be as scarlet, I will make them white as wool (Is. 1: 18), He promises but for this to happen, there is one requirement for us to repent truly.

The omnipotence of the Lord can forgive human sins. Look how unfathomable is God’s mercy! God has given His power of forgiving the sins of men to the Apostles and their successors in the persons of the bishops and priests. Why has God done so? To make repentance, and therefore the forgiveness of sin, even closer, more accessible, and more certain. Receive ye the Holy Spirit, said Jesus Christ to His holy Apostles. Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained (John 20:22-23). Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Matt. 18: 18).

How does the forgiving of sins occur? Through the Sacrament of Confession. The Christian burdened with sins goes to the priest with deep repentance in his soul and with a sincere desire to change and reveals to him in a detailed, frank, and full confession the secrets of his heart and conscience. The priest, convinced of the sincere repentance of the Christian and after the suitable introductory prayers, reads to him the sacramental prayer: “May our Lord and God Jesus Christ, according to the grace and kindness of His love for man, forgive you, child [name], all your transgressions; and I, the unworthy priest, through the power given to me by Him, forgive you and free you of all your sins, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

In that moment, whatever the priest is forgiving on earth is also being forgiven in heaven! Is there a greater mercy than this? We could not have believed that this is possible, if it had not been told us by the One Who never spoke an empty word or a lie (1 Peter 2:22). If we ignore such a mercy of God, how many more punishments we will deserve, because we have not done for our salvation even that small thing which is given to us to do and which is so easy.

The Holy Bible tells us that the commander of the Syrian army, Naaman, was suffering from leprosy. When he heard that in the land of Israel there was a certain prophet of God Elisha who could heal him, he went with many servants and gifts to him and stopped before his gates. The holy prophet did not come out to meet him but sent people to tell him: Go and wash seven times in the Jordan, and thy flesh shall return to thee, and thou shalt be cleansed (IV Kings 5: 10). Naaman got angry when he heard these words and said: I said within myself, he will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God and lay his hand upon the place and recover the leper. But he sends me to wash in the Jordan! Are not the rivers of Damascus better than all the waters of Israel? .. And he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants came near and said to him, Suppose the prophet had spoken a great thing to thee, wouldst thou not perform it? Yet he has but said to thee, Wash and be cleansed (IV Kings 5:11-13). Naaman took the advice of his servants, immersed himself in the Jordan seven times, and his body was cleansed and renewed, so that it became like the body of a small child.

It was sin that took down from heaven the first angel, the Morning Star. It was sin that drove Adam and Eve out of Paradise. It was sin that caused the flood of the world. This sin is also threatening to separate us forever from God and to send us eternally into the abysses of hell. Even if God were to require that we give all our possessions to the poor, if He were to require from us that we fast all our lives or give up once and for all, all earthly joys and comforts in order to atone for our sins and save ourselves from their ominous consequences, we should agree to anything, only to save ourselves from eternal torment in hell, to which our sin is dragging us but look what a simple salvation God has established for us: Go show yourselves to the priests (Luke 17: 14). Confess your sins before them. Repent with all your heart, and you will free yourselves from the chains of evil.