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The Sacrament of Repentance and Confession

The Sacrament of Repentance and Confession - St Shenouda Monastery Pimonakhos Articles

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).

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 what 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 Apostolic, 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 is 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 in front of the priest and accept the absolution from the mouth of God.