“...Repentance is the renewal of life. It is not a looking backward but moving forward and leaning forward towards Jesus. This means we must free ourselves of all our negative traits and turn toward absolute Good, towards Christ.” † Elder Thaddeus
Confession is an important part of the prescription for healing and growth that Christ gave us through the early church.
We need repentance! We fall many times during our life, and it is absolutely necessary to reveal everything (in confession) before a priest who is a witness to our repentance. You see, repentance is not a formality of going to a priest in confession. It is a true desire to free ourselves from the obsession of negative thoughts. It is commitment to resist thoughts and actions that ‘eat at our soul’. And practice actions and engage with thoughts that ‘feed our soul’!
Repentance is the act of our re-integration into the healing body of the faithful, our way toward reconciliation with Christ and the community of believers. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9). The Apostle James wrote in a similar vein: "Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed." (James 5:16).
Dn. John Chryssavgis writes in his book “Soul Mending, “When I can confess my peculiarity, my brokenness to someone who does not shame me, who will stand as a representative of the community and as a witness before God, then my healing can begin. When I take off the mask, and – together with at least one other person-look clearly at my vulnerability then my recovery and restoration has begun."
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me!
Reflections on Confession
It is hard to imagine a deep friendship or marriage without some sort of forgiveness being asked of one another. As we dance together in life we have surely stepped on each other’s toes at some point and have felt hurt by the other and for sure have regretfully ‘caused’ suffering as well.
You know the feeling. When this happens, we will feel awkward, distant, and perhaps angry or become silent. We feel blamed and judged, wronged. Or ‘we’ blame, judge, or hurt others. Sometimes our body stiffens, our chest tightens, we get headaches, become irritable, out of sorts, etc.
If you have done something that hurts or distorts or distances a deep, loving relationship; naming, claiming it, and saying I’m sorry for what has happened is essential to its restoration. "Asking for forgiveness is what we do to protect, renew, and restore our relationships when they have been damaged"!
For the sake of that love and friendship, you confess what you've done, you apologize for what you’ve said, and you strive ‘not’ to do it again. I am sure you have felt in your heart, your body, your mind a sort of uncomfortable feeling when you have been hurt or someone has hurt you intentionally or unintentionally.
And you know what it is like when that friendship or relationship is restored and you are able to re-connect and just be you. Our church is asking you to ‘just be you,' the you that you were created to be, the you that chooses to respond in a loving, peaceful and powerful way, the you that is grounded and clear, the you that thirsts for God, the you that has a heart for a relationship with God.
To assist us in becoming ‘us’ and to help us restore our relationship with God and one another, our church invites and encourages the faithful to come to confession.
According to Dn. John Chryssavgis, confession can be looked at as a forward movement ‘into’ life. It is not an invitation to hopeless guilt - but to freedom and responsibility. The purpose is not that we be ashamed or demoralized but it is rather to point us towards life; a life characterized by honesty, integrity and personal accountability to God, to all others, and to oneself.
“To repent is to awaken from the sleep of ignorance, to rediscover our soul, to gain the meaning and purpose of our lives by responding to the incomparable love of the One who is ‘not’ of this world, the One who ‘demonstrates’ His own love toward us. The focal point should not be our imperfection but the perfect love of Jesus, who is good and loves humankind”.
We should not conceal or hold private, our pain, our problems, our passions. ‘If’ we listen to them and respond to them with boldness and with the Grace of God they may show us how to love and be closer to God, others and our self!
Deacon John speaks about the power in being able to confess our peculiarity, our brokenness to someone who does not shame us, who will stand as a representative and as a witness before God, then our healing can begin.
“When we are able to take off our mask, and together with at least one person look clearly at our vulnerability without judgement and full loving acceptance for who we are, then our recovery and restoration has begun.”
This is not easy, self awareness can be troublesome but nevertheless ‘necessary’ for us to have new life. Socrates said, “the unexamined life is a life not worth living”. There is something healing and life-giving in the simple act of examining and verbally sharing one’s private burden with one’s spiritual father.
It is important to be brutally honest with ourselves before our spiritual father. “We ought to be wary of any dishonest ‘niceness’ in our relationships, in our marriage, and in our churches, which undermines the process of consultation and the sense of community”.
Having said all this I know it is most difficult to confess our sins and it is never easy admitting doing something that we regret and are ashamed of, an act we’ve kept secret or denied, or blamed someone else for. There are many times we argued to ourself that it wasn’t really ‘that’ bad as others might think. So we bury these sins, these feelings, these secrets deep inside only to have them surface at the most inopportune times of our life.
Jim Forrest states that we were designed for confession and that secrets in general are hard to keep; and if they are not confessed rarely go away - but have a way of making life harder, heavier, and unbearable as time passes. Isn’t this true, the more we hold on to the lie, the suffering, the blame, the anger, the hurt, the more our heart becomes heavy, the more we feel depressed and hopeless...you know what I mean.
“You see we are called to love, not to pretend; to be holy, not to be ‘nice’, to be connected, not disconnected, to be balanced and grounded. Clearly confession is not only remembering the past wrongs, not only reciting a list of how we hurt God and others, but confession should be about reconnecting ourselves as members of Christ’s body and one another.”
In the community of the church, we learn to share our weakness and to shed our tears, to love and to be loved. We recognize that we do not have to be perfect for people to love us. We must recognize that we 'all' are broken and are in need of grace, understanding and compassion. We learn that we must stop judgment of others 'and' ourself!!!
+ fr. Tom