Α Guide to Repentance
Α Guide to Repentance
A few words of introduction
Every man, my brother, is made up of:
-the mortal and material body and
-the immaterial, immortal and spiritual soul.
God created man in this way.
However, as the body needs to be cared for, to be cleansed, to be clothed, to be fed, in the same way the immortal soul has its own needs:
- ITS CLEANSING, that is confession, by which it will be cleansed of the various impurities of its sins.
- ITS CLOTHING, not to be naked and freezing, that is, all those works of love which our Christ commands us to do through His Gospel, and
- ITS FOOD, that is, Holy Communion, the all holy Body and Blood of the crucified sweetest Son of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.
If, however, we look after our material body with such great care, shouldn't we pay more attention to our immortal soul which is, as our beloved teacher Jesus says, more valuable than our body?
“Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:37-38)
In this little booklet, written for you with a lot of love, you will read some simple reflections on the great Sacrament of Repentance and of Confession, since that's why our Christ came to earth, to bring repentance to mankind, because without it no-one can truly love Christ and be saved.
THE SACRAMENT OF REPENTANCE
Man, even after Holy Baptism, commits various sins. This happens because he has an inherent inclination towards evil, which is the consequence of original sin. Our philanthropist Lord, because He doesn't want the sinner's death, He gave us the truly great and saving Sacrament of Holy Repentance and Confession.
Our sweet and philanthropist Lord, through His spiritual confessor, will give forgiveness to His small deceived lamb, sinful man, who with deep remorse and sincere repentance will open his soul, which is tired from its sins, in front of the Lord's priest and will confess all those sins which have separated him from our Christ.
Like a good Shepherd He will bend down lovingly over him, to give him again the peace which he lost, when he left His fold and wandered here and there, in pasturelands of sin full of thorns and thistles.
1. The structure of the Sacrament of Repentance
The Sacrament of Repentance is not a human invention, as some believe, but is a command from our Christ Himself.Our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the structure of the Sacrament of Repentance after His resurrection from the dead.
The passage of the Gospel says the following:
“…where the disciples were gathered, for the fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said to them ….. “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." (John 20: 19-23)
From these words it becomes obvious that Christ gave His divine authority to His Apostles and through them to their successors, namely the bishops and priests, to forgive with the power of the Holy Spirit, the sins of all those people, who would sincerely desire to stop the sins they have committed and strive to become workers of virtue and of God's commandments.
2. The importance of the Sacrament of Repentance for man’s salvation
We can understand the importance of the Sacrament of Repentance, if we take into account that without it man's salvation is impossible. Because all of us are sinners and guilty before Divine Justice there is no other way or means to return to God and be free from sin after Holy Baptism, except by Repentance and Confession.
Therefore, my brother, if with Holy Baptism we become Christians, with Repentance and Confession we find again the way to the Kingdom of Heaven and eternal life.
The Sacrament of Repentance is really a great treasure. It's a great support, but at the same time, a comforting companion in the course of our painful lives full of tears.
Unfortunately there are many people, who for different reasons, refuse to go to the confessor, to cleanse their sins with confession. The basic reasons for their refusal are mainly:
-because they feel ashamed in front of the priest,
-because they have a high social status and their pride does not permit them to be humbled,
-because they have committed great sins and feel ashamed to talk about them, being fearful lest they ruin their reputation.
In order to avoid confession, they put forward various sinful excuses like:
-"Why should I tell my sins to the priest, isn't it better to confess them before Christ's icon?"
"Why should I tell my sins to the priest, as he himself is also a sinner?"
Others, finally, are resigned to the idea that they haven't committed any sins or they have plenty of time to repent and make many excuses, which the Devil suggests to them, to not allow them to get close to Christ through repentance and be saved.
Furthermore, we will try to disprove, with the grace of God, all these satanic excuses, so we can see with joy all those of our brothers who are risking their salvation, humbly return to unique joy and peace, our Christ.
1."Why should I tell my sins to the priest, isn't it better to tell them before Christ's icon?"
It is a fact that our Christ is omnipresent and wherever we are He listens to our prayers and sees our repentance. But to receive the forgiveness of our sins, we must go with simplicity and humility to His representative, the priest confessor, to tell him our sins. And not be filled with selfishness, something that God detests very much, and shame because we don't want to be humbled by the confessor, we resort to a lifeless icon to confess our sins.
To confess our sins to the icon of Christ is not the correct way of confession. And because, my brother, I see that you are still not convinced, I will explain to you more clearly why.
Firstly, our Lord did not give the divine authority to forgive sins to icons or other inanimate things, but He gave it to His Apostles and thereafter to their successors by saying:
“…Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20: 19-23)
Consequently, as you can see, since only they have the right to forgive us, we are obliged for the love of our Christ, to go to the spiritual confessor and there, with humility and with contrition of heart to open our soul full of sins and to let the cunning snakes of sin slide on to the priest’s stole, because as Saint John the Theologian says:
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (The First Epistle of John 1:9)
Another reason why our Christ does not want us to resort to an inanimate icon , but to His priest, is the following:
The icon is not able to talk to us and advise us, and cannot help us to get away from the tangled tentacles of sin. The icon can neither forgive us nor assure us that God has forgiven us.
It is as if, when we are burning up with fever and are very sick, we resort to a photograph of our friendly doctor and ask it to cure us. But is this possible for the correct cure, without us personally going to visit our doctor at his clinic, to examine us and make the correct diagnosis and give us the necessary medicines?
Also in this instance, we must go personally to the clinic of our soul, that is the confessional. There, kneeling humbly before the priest confessor, let's remove the thorns and thistles of our sins from our wounded soul, so we can hear the voice of our Christ, through the mouth of the priest confessor granting us forgiveness for our sins and restoring peace and joy in us.
2. "Why should I tell my sins to the priest, as he himself is also a sinner?"
My brother, as it is mentioned in the Holy Gospel, there is no man on earth who is not a sinner. Everyone in this world is sinful. We all need to confess, even us the priests, as we all live in this world full of difficulties and temptations.
But we should consider that, when we go to a hospital to be cured of our illness, we aren't concerned whether the doctor that takes care of us is a saint or a sinner.
Do we check the moral principles of the driver, when we make a journey by any means of transport? Of course not. We are only concerned about getting to our destination.
Can you tell me, if the freshness and tender sweet smell of a rose is increased or decreased depending on whether it is offered to you by a beggar or a rich man, a saint or a sinner? Of course not.
Exactly the same applies here, whether the priest is a saint or a sinner, you will get God's blessing in full, which will make you His child and an heir of Paradise.
2. I have no sins.
There is another category of people who, when I speak to them about confession, they react and protest and tell me:
“What can I say to the priest, since I have no sins? Neither have I stolen, nor prostituted myself, nor committed murder, nor have I wronged anybody”.
And I, the humble priest, sorry for their ignorance of the Holy Bible’s teaching, I beg them to devote two minutes of their time and listen to what the Gospel says, although it would be better for them to read it at least once a year. First the Evangelist John, the Theologian, comes to proclaim:
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” and continues:
“If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us”. (The First Epistle of John 1:8, 10)
Apostle Paul pointed out:
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Epistle to the Romans 3:23).
Finally, Apostle James says:
“Because we all are at fault in many cases”. (James 3:2)
Faced with what the Apostles and Saints say, that we are all sinners, how can you my brother claim that you are without sin, a saint, since:
“There is only One Saint, only One Lord, our Jesus Christ…”.
But even if you have committed only one sin, whether it is big or small, it is enough to separate you from the love of God and to lead you to hell. I emphasize again "whether it is big or small". Because whether you call the demon a devil or a little devil, he is still a cunning demon, able to separate you from the sweetest companionship of Christ.
That's why, my brother, you should remove from within you every kind of these excuses, that supposedly you have no sins. Examine yourself well and see where you have committed mistakes.
Like the prodigal son, holding your sins in your hands and repentance in your heart, come to Christ, who awaits you at the confessional like the compassionate Father of the prodigal son. There, with humility and contrition, admit all your sins to Christ and ask Him to forgive you and help you become worthy of being His child.
Then you will see our Father God bending down with joy, together with all His angels, to change your dirty clothing of sin, with other new clothes of virtue, and to put the ring of adoption on your finger, recognizing you as His child. Then He will slaughter a fatted calf for you, to give you through Holy Communion, the Body and Blood of His only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to live from now on in Christ and Christ within you!
4. I still have plenty of time
The cunning demon seeing you now, my brother, advancing towards the confessional, is distressed because he is losing you and look what he's going to do. He stops you and says to you:
"Well, my friend, don't be in such a hurry, I didn't tell you not to confess! I want to confess too, says the evil demon, but wait a moment, don't run so quickly, think again about what you are doing. Aren't you ashamed that with what you will say, you will be humbled? After all said and done, you are not old yet, you still have plenty of time! ..."
With these words and many more, the evil demon comes to make his sometime friend, you my brother, have doubts and traps you with the excuse that you still have plenty of time.
His purpose is, on the one hand, to erase the preference you have now to be saved, and on the other hand, for death to come suddenly without you being able, because of the continuous postponement of your confessions, to purify your soul from the various impurities of your sins.
No, my brother, no, you should not be entrapped by our enemy, but without further delay, run to the confessor and remove the thorns of your sins there, thus to be able like a pure white innocent dove to fly to new horizons, new spiritual worlds, full of light, glory, joy and peace.
ADVICE ON HOW WE SHOULD CONFESS
1. With remorse in our heart and the decision to reform
Remorse in your heart is the necessary prerequisite for the Sacrament of Repentance, because only then God accepts every sinner, in the same way that the very merciful father accepted his prodigal son, when he returned with a remorseful heart from the exile of sin, begging not to be returned to his previous position, but to the lowest, as a paid labourer. Seeing his son’s remorse, how could this wonderful father not give him the golden ring which would return him to his original position and put him again next to him, as the heir to his fortune?
The passage in the Gospel about the Prodigal Son shows us how we must also approach the Confession and our merciful Christ. Our Lord invites us, with remorse in our hearts, sincerity, and without excuses to proceed humbly, like the Prodigal Son, with a firm decision not to again repeat these sins and say to Him:
"Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son". (Luke 15:21)
"Accept me Father because I repent bitterly, have mercy on me, my God".
Allow the eyes of your soul with tears of repentance to wash the feet of our Christ which are wounded by the nails of your sin. Then and only then, you will see our Christ bend down like a father with much affection and love, to take you in His arms and hide you in His divine most merciful heart. I see also, my brother, this sweet scene and I am touched. I remember something that our Christ once told us, that:
"With the same infinite love that My Father loves me, I love you. Remain in my love".
"As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you: abide in My love." (John 15:9)
2. Without shame
Shame is a difficult part of confession, which usually affects a lot of people who have committed great sins.
Many times it is so powerful that it manages to stop man from confessing, or doesn't allow him to tell his confessor all his sins, but he hides some, with the result that the miserable man is penalized more, because he dared to mock and play with God.
In the texts of the Fathers of the Church there is a very nice story about the devastating effects of shame in confession.
* * *
Once upon a time somewhere in Palestine, there lived a really saintly ascetic with his submissive monk. Because the reputation of the holy man had spread everywhere, a lot of people were coming to him for advice and to confess.
Once a woman decided to go to him, because she had committed a very serious sin and was inconsolable. Indeed, she went to the elder ascetic and begged him with tears to confess to him. He, having asked his submissive monk to leave and go into the garden, started to hear the woman's confession.
But then, the following happened. The elder's submissive monk, who it seems was also a saintly man, saw in a vision, that while the woman was confessing, various small snakes were coming out of her mouth. Suddenly a huge snake appeared which, while about to come out of her mouth, went back in again. Finally, not only did it not come out but when it re-entered, it took with it all the other snakes which had come out.
When the woman left, and when she was a short distance from the hermitage, this submissive monk went to the elder and told him what he had seen. He immediately realized that the woman, who confessed before him a short while ago, had not told him everything but had hidden a great sin. Immediately, then, he sent his submissive monk to go to call her back, before she was too far from the hermitage.
The submissive monk ran really quickly to catch up with her, but he was very surprised when he found her dead on the roadside, not far from the hermitage. He returned to the elder and told him about it. The elder wondered if her soul was saved, because she was ashamed to confess the great sin which she had committed, he knelt with his submissive monk in deep prayer for three days and nights, for God to reveal to him if finally her soul was saved. On the last night they both saw this woman in their sleep, black, gloomy and ugly, crying and lamenting and saying:
-Ah! What happened to me this wretched woman. Because I was ashamed to tell my great sin, I am now eternally damned.
That is what this wretched woman was saying, who because of a little shame lost Christ and the eternal joy of Heaven!
* * *
But you, my brother, should not imitate this woman. Without shame, sit in front of the representative of Christ and confess all your sins, starting first with the big ones. This will immediately hit the devil on the head. Then continue with the smaller ones, which are, however, equally terrible for your soul.
3. Without Excuses
It is very important, my brother, at the time we will come to the confessional to be aware of the evil caused by our sins, either to our brothers, or to ourselves and to tell our sins without excuses.
Shame at the time of our confession makes us use a lot of excuses and explanations to justify ourselves before the spiritual father. So we blame others for our sins. In this way, without realizing it we fall into the sin of slander and condemnation against our brother, making Satan rejoice even at the time of our confession.
Let us never forget that excuses removed the protoplast from Paradise.
IS MAN FORGIVEN ONLY
WITH THE PRAYER OF FORGIVENESS?
Many Christians have the bad habit of not confessing, but instead of going to confession they go to the priest to only read them the Prayer of Forgiveness.
This is a bad habit that must be completely eliminated.
The Prayer of Forgiveness is, we would say, the decision of our Christ, Who, after hearing our sins, now gives us forgiveness and cleanses our soul from them.
Is it possible for the judge to give a judgment of acquittal or conviction without first having heard the accused? Certainly not.
How, then, can we go to the priest, to give us Christ's forgiveness, when we have not confessed our sins and do not acknowledge our faults, so that our Christ sees our repentance and forgives us?
For this reason, let's stop the faithful from going to the priest to only read them the prayer, and the priests to stop providing such Prayers of Forgiveness without first hearing the confession of the faithful.
THE APPROPRIATE SPIRITUAL FATHER
In this world there are thousands of doctors. Among them there are some with more experience. They are able to make the correct diagnosis, give the proper medications and recommend the treatment.
Similarly, among the many spiritual confessors available, you, my brother, will go to those who have the reputation of a good spiritual doctor, so that you can confidently tell them the sins you have committed and what is tormenting you. This will enable them to help you properly, by raising you from the filth of sin and give you the appropriate medications, that is, the advice and penances, which are not a punishment, but the way to remove you from sin.
Only a good spiritual doctor is able to help you and show you the way to Heaven. When you learn where such an experienced spiritual father is, don't waste any time and use all your time, money and effort until you find him.
Nothing was more important to the early Christians than finding a good spiritual father. There are in the texts of the Fathers of the Church many stories of sinful men, who made great journeys and great efforts, searching to find a suitable spiritual mentor.
If for our bodies, when we are seriously ill, we make many journeys in order to be healed, what should we do for our soul when it becomes sick from terrible sins? Shouldn't we run, struggle and fight, travel and search for good doctors to heal our soul?
HOW MANY TIMES MUST WE CONFESS?
Every man, my brother, when he is dirty goes immediately to have a bath and wash his clothes. In the same way, when we commit any sin and the pure white garment of our soul is soiled with black stains of lawlessness, immediately, without delay, we should run to our confessor, to clean the filth from our soul and allow our Lord to dress us in new bright clothes again!
We need to immediately run to our spiritual father, because if we allow our soul to remain dirty, it will get more dirty and there is a danger that our soul will become a site of uncontrollable spiritual infectious diseases and a den of evil demons, that whatever they are ordering us to do we, like their faithful servants, will do. That's why you should not neglect your soul, and do not underestimate the power of a small sin because, as the proverb say: "Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves”. Because one by one we will collect many sins and it will be very difficult to clean our soul of all these sins. So, if you stop each small sin, as they are committed, they won't grow into big ones and it will be easier than cleaning our soul from lots of sins. It is much easier to wash clothes when they are slightly dirty than when they are extremely dirty, isn't it?
Consequently, go to Confession frequently, every time some dirt dares to soil the beautiful Christian garment of your soul. It is difficult to uproot an old tree. So, while the sin is still a young shoot, we must weed it out from the garden of our souls.
WHAT SHOULD WE CONFESS
My brother, to help you, in your confession, I will give you a short list of sins and having it in front of you will note what sins you've committed. So, you will not forget any of them, when you will be before the priest and begin to confess.
Pride with its intricate tentacles, such as selfishness, vanity, greed and jealousy. Condemnation, scandals, slander, gossip, flattery. Anger, rage, envy, hate, dislike, ruthlessness, malevolence, cursing.
Heresy (Protestantism, believing in the millennium of Christ etc.).
Resorting to sorcery, mediums, witches, fortune tellers, coffee cup readers. Sin is also the horse shoe, garlic and so-called "eyes" that some people hang on themselves, in their homes, cars and on their babies, not to be affected by the supposedly evil eye. The Cross of our Lord is the only talisman and our only weapon against any demonic offence.
Being ashamed to reveal our faith and our devoutness in front of others. Grumbling against God for our various afflictions.
Blasphemy of the divine laws. It is a great sin to utter blasphemies about God, Christ, the Virgin Mary, the Saints and every sacred thing. It is also blasphemy and a great sin to damn people or for parents to damn their children. How many children have been possessed by an evil spirit by the blasphemies of their parents! The writer of this article has been a witness of many such events with his own eyes. For this reason you parents, stop blaspheming and cursing your children and do not give a reason for the demon to enter your homes.
One of the most deadly sins is considered receiving the Sacrament of Holy Communion, namely, the Body and Blood of our Christ, without the appropriate preparation, and specifically when, we have committed great sins and carnal ones, without having first confessed them, before receiving Holy Communion.
Contempt of the holy fasting without reason. Disrespect to parents, teachers and elders. Attempted suicide.
Misleading people by word and bad example. Urging someone to commit sins.
Attending obscene sights and sounds at the theater, on television and in films. Reading books or magazines with obscene content. Voyeurism and allowing ugly and obscene images to remain in our thoughts, without trying to forget them. Profanity. Indecent and provocative clothing. Passions which insult the image of God (such as smoking, drunkenness, drugs, etc.)
The civil marriage. Various carnal offenses, such as prostitution, adultery, masturbation, sexual perversions and anomalies. In these are included carnal relations between engaged couples, as the Sacrament of Marriage has not yet taken place. Other sins are, gambling, theft, injustice, unfaithfulness, greediness, laziness, gluttony, the false oath or vow without reason, lying and murder. Murder also includes intentional abortion. Let's not forget another major sin, namely, the scandalous interference of in-laws and other persons in the internal affairs of married couples and particularly young couples, resulting in disruption or sometimes, even the dissolution of the marriage of young couples.
I left, my brother, for last the greatest sin which is pointedly ignoring the existence of God and being ashamed to speak about Him, forgetting that He is the Creator of the world and the real Father of our souls. Also, sin is not to go to church, without a good reason, on Sundays, or major holidays of our church and not regularly receiving Holy Communion.
My brother, I have quoted here a small, short list of sins. Study it carefully and make a note on a sheet of paper, so you don't forget which of them you have committed as a weak man. Try to remember, in case you have committed any other sin, which is not mentioned here.With all the sins in your hand, without excuses and deep repentance, run to your spiritual confessor without delay and leave your sins there, on the priest's stole, in order to be worthy of the heavenly Kingdom of God and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.