A pragmatic view:
Confession will help you with everything you have to face in life, past, present and future.
Do you find this hard to believe?
Confession opens your heart to God. With God all things are made possible.
When you go to Confession you restore and renew the power, enlightenment and purity God gifted to you on the day of your Baptism – a spiritual communion with God.
Many Orthodox Christians are unfamiliar with the seven Sacraments of the Church. The practice of these Sacraments is however, essential to healing our soul. You cannot do without the Sacraments. They are the means by which we come in to communion with God and receive His blessing and experience mystical healing and transformation. The Sacraments are not as many people perceive ritualistic ceremonies.
Despite this, many people think and have been told often by misinformed relatives and friends that it is not necessary to go to Confession and that this is not an Orthodox Tradition.
Clearly this is not the case as Confession in the Orthodox Church has existed since Apostolic times, consistent with Christ’s teaching and essential to the practice of our faith and the healing of our soul. If the soul and heart is healed so then it follows that our physical and mental health also benefit as we learn to strive and walk the righteous path leading to our salvation. To walk the righteous path requires changes in us that are inspired by our remorse for what has not gone right in our lives. This remorse or regret in us becomes the active spirit of repentance.
People also may regard Confession as unnecessary because it can be confronting. It is easier to simply dismiss or to rationalise it away. But just like many things in life neglect and ignorance is costly because it does not rectify the wrongs and positively align us with God’s truth in order to spiritually progress. Otherwise our life will tend to stagnate in all its efforts, responsibilities and activities.
God bestows grace and blessings to us to progress in life, which is activated by the Holy Spirit through all the Sacraments and especially through Confession. These blessings do not just benefit ourselves but also those whom we love and whom we are in contact with, our whole family, all the faithful and to all people. Confession can bring limitless inner joy, allowing light heartedness and contentment that is difficult to describe. It deals directly with our heart and its concerns and helps resolve the difficulties we face in life by the absolution of our sins.
Confession is therefore a powerful medicine for the soul. It has the capacity to change one’s life. It unburdens us. It helps us lighten our load so that we can think clearly and act freely. Confession has the power to clear the conscience. It is able to clear and unclutter the mind in a mystical way. The sediment that builds up in our hearts over time distorts the clarity of our thoughts and complicates and burdens our life. God wants us to be free of this cumulative negativity of the passions so that we are instinctively motivated to strive and progress closer and closer towards Him all the days of our life. This becomes in us a positive force to contain our passions and to find relief in our progress toward moving closer and closer to God’s will and His infinite love for us.
The ‘self’ unfortunately has serious blind spots that do not allow a true perspective of life. We cannot see ourselves as we really are. We rely therefore on God’s enlightenment to help us to see ourselves as we really are and to move forward spiritually. If we humble ourselves and surrender our trust to God, we learn to be motivated by what is selfless and to leave room for God to do his work in our hearts. By His grace everything we do then is filtered so that God’s goodness penetrates into every aspect of our being.
Confession therefore, releases us from our transgressions which includes all our errors, mistakes, failings and confusion both those things known or unknown, voluntary and involuntary. Our mind and heart is then set straight by our cooperation with the God so that we learn through love to hear His word and to keep His Commandments. Confession does not only release us from our transgressions but then re-orders us to re-consider who we are before God and our fellow man.
Life and its experiences inevitably teach us of the importance of reflection so that regrets become lessons to protect ourselves and errors become our knowledge through God’s wisdom. This happens by the active engagement of God in our conscience. Confession gives us the opportunity to correct what did not go right and to clear the path for us to come continually closer and closer to God.
When this happens all things are perceived as God’s providence for us. Little things we notice become for us God’s miracle in us and around us.
Confession then is entirely positive. It is for the good and designed to help you not to undermine you and expose you or to leave you guilt ridden. Confession helps to free us to open our hearts to God.
In return God mystically pours his grace on us and heals us through His infinite love.
In contrast to God’s compassion and forgiveness the world sees our imperfections as fixed personality and character flaws that are permanent attributes of our person. This approach quickly leads to judgement. The problem with judgement is that it does not allow another person to escape the misery of his or her failings and errors – and we all have these – we all need God’s help.
What is the purpose of life if we do not allow a person to free themselves of their burden by our compassion and forgiveness? This is what God provides freely to us – to be forgiven. We too then should do the same to others who offend us.
The world lacks compassion and love for people. This is a disastrous set of circumstances that leads firstly to the condemnation of our fellow man and then it flows into our own hearts. We ultimately condemn ourselves by condemning and judging others. This is not the way of God. This is not the way of the Orthodox Church.
God is interested in always giving us a new start, again and again and again. This is why we always say, Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy.
Fr Emmanuel Stamatiou