Confession – Practical Aspects
In this fallen world, full of temptations and misguidance, the importance of Confession in our spiritual lives is greater than ever. This is why I feel necessary to reiterate few practical aspects which time and again we tend to forget.
First of all, before you come to confession try to make a proper preparation. Examine your life carefully, using as help the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, the list of the eight principle passions, the lists of sins in the daily prayers – especially those before sleep. If necessary, write out a list and bring it with you to confession.
Try not to omit anything you might have a tendency to judge as not important. It is up to the father confessor to judge this. Remember that no sin is too small to be confessed and no sin is so great that it cannot be forgiven by God, if true repentance exists.
In confessing, try to be brief and concise and, although sometimes necessarily explaining the circumstances of a particular sin, refrain from excusing yourself or confessing the sins of others. Some people like to tell a good story-this is not necessary. Some even preach sermons in confession, but this too is not the purpose of confession-let the father confessor do that if necessary.
Oftentimes many people come to confession in the same time and the priest has to hear several confessions, so others will be waiting their turn. In this case try to be considerate of their time.
If you have some personal difficulties or some particularly troublesome problems in your spiritual life, and need to discuss them at length, then arrange for a special time that the priest can dedicate only to you.
Sometimes after Confessions the priest may recommend you what is called “epitimia”. This may represent the reading of certain prayers, a rule for fasting, a number of prostrations etc. Remember that this is not a punishment for your sins, but it is a necessary prescription for your spiritual healing. If you understand its importance and accept it, you are bond to follow it as closely as possible. Any changes to it should be discussed with your father confessor.
Overall come to confession with an open soul, and remember that, one that repents and comes to receive the Sacrament of Confession properly, does not limit only to confess his/her sins, but also commits to unceasingly fight against sin and passions. Confession is not an end in itself but is rather a new beginning of a new life in Christ.
Preparation before Confession
A Prayer of St. Symeon the New Theologian
O God and Lord of all! Who hath the power over every breath and soul, the only One able to heal me, hearken unto the prayer of me, the wretched one, and, having put him to death, destroy the serpent nestling within me by the decent of the All-Holy and Life-Creating Spirit. And vouchsafe me, poor and naked of all virtue, to fall with tears at the feet of my spiritual father, and call his holy soul to mercy, to have mercy on me. And grant, O Lord, unto my heart humility and good thoughts, becoming a sinner, who hath consented to repent unto Thee, and do not abandon unto the end the one soul, which hath united itself unto Thee and hath confessed Thee, and instead of all the world hath chosen Thee and hath preferred Thee. For Thou knowest, O Lord, that I want to save myself, and that my evil habit is an obstacle. But all things are possible unto Thee, O Master, which are impossible for man. Amen.
A Preparation for Confession
by St. John of Kronstadt
I, a sinful soul, confess to our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ, all of my evil acts which I have done, said or thought from baptism even unto this present day.
I have not kept the vows of my baptism, but have made myself unwanted before the face of God.
I have sinned before the Lord by lack of faith and by doubts concerning the Orthodox Faith and the Holy Church; by ungratefulness for all of God’s great and unceasing gifts; His long-suffering and His providence for me, a sinner; by lack of love for the Lord, as well as fear, through not fulfilling the Holy Commandments of God and the canons and rules of the Church.
I have not preserved a love for God and for my neighbor nor have I made enough efforts, because of laziness and lack of care, to learn the Commandments of God and the precepts of the Holy Fathers.
I have sinned: by not praying in the morning and in the evening and in the course of the day; by not attending the services or by coming to Church only half-heartedly, lazily and carelessly; by conversing during the services, by not paying attention, letting my mind wander and by departure from the Church before the dismissal and blessing.
I have sinned by judging members of the clergy.
I have sinned by not respecting the Feasts, breaking the Fasts, and by immoderation in food and drink.
I have sinned by self-importance, disobedience, willfulness, self-righteousness, and the seeking of approval and praise.
I have sinned by unbelief, lack of faith, doubts, despair, despondency, abusive thoughts, blasphemy and swearing.
I have sinned by pride, a high opinion of my self, narcissism, vanity, conceit, envy, love of praise, love of honors, and by putting on airs.
I have sinned: by judging, malicious gossip, anger, remembering of offenses done to me, hatred and returning evil for evil; by slander, reproaches, lies, slyness, deception and hypocrisy; by prejudices, arguments, stubbornness, and an unwillingness to give way to my neighbor; by gloating, spitefulness, taunting, insults and mocking; by gossip, by speaking too much and by empty speech.
I have sinned by unnecessary and excessive laughter, by reviling and dwelling upon my previous sins, by arrogant behavior, insolence and lack of respect.
I have sinned by not keeping my physical and spiritual passions in check, by my enjoyment of impure thoughts, licentiousness and unchastity in thoughts, words and deeds.
I have sinned by lack of endurance towards my illnesses and sorrows, a devotion to the comforts of life and by being too attached to my parents, children, relatives and friends.
I have sinned by hardening my heart, having a weak will and by not forcing myself to do good.
I have sinned by miserliness, a love of money, the acquisition of unnecessary things and immoderate attachment to things.
I have sinned by self-justification, a disregard for the admonitions of my conscience and failing to confess my sins through negligence or false pride.
I have sinned many times by my Confession: belittling, justifying and keeping silent about sins.
I have sinned against the Most-holy and Life-creating Mysteries of the Body and Blood of our Lord by coming to Holy Communion without humility or the fear of God.
I have sinned in deed, word and thought, knowingly and unknowingly, willingly and unwillingly, thoughtfully and thoughtlessly, and it is impossible to enumerate all of my sins because of their multitude. But I truly repent of these and all others not mentioned by me because of my forgetfulness and I ask that they be forgiven through the abundance of the Mercy of God.
Preparation for Confession
Here are some aids in preparing for her confession to help prepare which I have used over the years. This comes from no single source but is drawn from a number of places.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
Thou shalt not make any graven image, or bow down before any
creation in heaven or on earth.
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain.
Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
Honor thy father and thy mother.
Thou shalt not kill.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
Thou shalt not covet that which is thy neighbors.
COMMANDMENTS OF THE CHURCH
To abstain for servile work on Sundays and Holy Days.
To attend Divine Liturgy on Sundays and Holy Days.
To fast and to abstain on the days appointed by the Church.
To confess our sins and to receive the Holy Mysteries regularly
Not to solemnize marriage at forbidden times.
To pray to God every day, especially at morning and evening.
SEVEN DEADLY SINS
ACCESSORIES TO SIN
By counseling, by commanding, by consenting, by provoking another to sin; by praise of flattery, by concealment, by silence, or by defending that which is wrong.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF TO PREPARE FOR CONFESSION
Have you prayed to God upon rising and before eating and sleeping?
During prayer were you distracted by other thoughts?
Did you make the sign of the Cross carelessly?
Have you attended Church services regularly?
When in Church, have you been inattentive, laughed or talked
Have you used the name of the Lord in swearing or in a joking
Have you sworn or murmured against God?
Have you been ashamed to make the sign of the Cross in front
Have you attended parties, movies, etc. during the hours of
Have you failed to keep the fast or other rules of the Church?
Have you believed in astrology, superstitions, fortune-tellers
or the like?
Have you strayed from the teachings of the Church by unbelief
or indifference to the Faith?
Have you failed to ask for God’s help in every effort?
Have you concealed sins at confession?
Do you show your parents proper respect? Have you been rude
to them, talked back or otherwise offended them?
If your parents are reposed, have you prayed for them.
Have you been disrespectful to members of the clergy, your
elders, teachers or superiors?
Have you been angry or irritated?
Have you abused anyone? Used foul language? Struck someone?
Offended someone in an argument?
Have you raised your voice in anger?
Have you joked or made fun of the handicapped, unfortunate,
Are you truly at peace with everyone?
Have you asked forgiveness of those you may have offended?
Have you failed to give aid to someone in need, especially
Have you donated to the needs of the Church?
Have you been cruel to animals?
Have you taken something without asking?
Have you failed to return a book or other thing that you have
Have you been stubborn, insistent on pressing your point of
Have you plotted or taken revenge on one who’s offended you?
Have you told falsehoods, distorted the truth, cheated, judged
others or gossiped?
Have you joked of the faults of others, or exposed the faults
of another to make yourself the better?
Have you been vain? Sought glory or praise for yourself?
Does your inner peace disappear when others are unfair to
you or judge you?
Are you proud? Do you brag of your abilities, position or
possessions? Do you consider yourself worthy or sinless in the
sight of God?
Have you been overly concerned with your appearance? Are you
properly attired in God’s house?
The 7th commandment includes all sins of a sexual nature,
either by thought, word, or deed, any of these must be confessed.
Have you been envious of another’s possessions, appearance
Have you fulfilled all obligations faithfully? Have you been
Have you been impatient? Fallen into despair or apathy? Had
thoughts of suicide?
Are you attached to smoking, alcohol, or other drugs? Food
Do you give up your heart to money or other earthly possessions?