“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:8-9
What’s the one subject that we - as followers of Christ - talk about a lot, but practice very little? CONFESSION.
And what’s the one practice that will directly impact your spiritual growth and maturity more than any other? Yep, same one… CONFESSION.
Today - in response to all the questions I received during my scope two weeks ago - I’ll be sharing my thoughts on Confession and how it's supposed to work. My goal isn’t to convince you that you need to confess – that’s another post for another time – but rather to help you get the most out of the practice of Confession.
What is Confession? How does it work? How often should I do it? Is there a “right” way to confess?
Believe me – I’ve been on the receiving end of confessions for 14 years now and I’ve been on the confessing end for even longer – and in my honest/humble opinion, there is no practice that will DIRECTLY contribute to your spiritual growth more than the regular practice of Confession.
Nothing. Trust me. So with that, let's jump in and see what Confession IS and what it IS NOT.
What it's not: COUNSELING VS CONFESSION Often we confuse the two. We think of confession as some type of counseling session. And because we don’t have major issues and aren’t in need of counseling, we presume that we don’t need to confess. WRONG!
Counseling is an important component in the development of one’s spiritual life. It may be needed on and off at various times – especially during times of transition or tribulation. However, counseling is NOT the same as confession.
Counseling is important for many; confession is NECESSARY FOR ALL.
What it is: A TRUE MYSTERY Confession is a "sacrament", which comes from the Greek word “mysterion” meaning ‘mystery’. I like the term ‘mystery’ because it gives a greater emphasis on what is taking place – something much greater than what the naked eye can see.
For example, in the Mystery of the Eucharist, the eye sees bread and wine; but the reality is the Divine Body and the Precious Blood of Christ. In the Mystery of Baptism, the eye sees a human going into a pool of water; but the reality is that a new man is being born in Christ, given a new nature. In the Mystery of Matrimony, the eye sees two people dressed nicely and smiling for the cameras; but the reality is that those two people have become one flesh.
In the same way, the Mystery of Confession is more than meets the eye. The eye sees a man sitting with a priest, struggling to reveal his sins. But the reality is that the man is not sitting before a priest, but before the throne of the Most High God. He is not just recounting his sins, he is washing his soul. And he is not listening to advice from a mere man, but rather from the Immortal Spirit of God.
One of the scholarly bishops from the Coptic church – Bishop Benyameen of the diocese of Al Minufiyah in Egypt – once said the following about the Mystery of Confession:
"[Confession] is where the Holy Spirit takes the action of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross and applies it to the sin of the individual.”
In other words, it’s in Confession that the saving action of the Lord on the Cross becomes personal – for me…for my specific sins…for my personal salvation.
How to prepare: SELF-EXAM & REPENTANCE The most important part of the Confession takes place well before you arrive at Church. Any Mystery is only as strong as the preparation you do in advance. We usually think of repentance as a part of the Confession process. However, the opposite is true. Repentance is not part of Confession; Confession is part of repentance.
Confession needs to take place regularly – every 2-3 months is a good starting point - but self-examination and repentance need to take place DAILY. Repentance is not supposed to be an activity; it's a lifestyle.
How long and how often? SHORTER, MORE FREQUENT Which is better: to brush your teeth for 2 minutes a day, twice a day, every day of the year? Or do nothing all year and then go to the dentist for a root canal at the end of the year? Shorter and more frequent is better than longer and less often. No doubt about that!
The same is true for your soul in Confession. A five minute Confession once a month is 100 times better than an hour long confession once a year. It isn't even close!
At STSA, Confession is available every Saturday night after Vespers – NO APPOINTMENT NEEDED. You can just walk in and wait your turn and then go straight to Confession. The idea is to make Confession a regular part of everyone's schedule and allow for more people to confess every week.
But that only works when we respect the Mystery of Confession and remain undistracted during that time. Being a mystery - as the Eucharist - it isn't the appropriate time for counseling, or stories, or “catching up”. All of those things are great but they can be done outside Confession.
When it comes to Confession, shorter and more frequent is better than longer and less often.
There you have it ladies and gentlemen - that's my "how-to" guide for Confession.
Now if you're curious about the actual nuts and bolts of what to do IN confession, join me today at 12:30 pm EST as I share more about the subject, including the 6 steps that I believe are essential to every Confession.