4 August OS 2015 –Monday of the 12th Week after Pentecost (12th week of Matthew), Holy Sleepers of Ephesus
In the reading from the Apostolos today (Monday of the 12th Week after Pentecost), St. Paul reminds us that we will each stand before the Lord for judgment:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences. For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart. For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause. For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.
- II Corinthians 5: 10-15.
During the holy fasting seasons, including this blessed time of the Dormition Fast, we receive a special grace to renew our souls through the examination of the conscience and cleansing of the soul through confession. We will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and every one of our sinful thoughts, words, and deeds will be laid bare, except for those which God has already forgiven in the sacred tribunal of confession. This thought by itself should be sufficient to motivate us to go, or rather to run, to confess our sins and be forgiven by the grace of God working through His ordained priesthood in the Church.
The first obstacle to our going to confession is the constant busyness of contemporary life. We must set aside a specific time on a specific day (preferably today) to examine our behavior during the time since our last confession, and write a list of our sinful thoughts, words, and deeds, in order to make a thorough confession.
A second obstacle is the constant brainwashing from the media, whether through television, radio, or the Internet, which hypnotizes us and trains us to think in the categories of a new “morality” of ideological sins having to do with “race,” the “environment,” “gun control,” and so forth. Whether we think the “sin” is on the “Right” or the “Left,” we are caught up passionately in what others are doing, and we are angry at them all the time. The “sin” is so vague that no one can explain what it really is; it is being committed by a group, not a man, and therefore no one is responsible; I have little or no control over it, and therefore I can do nothing about it. The interior working of the soul, the actual spiritual life, and the actual spiritual universe – all of this becomes a closed book to me. After awhile, I do not even realize that it exists. Yet paradoxically, it is precisely in this interior spiritual universe that all the real answers to man’s problems reside. Man’s problem is not “out there” somewhere. Man’s problem is sin.
Therefore, in addition to setting aside time to examine the conscience, we have to be reminded of what sin even is: it is breaking God’s Law. The old-fashioned lists of various sins, by which people used to prepare for confession, and with which priests used to examine them, were not invented by unenlightened legalists influenced by “Latinism” but by loving Holy Fathers. Yes, sin is a “condition,” an “illness,” and so forth – the images sufficiently vague to be acceptable to modernists who would like to do away with confession altogether or make it into a humanistic counseling session. But to get rid of the “condition” and the “illness,” you have to deal with something concrete and specific: the individual thoughts, words, and deeds that you really had or spoke or did, which depart from the Law of God. Without this, all the talk about “spiritual therapy” is pseudo-spiritual rigmarole.
There are excellent guides to confession at http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/pr_confession.aspx . I heartily suggest that we all print out a couple of them and use them rigorously to prepare for a good confession soon.