First Confession

June 25, 2010

Our chrismation is scheduled for July 4th. This secular holiday will soon have a very new meaning for us!

Since chrismation is nigh, we’ve begun thinking about and preparing for our first confession. Confession is one of those things that a lot of Protestants really, really don’t like. Yet the Bible is very specific on the topic: Confess your sins to one another (James 5:16). Though it would seem that there’s not a lot of wiggle room in this verse, reception of this command seems to vary. Many blow over it as if it’s a nice idea, but not really for them, except perhaps at a time and place of their own choosing. Others do find it important and set up accountability groups or partners to whom they can both confess and encourage. This is certainly a step in the right direction, though depending on the spiritual maturity of those involved it may be a bit of the blind leading the blind.

For me personally, the idea of confessing in the presence of a priest was not a hurdle to overcome on my journey to Orthodoxy. I did think that it was a curious custom, but initially it was something that I was neither for nor against. As I contemplated the concept, I realized that without confession the priest has no idea what is going on in the lives of most of his parishioners. I thought about some of my Protestant friends and their churches. I may know many of the things that my friends struggle with, but do their pastors have any idea? In every scenario I could think of, I determined that the answer was “no.” How in the world can a person pastor a group of people when they do not really know those people as individuals? What kind of church has no (or very limited) accountability within its body? How can people really grow or mature without the involved guidance of someone who is spiritually more mature? After this line of questioning I began to see the sacrament of confession as a very good thing indeed.

Another reason to confess is to prepare oneself to receive the Eucharist. We know that one must be careful to not partake of the Eucharist in an “unworthy manner;” such a manner may include hidden immorality, disunity, doctrinal heresy, or disorder. We need to examine ourselves, and part of this examination is confession before God in the presence of a priest who visibly represents Christ. Why not just confess to God without the presence of a priest? We know that the “heart is deceitful” and as St. Paul wrote, “if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.” (1Co 11:28) I know that I try to be introspective and aware of what it is that I do, but at the same time I will readily admit that I can easily rationalize my behavior. I imagine this rationalization is not so easy when confessing in the presence of a priest.

My husband and I have both been really looking forward to our first confession. I believe it will be cleansing and edifying. I am looking forward to the direction that it will provide. It may seem strange, but I am very excited to confess my sins.


5 Responses to “First Confession”

  1. Chris Paul Says:

    I have often been interested in why the act of confession is so difficult for many. I find that the idea that I have to actually talk about the things that I do is strong enough to make me want to stop from doing them. I have yet to partake in my own first confession, but I think that it would be a great relief to get everything off ones chest. Does the Orthodox church do confession in the same manner as the RCC in that you are in a semi-private setting?

    • Liz Says:

      It is in a private setting in the sense that no one else is around, but unlike the RCC we do not use any sort of screen to protect the privacy of the confessor. This would kind of defeat the purpose a little bit, because one of the goals is to have a relationship where your spiritual father can help guide you to overcome the things that are plaguing you. That would be kind of difficult if you were anonymous.

      My understanding of RCC confession is limited; but the main difference seems to be that in the Orthodox church the goal is not penance for one’s sins. Rather it is spiritual guidance to help the person move beyond their sin and to become like God (“theosis”).

    • David Says:

      Orthodox confession is kind of like having a conversation with the priest. It’s kind of like he’s the therapist and you’re the patient. This is an apt analogy I think because the Orthodox view the church as a spiritual hospital for the healing of the souls of the sinners. You talk about the sins you have been struggling with and he tries to guide you down the path towards overcoming them.

      There’s no penance. Forgiveness of sins is a free gift for anyone who is repentant. Once confessed sins are supposed to be forgotten.

      • Chris Paul Says:

        That is pretty interesting. I am not sure how comfortable one would be sitting in front of the person and talking about any heavy sinning that they have done.

      • Liz Says:

        Excruciating details are not required. 😉

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