It seems I have spent the last two weeks cleaning my house. Here in the rectory it is just me and the dog so you would think it would not get that dirty, and I do try to keep up with it each week. This time of year, before I put of the Christmas tree, I do the big cleaning. I have hardwood floors that need attention and yesterday I pulled out the fridge and the stove in the kitchen to clean behind it. I was amazed how dirty it can get back there! I still have some to do but the tree will be going up today.
All of us spend time cleaning our homes or offices. We wash our clothes each week and do the dishes after each meal. I bet if we were to add it all up we spend a few hours a week on the task of cleaning. During the warm weather months we might spend time outside in the yard raking, pruning, and cutting the lawn. But how much time do we spend cleaning our souls?
Today in the Orthodox Church we celebrate the Sunday before the Nativity, also known as the Sunday of the Fathers. We read from St. Matthew’s Gospel all the names of the ancestors of Christ from Adam down to Joseph. This is to remind us of those who have come before us marked with the sign of faith. It also marks the final week of the season of Advent or as Fr. Alexander Schmemann called it Christmas Lent.
This time of year is a penitential season. Not as strict as Great Lent but we do fast and abstain from certain foods this time of year and the feeling of the Church services change. The Penitential seasons are a great time to go to confession. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the big cleaning of the soul. This is our chance to unburden ourselves and get our relationship with God back on track. We all need to confess regardless of our age or state of life. We are all sinners and we can all do better. Now I would hope that none of you are murderers or anything like that, but we can all check in from time to time with God.
Perhaps our prayer life is not what it can be. Maybe we do not attend Church as often as we should or give our spiritual life the attention that we should. Perhaps we have broken relationships with friends or relatives, or we harbor feelings of envy, judgment, or jealousy. We need to bring all of these things to Christ and leave them at His feet.
There is a common misunderstanding amongst the non-Orthodox about this Sacrament. It is not the priest who forgives the sins “only God can do that” but the priest is the witness, the counselor, a fellow sinner who might offer a bit of advice on how one can proceed in their spiritual life. There is also something comforting about saying what we have done in the hearing of another human being and getting that assurance that, “as for the sins that you have confessed have no further anxiety about them, go in peace” as the words of the prayer of absolution say.
If you have not pulled the fridge of your soul away from the wall for year it is time to roll up your sleeves and just do it! Christ is waiting for you!
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