Confession and the Interior Life

In my last essay I wrote about how we need to find inner silence or inner peace.  In order to do this we need to find the strength to open the door to the room where we hide all of those things that we do not want to deal with.  All of the resentments, hurts, fears etc. that keep us from truly following God.

At the very core of our Christian life is repentance, conversion, and the transformation of our mind and our life.  We do not beat ourselves up for our sins but we confront them and reject them and after confessing them, we try not to do them again.  We must always remember that we are not our sins, our thoughts or our actions.  When we repent, we stop and renounce not only the actions that we are guilty of but we have to renounce the identity that goes with it.

As we open than door to that room, where our hidden life resides, we will come into contact with sins that we have not confessed.  Even after we confess the sin we might still be bothered by the thoughts or the feelings that the remembrance of that sin.  These things make us feel guilty and provoke our conscious to remind us that we have a broken relationship with God.  We have to train ourselves to become aware of what breaks our relationship with God and with other people.

Metropolitan Kalistos Ware reminds us that there are not private sins for all sin affects our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Something like feeling anger towards one of the brethren the evil that we hold in our hearts will have a destructive effect on the community.  At the start of every Liturgy we pray, “In peace let us pray to the Lord.”  We have to be at peace with all or we will be distracted in prayer.

One of the criticisms I hear about confession is why do I need to confess before a man when I can stand before God and confess.  Every sin is a sin against the community.  Metropolitan Kalistos again says that, “every sin however secret is a stumbling block for others and makes it harder for them to serve Christ.”  Confession, in the early Church, used to be done in public.  People would rise, and confess what they had done and ask forgiveness from the entire community.  As the Church grew this became a moment for scandal for some and thus was born confession between the parishioner and the priest.  Rather than standing before the community, the penitent stands before the priest and opens his/her heart under the conditions of secrecy.

The priest stands with the penitent before God and represent the community, he represents the people of the community.  By our confession before another human being we recognize that we have sinned against the community and our sins have a social dimension to them.  We seek not only forgiveness from God but from the community.

The other thing to remember is that it is not the priest who forgives but it is God who forgives.  The prayers of confession use the following words:

“My spiritual child, who have made your confession to my humble person: I, a humble sinner, have no power to forgive sins only God can do that… We are bold to say: whatever you have related to my humble and lowly person, and whatever you have failed to say either from ignorance or from forgetfulness, whatever it may be, may God forgive you in this present age and in the age to come.”

Frequent confession of our inner thoughts and sins is central to the spiritual life.  I usually recommend to those who see me as spiritual father, that they avail themselves of confession and reconciliation at least monthly.  Exposing our excessive and sinful thoughts to our confessor is valuable in our journey.  By putting our thoughts into words during confession will deprive them of their power over us

The process of inner peace and stillness continues to go deeper and deeper.  We learn how not to have resentment in our lives and then as we go deeper we start to remove out deeper buried resentments and passions.  The memories of hurt and sin comes to the front of our consciousness and be begin to think clearly, and work towards the purity of heart.

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