Come to Me
These and many other questions disturb the minds of our children and interfere with their desire to repent and return to the loving-kindness of their Heavenly Father. Not knowing the correct answers to these questions becomes a stumbling block which conceals the importance of this great sacrament [repentance and confession]. Consequently, the children are deprived of the sacrament of unification with Christ--Holy Communion.
When unbelievers sense this uncertainty in our children, especially regarding the sacrament of confession, they offer advice which has the effect of diminishing their desire to repent and confess. They may also turn against their kind mother, the Orthodox Church.
My dear son and daughter, let us understand the truth. Do not be ashamed to admit your transgressions, for "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteouness righteousness"[I john 1:9]. This book is a guide to help you account for your actions and examine your intentions. In order to benefit from it, read it before every confession until you learn proper way to confess.
The Necessity and Importance of Confession
God was the first to establish the sacrament of confession. When Adam sinned, the Lord called him, saying, "Adam, where are you?" Could it be that God did not know where Adam was at the moment He called him? IMPOSSIBLE!! Of course God knew where Adam was. Adam replied, "I heard your voice in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself," (Genesis 3:9-10). The Lord asked Adam again, "Did you eat of the tree...etc." Could it also be possible that the Lord, God, who rules over all the world, did not know whether Adam ate from the tree? Let He already knew. The Lord purposely gave Adam a chance to confess hi sin, not only that he ate from the tree, but also that he disobeyed God's commandment, for the Lord said, "Of every tree of the garden, you may freely eat, but from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat; for in the day you eat of it, you will surely die," (Genesis 2:16-17). Even though Adam knew the truth, that he broke God's commandment and ate, he refused to confess and blamed Eve. He said to the Lord, "The women you gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree and I did eat," (Genesis 3:12). He disobeyed the commandment of God and refused to admit his mistake. Also in Genesis, (chapter4) we find the story of Cain and Abel. Cain rose against his brother Abel and killed him. God called Cain and asked him, "Cain, where is your brother Abel?" Again, God is asking even though He knows all things, for all things are revealed before him. God asked Cain where his brother was, even though He knew beforehand what would happen: Didn't He give Cain a chance to confess and repent from the murder of his brother and from disobeying God's commandment? yet, we find that Cain refused to confess and repent and rejected God's question, saying, "Am I my brother's keeper?" In the Old Testament we see that confession is necessary to remove guilt. Jonah said to God, "I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness and repentant thee of the evil," (Jonah 4:2). The Lord calls us daily, saying, "Come to me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest," (Matthew 11:28). He also says, "He who comes to me I will in no way cast out," (John 6:37). So what excuse do we have? Didn't He also say, "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool". (Isaish 1:8). There is none greater than you, Lord, nor greater than your love for us. "For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life," (John 3:16).
God's Incantation orders Confession
Come with me and let us follow a part of the life of the Lord Jesus, When He lived in the midst of humanity as a part of it. "For we have not a high priest which can not be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin," (Hebrews 4:15). We read of the first miracle in the Gospel of St. Matthew, chapter 8, verses 2-4: "And behold, there came a leper and worshipped Him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth His hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus saith unto him, see thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them." It was known that leprosy was the disease of sin, and, in Old Testament, there was a special ritual for the healing of this disease. This is what David, the prophet spoke about in Psalm 51 when he said, "Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be made clean." In order to be healed from this leprosy, that person had to confess his sin to the priest. Hence, the Lord commanded the leper to "Go shew thyself to the priest." In addition, the Lord said in the Sermon on the mount, "Ye are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill can not be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candle stick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven," (Mat 5:13-16) "Ye are the salt of the earth...Ye are the light of the world..." Isn't this an invitation to improve one's behavior and good works? but how can a person perform good works? Only if he repents form evil works. And confession is an invitation to leave the path of evil and walk in the way of truth, so that the Lord's name will be glorified by the mention of our good works. My beloved, what do you think about the story of the Samaritan woman? Read it as it appears in John, chapter 4, and see that it is a beautiful story which tells of a long confession between the Lord Jesus and a sinful woman. She confessed her sins before Him. She is a perfect example of God's divine planning--that we should learn to confess our sins.
The Prodigal Son
What is your opinion of the story of the prodigal son? Read it in Luke 15. What does the word "Prodigal" mean. "I will go now to my father and say to him, father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee." "I have sinned against heaven..." This signifies regret and repentance before confession, because heaven is the Kingdom of God and it alone perceives the repentance. "I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance," (Luke 15:7). "And before thee.." because the priest represents the father and he is the symbol of God and was given this power from God. He is also the symbol of his Lord Jesus and His image as seen by people. For this reason, the church decided that confession in the presence of a priest is a definitive step toward repentance, so that the confessor may be absolved from his sins through the power that God has granted the priest. This God-given power includes the priest's ability to offer guidance and advice to the confessor.
The Power was also given to the Disciples
What a great story we find in Matthew, chapter 9! Jesus said to a lame man "Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. And behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, this man blasphemeth. And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? For whether is easier, to say, thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise and walk? But , that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins..." Consider what the Lord says: "The son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins.." The Lord, through His humanity, gave humans power on earth, and this power is given to those who are called to the priesthood. "And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease...and as ye go, preach, saying, the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: Freely ye have received, freely give...and into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire in it who is worthy..." (Matthew 10:1,6-7, 11). What is the purpose of this power to the disciples on earth? And what is the meaning of the saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand? In addition, why does Jesus say, "And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire in it who is worthy"? It means what the Lord said to his disciples in John 20:21-23: "Peace be unto you: As my father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he said this, he breathed on them and saith unto them, receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose so ever sins ye remit they are remitted unto them; and whose so ever sins ye retain, they are retained." For this reason it was necessary that the Lord should suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that in his name should be preached repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations. Peter spoke on behalf of all the disciples.. The Lord said to him, "And I say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:18 -19). And again the Lord gave this power to all the disciples and clarified the extent of the tie between the power of the priest in receiving confessions and the forgiveness that is dependent on confession when he said in Matthew 18:15-18: "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between him and thee alone: If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: But if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Now, what do you think of the sacrament of confession? Don't you feel that it is a divine matter, as you saw in the stories of the sick of the palsy and the Samaritan woman? Don't you also feel that the reason for the salvation of the thief who was crucified on the right side of Jesus was because he felt guilty and repented and confessed before the Lord Jesus? Hear what he said: "For we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom,"(Luke 23:41-42). Therefore, the disciples received the power and used it. "And many that believed came, and confessed, and showed their deeds, (Acts 19:8). Now you have seen that confession must be done in the presence of a priest according to the power the Lord Jesus gave him. "Whose so ever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose so ever sins ye retain, they are retained," (John 20:23).
What Inspires me to Confess?
Suppose you disobeyed your father. For example, suppose that he told you not to leave the house, but you left...What did you do, and how does your father now feel about you? And how do you feel toward your father, especially since you are living with him under the same roof, and you must return to the house, knowing that you disobeyed your father's commandment? Your father's feelings will be those of anger because you disobeyed him, and you will feel unhappy--you will feel that you have lost his love and support. In this case, you do not dare to ask him for anything. You can not ask him for your allowance or even for his love for you. In other words, you have separated yourself from your father. There is now a conflict between you and your father and you are deprived of your father and his love. The one who can not tolerate this situation or bear this division between the father and the son is the mother. The mother is in a very difficult position: Once she will ask the father to forgive his son and another item she will ask the son to make amends with his father. She will facilitate an encounter between the father and son. She will encourage her son to go to his father so that he may make peace with him. When they meet, their disagreement will end and the love between them will return. They will meet with hugs as did the prodigal son, when his father had compassion and ran to his son, kissed him, and said to his servant, "Bring forth the best robe and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost and is found," (Luke 15:22-24). The mother rejoices because her task has been completed. The mother here is the church, and the intention of this example is as follows: God is, by nature, love: for "God is love" (John 4:8). Sin causes us to lose this love...what happened to Adam is that he became deprived of God's love when he disobeyed his commandment. Therefore, if you defy God's commandments, you will separate yourself form Him and deprive yourself form His love. Thus, it is sin that causes us to depart form God's way, but we are not able to live far from God. The Father is God and we are the children, and the mother is the church who directs all her efforts toward strengthening our love for God, which is in Jesus Christ..She is the one that does not cease to call us to repentance. She rejoices and says, "Repent, for the kingdom of God in a spiritual conference--confession. So repentance and confession is reconciliation with God.
Listen to What the Saints Say
The Spiritual Elder says: "Repentance is able to regain the freedom of those who have enslaved their souls to the Devil."
Saint Kiriatos says: "Everyone should confess his sins while he is alive so that he can gain his soul through the advice and help of the priest."
Saint Basilious says: "It is necessary to confess our sins before those who have been granted the secrets of God."
Saint Tertelianous says: "Many have worried more about embarrassment than about salvation and avoid confession to hide their shame or put it off from one day to the next, like one who has an embarrassing disease and refuses to tell his doctor. The result is that he speeds up his own death."
How should I Confess?
The Devil continues with great effort to separate us from the love of God. He roams like a lion searching for someone to devout. For this reason, he makes us fall in despair because of our many sins. My beloved, be aware that all prophets and apostles,"..he sinned and come short of the glory of God," (Romans 3:23). "There is none righteous, no not one, "(Romans 3:10), not even David, of whom it was witnessed that his heart was as God wished. "Beloved I was sharpen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me," (Psalm 51). This is true not only of the disciples and prophets, but even "the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains unto darkness until the judgment of the great day," (Jude 6). The Lord knows the weaknesses of humanity and what the Devil does to us. He does not cease to obstruct our path to eternal life. He tries to deprive us from inheriting the kingdom of heaven. But know that the Lord gave us "power to tread on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy," (and the enemy is Satan. Luke 10:19). You have the power to overcome the Devil. This power is from the Lord Jesus, who lives inside you. Be aware that the Lord Jesus, to whom is due all glory, gave us an example of how to conquer the Devil when He was tempted by him. Lets us see how the Lord prevailed by the power of the written word...see what happened when the Lord said to the Devil, "Get thee hence, Satan..."(Matthew 4:10). St. Matthew reminds us in Chapter 4, verse 11 that, "behold, angels came and ministered unto him." The angels will come to you if you resist evil. My beloved, be certain that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Phillippians 4:3). Be assured that you can stay away from sin if you ask for God's help and that you can overcome Satan as Jesus promised us, "Resist the Devil and he will flee from you," (James 4:7). Come now, that we may discuss the question we asked previously, "How should I confess?"
The First Step:
A Conference with My Soul St. Agostinos said, "My Lord, grant me to know who you are and who I am." Before you meet with your confession father, you must sit with yourself and be aware that the price of your soul is the precious blood of Jesus, which he shed upon the cross for your salvation. Have you heard the saying of the Lord, "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26). There fore, sit with your soul and examine it, that you may know your sins, shortcomings, and faults, and when you have found these, write them down, making certain that you truly regret them. Then, lay them down before you confession father. (this is to guide you toward examining yourself and confessing.). You should examine your soul, not once, but daily, or as often as possible. Then, when you have collected the result of your examination, offer it to your confession father during your confession. You should meet with your confession father every week, every month, at the beginning of a new year or school year, etc. It is preferable that you meet with him daily, but you must meet with your confession father for confession at least once a month under any circumstances.
The Second Step:
A Conference with God After you examine your soul, rise, as the prodigal son did, and offer yourself to God in fervent prayer and prayer with tears. Speak to Him truthfully and submit to Him your weakness and your guilt. do not cease to ask God to remit your sins and forgive you and send you help in your efforts. Say to him, "I am weak...I have sinned..and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Remit my sins, for you gave yourself for my sake, and forgive me, for you are the God of mercy and compassion." Tell him all your pains and weaknesses...And ask Him to help you overcome your passions. You must stand in front of God, the Judge, and promise Him that you have turned from sin and that you are truly repent. say this prayer with Jonah the prophet: "I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me forever; yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God. When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple," (Jonah 2:2-7). Cry with David the prophet, saying, "Have mercy on me O God, according to thy loving kindness: according to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquities and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned and done this evil in thy sight: That thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me," (Psalm 51). Rise and offer your soul to God, revealing your weakness before him, asking for His help, mercy and strength. This is a necessary step for the expression of repentance and the feeling of the pain of sin and the significance of your need for the grace of God and His help, mercy and strength. This is a necessary step for the expression of repentance and the feeling of the pain of sin and the significance of your need for the grace of God and His help, so that you may turn from your sins.
The Third Step:
A Conference (Confession) with the Confession Father Do not put off your confession, no matter what the circumstances are. For it may be that, even after you have followed these first steps, your desire to confess may decrease and your prayers may diminish, along with your repentance, and you will forget your promise to the Lord, your God. Therefore, you will need to appoint for yourself a speedy meeting with your confession father. Do not let your thoughts deceive you. For some believe that if you simply regret your sins, asking for forgiveness, all things are ended and you are now acceptable to God. This thought contradicts the Bible and the commandments of Christ as he revealed them to us. It is wrong to reject confession after regret and repentance. This sacrament is known as the sacrament of repentance and confession. You are in need of the power that is granted to the church through the priest to absolve you from your sins. You are also in need of God's guidance, which He gives you through the priest who, through experience, can guide you to the right path where you will find Jesus, his commandments, and his grace which will support you in your repentance. If you were alone in a frightening forest, covered in darkness and fear, not knowing what to do or how to escape from that place into safety and peace, how pleased and joyful would you be to find someone who knew all things about this forest, to the pint that you place all your faith in him and rejoice that you found him that he may guide you through a safe path! In this case, you will follow all his instructions and ideas with confidence. Therefore, it is necessary that there be someone beside you to guide and help you through the way to eternal life and that you put all your trust in him. This person is your confession father. Thus, the confession finalizes this sacrament. Through it, you obtain forgiveness and guidance.
Here is some advice to help you benefit from confession
An appendix to guide you in examining yourself before confession:-
First, Repentance and Confession:
Secondly, Basic Worship
The Divine Liturgy
3. Thirdly, Your Spiritual Behavior
Sins of the Flesh
Bad habits, youthful habits, adultery, hatred for others, revenge, disobedience, fighting, disputes / arguments, arrogance, envy, smoking, alcohol addiction.
Sins of the Tongue
Judging others, lies, cursing, swearing, gossip, blasphemy, bearing false witness, unnecessary disputes, using language inappropriate to God's children.
Sins of sight and other senses
Lust, defiling thoughts of evil and adultery, hatred, selfishness, worldly thoughts, vain glory, doubt, arrogance, judging others.
Questions for Parents
Questions for Children
My Beloved sons and daughters:- This book is NOT intended to be a lecture on the Sacrament of confession; but only a genuine invitation to practice this Holy Sacrament, and to experience how wonderful life could be with our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ Loves you...whatever may be your sins. For He said, "they that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:31,32).
Open your heart to Jesus..be Honest and Truthful with yourself and have faith of how much God loves you..
This is the chance to dispose of your sins! Here on earth while we are still in flesh; because in the eternal life there is no repentance, confession or redemption but judgment (John 5:24-30). The church is praying for you...and asking our Lord on your behalf to accept your repentance and confession.
Come to me
By Father Takla Azmy
The above document mirrors that produced by Saint Mary's Coptic Orthodox Church, Seattle, Washington, USA.