Declaration of Dependence - The Sacrament of Confession

1774

My child, do you want to crush the head of the serpent? Openly reveal your thoughts in confession. The strength of the devil lies in cunning thoughts. Do you hold onto them? He remains hidden. Do you bring them to the light? He disappears. And then Christ rejoices, the prayer progresses, and the light of grace heals and brings peace to your nous and heart.

Elder Joseph the Hesychast

 

Confession is a wonderful gift that frees us to serve God wholeheartedly and keeps us from deceiving ourselves. The Bible tells us in James 5:16, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Confession is a way of obtaining healing and helps to equip us for the righteous life God calls us to while bringing us back in union with Himself.

Now, we don’t just go to confession and list off our top ten offences. It’s a time to prepare and clean out all the sinful areas in our lives that we are aware of and find those things we may not be aware of. Before going over the confession questions, spend some time in personal genuine prayer asking the Lord to give you the courage to confess, accept the healing He offers, and change your way of life to line up with His plan for you.

One ~ Uno ~ Un

you shall have no other gods before Me

Many of us have gods in our lives that we don’t even know about: money, popularity, fashion, possessions. Whatever we put above our devotion to the Lord is a god. When checking out this area of your life, ask the following:

 Have I:

  • believed in God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit?
  • trusted in God and His mercy?
  • complained against God when I am in trouble or having a hard time?
  • doubted the Christian faith and teachings of the Church?
  • believed in untrue, magical, or superstitious things?
  • gone often to religious meetings or festivals of those who do not follow the way of the Church?
  • not done what god wants me to do because I was afraid of being made fun or picked on?

Two ~ Dos ~ Deux

you shall not make for yourself a carved image,

or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above,

or that is in the earth beneath,

or that is in the water under the earth

Okay, so you’re probably not going to go out, find a piece of wood, carve it into an idol, and start worshipping it. But you might give too much attention to clothes, video games, movies, TV shows, famous people, and so forth, You may also have made yourself an idol when you put desires or activities first in your life. The world teaches the “it’s all about me” philosophy, but God tells us that it’s all about Him.

He who refuses to give in to passions does the same as he who refuses to bow down and worship idols.

– Saint Theophan the Recluse

 Have I:

  • made an idol out of any person, form of entertainment, or thing in my life?
  • glorified any person, place, or thing above the Lord?
  • kept my mind on Jesus’ holy life and tried to imitate Him in my actions and relationships?
  • taken attention away from Jesus during church by talking to friends or only pretending to worship?
  • taken Holy Communion regularly, having my heart right with God and man?

 Three ~ Tres ~ Trois

you shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain

This commandment is all about our words. Sometimes we unintentionally use the name of the Lord in an unholy way. We hear it all around us – with friends, in movies, on TV – but we still have to make a conscious choice not to sin in this way. We also “curse” the lord when we speak badly of anyone, because all people are made in his image. We are badmouthing His creation when we participate in this kind of talk.

The Bible tells us the tongue is a very hard thing to tame, but as Christians we are called to step up to that challenge (James 1:26).

Have I:

  • stayed away from church on Sundays or stopped others from going?
  • done unnecessary work on Sunday?
  • spent the Sabbath doing sinful things or behaved inappropriately?
  • kept the fasts and festivals as the Church instructs?

Four ~ Cuatro ~ Quatre

remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy

The Sabbath isn’t just any other day. Saint Maximos the Confessor says, “God ordained the honouring of the Sabbath, the months and festivals, not because He wanted these days to be honoured by men as days, for that would be serving the creature more than the Creator (Romans 1:25), implying that days are naturally worthy of honour and therefore of worship in themselves. But through the ordinance to honour the days, He symbolically ordained the honouring of Himself. For He, labours of life. He is the Pascha, the Liberator of those held in the bitter servitude of sin; He is the Pentecost, the beginning and end of all.”

Have I:

  • stayed away from church on Sundays or stopped others from going?
  • done unnecessary work on Sunday?
  • spent the Sabbath doing sinful things or behaved inappropriately?
  • kept the fasts and festivals as the Church instructs?

Five ~ Cinco ~ Cinq

honor your father and your mother

Honour is an important part of healthy relationships, especially within the family. Honouring your parents is a lifelong commitment. From childhood through the time we are on our own, we are under their authority and are called not only to honour them but to obey and honour them. This changes a bit when we are grown and out of their house and direct authority, but we are always called to honour our parents. Saint Cyril of Jerusalem says “The first virtue of godliness in Christians is to honor their parents, to requite the troubles of troubles of those who begat them.”

 Have I:

  • joyfully and willingly respected my parents and been obedient to them?
  • been sneaky or lied to them or caused them pain by my words or actions?
  • failed to care for them or to help them?
  • kept up my responsibilities within my family and home?
  • been loving and kind towards my brothers and sisters? Have I harmed them in any way? Have I set a good example for them and offered encouragement? have I approached them correctly when I have been offended, using patience, not anger?
  • worked for paid jobs with honesty and diligence?
  • honoured God as my heavenly father by treating others as my brothers and sisters?

Six ~ Seis ~ Six

you shall not murder

While it is not likely that you will ever need to confess the physical act of murder, we have to look at this commandment as it pertains to our hearts. The Lord says in Matthew 5:21 – 22, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of the hell fire.”

We must be cautious with our words, not in a hurry to take offence, and available to listen (James 1:19). Saint John Climacus says, “ As with the appearance of light, darkness retreats; so, at the fragrance of humility, all anger and bitterness vanishes.”

 Have I:

  • caused the injury or death of anyone, or wished that I were dead?
  • enjoyed violent movies or video games?
  • given way to anger or harmed others with words or actions?
  • ignored others who needed help, or failed to stand up for those being treated badly by others?
  • been unkind to any person or creature?
  • imagined or pretend that I was hurting or killing someone?
  • failed to forgive anyone or held onto angry thoughts toward them?

Seven ~ Siete ~ Sept

you shall not commit adultery

Transgressions against this commandment are hard to confess. The seventh commandment deals not only with the physical action of sex outside marriage, but also with what we read, listen to, look at in private, think, and do. just as anger is murder in the heart, lust is adultery/sexual immorality in the heart. The Lord says in Matthew 5:28, “But I tell you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. “ This applies to both males and females. If you’re not sure whether your feelings fall into the category of lust, ask a parent or priest.

This commandment covers faithfulness in other areas of our lives as well – faithfulness to friends, family, and activities we agree to.

 Have I:

  • had any inappropriate thoughts, said any inappropriate words, or done inappropriate things?
  • committed any sinful action alone or with others?
  • read any inappropriate books or magazines?
  • looked at inappropriate things on TV or on the internet?
  • fantasized about sex or told sexual jokes?
  • enjoyed listening to anyone talk about inappropriate things?
  • looked at sexual/pornographic websites?
  • been slothful, inactive, or wasted my time?
  • led others to do sinful things?

Eight ~ Ocho ~ Huit

you shall not steal

This commandment is pretty self – explanatory. What about the robberies that take place daily in our spending, with our possessions, and with our time? You decide where you stand.

 Have I:

  • stolen anything or wanted to steal?
  • kept anything that didn’t belong to me?
  • tried honestly to find owners of lost things I have found?
  • cheated anyone?
  • paid everyone what I owe them?
  • been wasteful with my money and possessions?
  • given to those in need?
  • used my time wisely?

 Nine ~ Nueve ~ Neuf

you shall not bear false witness against your neighbour

Just like the third commandment, this one deals with the tongue. James 1:26 says, “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one religion is useless. “ When we bear false witness against our neighbour (friends, family, enemies…) we tell the world that our faith is false.

A lie is the destruction of love, and a false oath is a denial of god

– Saint John Climacus

 Have I:

  • told lies or “enhanced” the truth?
  • made careless statements or spoken evil of anyone?
  • told any secrets (not including emergency or dangerous things) shared with me?
  • gossiped about anyone or made others think badly of someone?
  • covered up the truth in any way?

 Ten ~ Diez ~ Dix

you shall not covet your neighbour’s house;

you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife,

nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox,

nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbour’s

Our world encourages us to want what everyone else has. It encourages us to follow our dreams by telling us to look to others and their possessions to determine what we want. God has another plan. He gives us what we need to make us who He knows we should be. In our effort to find ourselves, we discover that the only place we’ll find complete fulfilment is in Christ. This commandment is all about it not being “all about me.”

As for your own envy, you will be able to check it if you rejoice with the man whom you envy whenever he rejoices, and grieve whenever he grieves.

– Saint Maximos the Confessor

 Have I:

  • envied anything good that has come to others?
  • been jealous about a good thing that has happened to someone else?
  • wished for anything that belonged to someone else?
  • damaged or destroyed anything that belongs to someone else?
  • wished for things God has not given me or been dissatisfied with what He has provided?
  • shared when I had the opportunity?
  • hoped for anyone to fail so I could get what they have?
  • failed to be kind and giving to others?
  • expected God to give me things when I refuse to give to others?

Demolition

The point of confession is to demolish anything in our lives that keeps us from serving God. The Ten Commandments help us eradicate the major obstacles we’re most aware of. There are other sins, more like slow- release poisons, that are more subtle but just as deadly. Take an inventory of your heart and see if any of these poisons have penetrated your spiritual barricades.

  • PRIDE: assumption, big-headedness, cockiness, conceit, condescension, disdain, egotism, overconfidence, presumption, pretension, self-exaltation, self-importance, self-love, smugness, snobbery, swelled-head, vanity, “me”
  • GREED : covetousness, craving, eagerness, excess, gluttony, grubbiness, indulgence, insatiability, piggishness, ravenousness, selfishness, the “gimmes,” voracity
  • LUST: carnality, covetousness, craving, envy, fancy, hankering for, itching for, longing for, lusting after
  • ANGER: animosity, annoyance, antagonism, blowing up, chagrin, displeasure, distemper, enmity, exasperation, fury, gall, hatred, impatience, indignation, infuriation, irritability, irritation, getting mad, outrage, passion, rage, resentment, tantrum, temper, violence
  • GLUTTONY: appetite, bellyful, excess, glut, overabundance, overflow, overindulgence, overkill, insatiability, oversaturation, superabundance, surplus, too much
  • ENVY: begrudge, covet, crave, desire, die over, hunger after, long for, lust after, resent, want, yearn for
  • SLOTH: apathy, idleness, inactivity, indolence, lethargy, neglectfulness, negligence, passivity, slackness, sleepiness, slowness, sluggishness

After Confession

Confession has a way of making the confessor feel clean. It’s like taking a shower and washing away the caked – on mud of our sins. We need to remember that when we confess and our priest lays the stole over us, we are indeed forgiven. God tells us that He puts our sins away from Himself as far as the east is from the west, never to be remembered. It is our choice then to turn and make new life choices that will guard us from repeating those same sins.

Prayer after Confession

O almighty and merciful God, I truly thank You for the forgiveness of my sins; bless me, O Lord, and help me always, that I may ever do what is pleasing to You and sin no more.

Amen.

Armed and Ready

Now that you’ve eradicated the major obstacles and poisons form your life, you’ll want to guard the outpost of your heart. The enemy is always looking for ways to throw new obstacles in your path and deriving new poisons to cause death to your spirit. The following virtues are powerful weapons against the attacks of the enemy.

  • HUMILITY: blessedness, devotion, faith, godliness, grace, piety, purity, reverence, righteousness, saintliness
  • LIBERALITY: benevolence, charity, chivalry, compassion, consideration, courtesy, generosity, kindness, unselfishness
  • CHASTITY: abstinence, decency, innocence, integrity, maidenhood, modesty, monogamy, morality, purity, restraint, virginity, virtue
  • MILDNESS: agreeableness, amiability, attentiveness, attractiveness, charity, charm, cordiality, delightfulness, enjoyableness, gallantry, gentility, gratefulness, kindness, pleasantness, politeness
  • TEMPERANCE: abstinence, asceticism, control, discretion, forbearance, moderation, prudence, reasonableness, restraint, sacrifice, self – control, self – denial, self – discipline, sobriety
  • HAPPINESS: blessedness, cheerfulness, contentment, delight, elation, enjoyment, euphoria, exhilaration, exuberance, gladness, joy, laughter, light – heartedness, pleasure, prosperity, rejoicing, sanctity, vivacity, well – being
  • DILIGENCE: activity, application, assiduity, attentiveness, carefulness, constancy, earnestness, exertion, heedfulness, industry, intensity, keenness, laboriousness, perseverance

The Beatitudes

Matthew 5:3-16

Blessed are the poor in spirit,

For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,

For they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,

For they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

For they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,

For they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure at heart,

For they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

For they shall be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,

For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blesses are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavour, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

From the book: Hear Me – A Prayerbook for Orthodox Teens

Compiled and edited by Annalisa Boyd 2007

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