In the Mystery of Reconciliation, we repent of our sins, and receive forgiveness and absolution, and the grace to persevere in this world to live the New Life in Christ, in spite of our failures and shortcomings. It is a Byzantine tradition to confess our sins in the presence of a priest while facing an icon of Christ.
In our parish, confessions are heard on Saturdays at 4:00PM, Sundays at 8:30AM and anytime by appointment
All faithful are expected to approach Holy Confession before Pascha. The following tips will help you prepare.
Before confession, each person must attempt to recall all of his/her sins, both voluntary and involuntary, those committed since the last confession as well as those past sins which, through forgetfulness, have never been confessed. Prayer and fasting help the penitent remember and recognize his/her sinfulness. Then, with compunction and with a contrite heart, approach the Cross and the Gospel and begin to confess your sins.
If you have not been to confession in a long time and are unsure of yourself on how to begin, do not be afraid. Tell the priest and he will help you.
1. Confess your sins honestly, remembering that you are disclosing them not to a man but to God Himself, Who already knows your sins, but wishes you to admit to them. There is no reason to feel shame before your spiritual father. He is a person, just like you. Because he knows human weakness and man’s inclination to sin, he cannot be your judge. Do not be embarrassed before you spiritual father or afraid to lose his good opinion of you. Your spiritual father will love you all the more, seeing your sincere confession.
2. Confess all of your sins in full, each sin separately. The sinner is spiritually ill and the spiritual father is a physician or healer. It follows that you must relate or confess your sins to your spiritual father the same way that a physically ill person relates his symptoms to a physician.
3. Do not complain about others during confession or talk about their sins. You would be condemning them, thus committing another sin.
4. In confession, do not attempt to justify yourself in any way, blaming weakness, habit, etc. The more you justify yourself, the less you will be justified by God, while the more you condemn your actions, the more you will be justified by God.
5. When questioned by your spiritual father, do not say “I do not remember, perhaps I am not guilty of that.” God directed us to always be mindful of our sins. Those who confess infrequently are themselves to blame for forgetfulness. In order not to justify ourselves by forgetfulness, we must confess as often as possible, for we cannot hope to be absolved of sins we forget. It is imperative that we strive to remember all of our sins.
6. Unless asked by your spiritual father, do not talk about sins you have not committed, emulating the Pharisee in the Gospel who only praised himself and did not confess his sins.
7. We must confess with sorrow and a contrite heart the sins by which we have grieved our Lord God. Speaking matter-of-factly or casually about sins committed or laughing during confession reflect a lack or repentance.
8. Finally, confess your sins with faith in Jesus Christ, with hope in His mercy and confidence in His love for you.
Frequency of Confession for Eastern Catholics
The following should help Eastern Catholics determine when they should seek sacramental confession, that is, the Mystery of Repentance.
1. The Scriptures teach that there is a basic undercurrent of sin in everyone’s life, “for all have sinned, all have fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). At the same time, it teaches there are distinctions in sins.
2. In distinguishing among sins, the Eastern Churches have employed the distinction between sins and transgressions. A sin would be considered a misdeed committed deliberately and with knowledge. A transgression would be an action which may be as wrong objectively, but is committed inadvertently or in ignorance. It is this distinction which is employed in many liturgical prayers. In the Divine Liturgy, we pray, “have mercy on me and pardon my offences: the deliberate and indeliberate, those committed in word and in deed, whether knowingly or unknowingly….” This to insult someone deliberately or to maliciously destroy his property would be a sin; to hurt someone’s feelings unintentionally or to accidentally break a favorite item would be a transgression. The other person would still be hurt, but inadvertently. In either case, the image of God in us has been scratched and disfigured, but sins committed in malice are clearly more serious to our spiritual condition than those committed from weakness of unconsciously.
3. Minimalism would be content with avoiding the more serious offense while ignoring the lesser: “It’s only a venial sin,” or, “I didn’t mean it so it’s just a transgression.” However, a person who is serious about deepening his relationship with God is concerned with anything which will affect that relationship or cause love to grow cold.
4. In distinguishing among sins, the Western Church has favored the distinction of mortal and venial sins. To borrow an image from the Psalms, all sin is slipping down a slope. Slipping so far or falling so rapidly that relationship with God is ruptured would be mortal sin. Venial sin would be a slower slipping or a separation not as distant.
In essence, then, a Christian should seek sacramental confession (the Mystery of Repentance) at least when he or she has sinned mortally. But this, of course, is a minimum. Anyone who is aware of serious sin is to receive the sacrament of penance as soon as possible; it is strongly recommended to all the Christian faithful that they receive this sacrament frequently especially during the times of fasts and penance observed in their own Church sui iuris.
An Examination of Conscience and Catechetical Summary
The Sacrament of Repentance requires a sincere review of our life in the form of an examination of conscience. The following is intended to help us make such an examination, which should be performed regularly, even when we are not preparing for Confession.
Before participating in the Sacrament of Repentance, begin your examination with the period since your last confession. Try also to recall whether you omitted anything from fear or embarrassment which might need to be confessed.
“Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (John 14:23).
I. The Two Great Commandments (See Matthew 22:36–39)
The foundation of the entire law is these two commandments:
1. You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
2. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
II. The Ten Commandments (See Exodus 20:2–17 and Deuteronomy 5:1–22)
1. I am the Lord your God.
You shall have no other gods besides me.
Has God been the source, center and hope of my life? Have I put myself, anyone or anything before God? Have I given to anyone or anything the love, honor and worship that belong to God alone? Have I made an idol of any person, idea, occupation, or thing? Have I failed to trust in God, His love and mercy? Have I failed to pray to God and to worship Him faithfully? Have I been thankful for God’s blessings? Have I doubted the Christian faith? And I tried to serve God and keep his Commandments faithfully? Have I bitterly complained against God in adversities?
2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
Do I have a deep and sincere respect for God and His Holy Name? Have I shown disrespect to God, either in word or deed? Have I dishonored God’s name in any way? Have I sworn a false oath? Have I broken any solemn promise or vow made before God? Have I cursed or used foul language?
3. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Even though Jesus and the rest that he brings, rather than Sunday, are the fulfillment of the Old Testament Sabbath, the following questions are still appropriate for an examination of conscience.
Have I worshiped God faithfully on Sundays and major holy days? Have a helped others do the same, or have I discouraged them? Have I worked or shopped unnecessarily on Sundays or major holy days? Have I caused others to do so? Have I spent the Lord’s day in wholesome and edifying ways? Have a made time for family and friends?
4. Honor your father and your mother.
Have I loved and respected my parents as I should? Have a neglected them, or failed to help them? Have I disobeyed them, deceived them or caused some pain by my words and deeds? Have I treated my family members with patience and love? Have I respected my teachers, superiors, employers (those who are in authority) as I should? Have I disobeyed or deceived them by my words or deeds?
5. You shall not kill.
Have I caused the harm, injury or death of anyone, including the unborn? Have I wished my own or anyone else’s harm or death? Have I abused my health or the heath of others by sinful and intemperate living (e.g. drugs, alcohol, etc.)? Have I given way to destructive anger or hatred? Have I failed to forgive anyone or harbored evil thoughts against them? Have I been cruel to anyone?
6 and 9. You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.
Have I committed any sense of lust, alone or with others? Have I caused others to commit impure acts? Have I sinned by giving way to impure thoughts, words or conversations? Have I read immoral books or magazines, or delighted in obscenity of any kind? Have I associated with bad company or frequented places of ill-repute? Do I maintain modesty and decency in dress?
7 and 10. You shall not steal.
You shall not covet anything that is your neighbor’s.
Have I taken anything that was not mine? Have I cheated anyone? Have I caused others to steal or cheat? Have I tried to find the owners of lost things I have found? Have I damaged or destroyed anything that belongs to another? Have I defrauded anyone of their rightful wages? Have I paid my debts? Have I worked honestly and conscientiously for my wages? Did I spend beyond my means? Do I give alms according to my capacity? Have I look with envy, jealousy or hatred on the possessions, talents, or achievements of others? Have I desired the downfall of others out of evil intent that I might benefit? Have I grieved the fact that God has bestowed greater blessing on others than on me?
8. You shall not bear false witness.
Have I given false testimony against anyone? Have I spoken evil, told lies, or spread rumors about anyone? Have I unjustly accused someone? Have I disclosed to anyone the sins or faults of another? Have I betrayed the confidence of another? Have I made careless statements or done anything else to harm the good name and reputation of another person? Have I engaged in idle gossip (discussing that which is doubtful as if it were true), hearsay, and back-biting?
III. The Beatitudes (See Matthew 5:3–12)
The beatitudes are a key source for Christian living because they not only forbid various actions as the Ten Commandments do, but present a dynamic vision for those who have handed over their lives to God in the baptismal font.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Do I really believe that all is God’s and from God? Do I turn my life over to him? Do I share the earth’s goods with others, especially those in need? Do I turn to God and His word for my opinions and values? Do I acknowledge my intellectual poverty before God, accepting His wisdom and truth, or am I an idolater of my own views? Do I lust after wealth, power, and authority? Am I possessive, self-seeking, self-satisfied, self-righteous?
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Do I lament people’s suffering? Am I truly concerned—without bitterness—about troubles in Church and society? Do I empathize with those suffering in my family, my place of work, my school? Do I weep over my own sinfulness? Do I show compassion towards the lowly, the addicted, the selfish, the lustful, the marginalized – without being judgmental? Do I regret the failings of others or do I in fact mock and gloat over that which a true Christian can only mourn?
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Do I tried to imitate the meekness of Jesus? Do I bless those who curse me, pray for those who abuse me, do good to those who hate me, wish only good to those who manipulate or shun me? Do I love my enemies and forgive those who offend me? Do I accept the false principle that the end justifies the means and thus behave inappropriately in the pursuit of a “noble cause?” Do I accept and practice humble love, real truth and courage and goodness as the Christian “weapon” in struggles with sin and sinful people? Do I lord it over others at home, school, work, or parish? Do I resort to giving brute commands, intimidating others, coercing them, applying force, or exacting obedience to blind authority in pursuit of my will?
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Do I really hunger and thirst for that which is true and just, or do I easily conform to that which is false? Do I read or study or make other consistent efforts to know God’s will? Do I pray and in general long for God? Do I fast? I commit myself to spiritual discipline? Do I regularly participate in the Church’s worship and sacraments? Do I perform actions in society which foster justice and truth?
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Am I compassionate towards others? Do I forgive even those who have offended me? Do I make efforts to understand those who are different, or do I enjoy condemning and judging others? Do I talk about others behind their backs or revel in gossip? Do I communicate facts or incidents which, though true, need not be shared? Am I legalistic, preferring the law rather than the Spirit? Am I petty? Do I slander and shame? And my prejudiced, approaching others with opinions formed without real knowledge?
Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.
Do I give in to impure thoughts, words or actions? And my corrupted with sensuality and lust? Are my thoughts and deeds pure, or do I cultivate hidden motives and intentions? Am I trusting and trustful, with a singleness of purpose and integrity in everything, or do I instead cheat and lie, connive and deceive? Am I hypocritical or pretentious? Am I a slave of some passion: eating, drinking, smoking, lustful behavior, working, the pursuit of “thrills” or entertainment? In other words, do these actions have more control of me than I have of them? Do I refuse to control what I listen to on the radio, and recorded music; what I watch on television, in theaters, on the Internet?
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Do I sincerely work for reconciliation at home, work, parish, society and among the world’s nations? Am I angry, impatient, resentful or bitter? Do I seek fights and arguments? Do I provoke others to anger? Do I sincerely strive to “turn the other cheek,” or do I behave vengefully? Do I love violence and aggression? Do I seek and revel in violence for its own sake in films, music, or similar media and events? Do I make time to center my life on Christ, who’s love alone brings lasting peace?
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Have I idolized comfort and security? Am I ready to suffer for what is right? Do I sincerely commit my life and everything that I am for what is true? Am I willing to participate and noble actions even though they may bring about criticism from others? Do I acquiesce to what is wrong out of fear, cowardice or laziness? Do I avoid responsibility? Am I ashamed to express my belief in Christ and His gospel? Have I accepted the norms and priorities of those who wish to remove God from public life?
Rejoice and be glad for your reward will be great in heaven.
Do I find my joy in God and the performance of His will, or in the passions, possessions, and praise of the world? Do I give in to despair and despondency? Do I allow moodiness, jealousy, pessimism, anxiety, and grouchiness to fester within me? Do I spread darkness and irritation to others with my complaining? Do I trust in God and rejoice in this trust, allowing myself to “consider the lilies of the field,” or do I try oppressively to control all and everything? Is my treasure in God or in myself and the things of this world? Is my life “hid with Christ in God in heaven,” or am I instead committed to this age and world in my actions, thoughts, attitudes, and values? Am I willing to receive joy from Christ and know the joy of believing?
IV. The Virtues
The following virtues should be reviewed as we prepare for Confession.
The Theological Virtues
1. Faith (belief and obedience to God);
2. Hope (trust and confidence in God’s mercy and power);
3. Love (sacrificial commitment, respect and self giving).
The Cardinal Virtues
1. Prudence (good judgment and common sense);
2. Justice (fairness and the desire to do what is right and equitable);
3. Fortitude (courage and strength to do God’s will);
4. Temperance (self-control in our thoughts, desires and actions).
V. Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit (See Isaiah 11:2-3)
1. Fear of the Lord (a deep awe and reverence for God);
2. Piety (prompts us to do all things with devotion and respect for God);
3. Fortitude (the courage and strength to do God’s holy will, even in the face of persecution);
4. Knowledge (the gift of learning divine truth);
5. Understanding (a better and deeper awareness of the Divine truths we have learned);
6. Counsel (to see what is pleasing to God and to give good advice, first in relation to self, then to others);
7. Wisdom (this gift is especially evident when all the other gifts of the Holy Spirit are present and working in harmony).
The Fruits of the Holy Spirit (See Galatians 5:22-23)
1. Charity (Love)
VI. Sins and Vices
“If anyone could see his own vices accurately, without the veil of self-love, he would worry about nothing else in his life.” (St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent)
The Eight Vices (or Passions) and Their Opposite Virtues
1. Gluttony (Temperance)
2. Lust (Chastity)
3. Greed (Generosity)
4. Dejection (Joy)
5. Anger (Gentleness)
6. Listlessness (Peace)
7. Vainglory (Modesty and Humility)
8. Pride (Humility)
Nine Ways that we Participate in Another’s Sin
1. By counsel
2. By command
3. By consent
4. By provocation
5. By praise or flattery
6. By concealment
7. By participation
8. By remaining silent
9. By defending the sin committed
VII. Good Deeds
The Three Companions
3. Almsgiving (works of mercy)
Spiritual Works of Mercy
1. To counsel the doubtful;
2. To instruct the ignorant;
3. To admonish the sinner;
4. To comfort the sorrowful;
5. To forgive injuries;
6. To bear wrongs patiently;
7. To pray for the living and the dead.
Corporal Works of Mercy (See Matthew 25:31-46)
1. To feed the hungry;
2. To give drink to the thirsty;
3. To clothe the naked;
4. To shelter the homeless;
5. To visit the sick;
6. To visit the imprisoned;
7. To bury the dead.
Manner of Making Confession in the Byzantine Churches
(Short Form, Ukrainian Tradition)
With head uncovered, approach the priest.
Facing the icon of Christ or, if one is not available, the Gospel book and the cross:
Cross yourself twice.
Kiss the Gospel book and the cross.
Cross yourself a third time.
Penitent: I, a sinner, confess to Almighty God, the Lord, One in the Holy Trinity; to the Immaculate Virgin, the Mother of God, to Saint N. my patron saint, to all the Saints, and to you, my spiritual father, all my sins:
Here list all your sins.
Penitent: For these sins, and for all my sins which I cannot remember, I am truly sorry because I have offended God who is good. I sincerely repent and I promise, with the help of God, to better my way of life. And so, I ask you, my spiritual father, for saving penance and absolution.
(If you are not already doing so, kneel.)
Prayer of Absolution
The priest may place his epitrachelion (stole) over your head and will make the sign of the cross on your head.
Priest: May our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, by the grace and mercies of His love for us, pardon you, my child, N., all your faults, and I, an unworthy priest, by His authority given me, pardon and absolve you of all your sins, in the name of the ✚Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
After the priest has spoken to you and given absolution, get up and cross yourself twice;
kiss the Gospel book and cross;
cross yourself a third time and bow.
Then turn toward the priest, bow to him, saying, “Thank you, Father,” kiss the end of the epitrachelion (stole) which he is wearing, and go to your place.
There, kneel down, say your penance, and thank God in your own words for His great mercy.
Then, go in peace.
Another Short Form of Confession in the Byzantine Churches
(For those who are familiar with the Roman Catholic rite)
Penitent: Bless me, father, for I have sinned. It has been [how long] since my last confession.
Here confess your sins.
Receive any counsel or penance offered.
Crossing yourself after each declaration, say:
Penitent: God, be merciful to me, a sinner. ✚
Penitent: God, cleanse me of my sins and have mercy on me. ✚
Penitent: I have sinned without number, forgive me, O Lord. ✚
The priest then says the prayer of absolution.
Text adapted with appreciation from The Divine Liturgy: An Anthology for Worship by the Met. Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies (Ottawa, 2004). The purpose of this material is to be descriptive in respective to the issues it addresses. While the material is accurate, it is not definitive. Neither is it legalistic in its intent not does it pretend to be normative. It is shared in response to the queries posed in regards to the church’s ancient traditions. All people should seek out and defer in humility to the guidance of their priest, bishop, and Church.