Saint Paisios the Hagiorite (1924-1994) – II

At some point, the Cell’s door, of the old and poor building, would open and the Elder, who had been inside involved in discipline and heart prayer for the salvation of his soul and the souls of his brothers, would appear. His face was always exhilarated and his attitude cordial. He would receive us and ask us to sit in the “outdoors dorter” on seats made of pieces from tree trunks. He would shake our hands and at the same time offer us loukoumia and water according to the tradition of Mt. Athos.

Paisios at Kelli Panagouda

There, under the trees, with the songs of the birds “as the vocal drone”, the Elder would start talking to us with “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68) either answering our questions or making comments on his own on the basis of information from “above” about the needs of each one of us. Here is the miraculous thing! The pilgrims were of various ages, professions, characters, spiritual and intellectual levels. Some of them were conscious of who was sitting in front of them and exactly what they were looking for. Some were there because they had heard something about him. Others were there with an ill-tempered and negative mood. He, guided by the Holy Spirit, offered “as every man had need” (Acts 2:45 ).

I will never forget, in relation to the above, the Elder’s behaviour towards a Spanish student of Fine Arts, follower of the Pope, who happened to be amongst us in the “outdoors dorter” at some visit. At some point, the Elder turned to him with affection and interest making use of some Italian words and phrases he remembered from the Italian occupation so that he could communicate with him. Then, he gave him many pieces of advice in the Greek language and revealed to him many truths that, as he explained to us, the Holy Spirit would help him feel regardless of the fact that the different language would not allow him to understand. More specifically, when another visitor made the comment that “the foreign student does not understand what you are saying to him in Greek”, he answered that “he will understand what he is meant to understand”.

His advice to all his visitors was to have a spiritual father. This is why after giving answers and advice to questions or problems put forward by the people, he would finally send them to their spiritual fathers to lay the burden of their sins, which were the cause of all problems, under their stoles.

Many Christians, therefore, leading autonomous lives, selfishly, as orphans, “as sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36 ) took his advice, found a spiritual father and started living according to the Church. Their lives and the lives of the ones around them changed. Here I would like to mention something that the Elder always recommended for his wedded visitors. “Have the same spiritual father with your wife. Because as the carpenter uses the same plane to work on two pieces of wood and make them fit, the same way the spiritual father will use the same “plane” to work on the character of both spouses so as to make them fit. Whereas if you have different spiritual fathers, you will face difficulties.”

Paisios monachos Agioreitis26

I would like to mention something else extremely important that the Elder said on another occasion. I was with a group of people in the “outdoors dorter”, when another group came, amongst whom there was an assistant professor of the Medical School of the University of Athens who held the Elder in great veneration. The professor asked Fr. Paisios at some point with pain, interest and love: “There are, Elder, many colleagues of mine, doctors, who have good intentions, good feelings, “bowels of mercies” (Colossians 3:12 ) but do not believe. What can we do for them?” “Listen,” says the Elder”, “pray for them because under these circumstances they deserve God’s mercy.” He had said the same about some teachers and professors on another occasion.

The Elder, as a genuine man of God, had consolidated and immovable ideas “in the things he hast learned and hast been assured of” (2 Timothy 3:14 ). He knew and taught “by word and deed” (Romans 15:18 ) that in the issues of faith there is no swaying, negotiation or compromise. He clearly knew that there is no greater unhappiness and bigger danger for the Christian than to deny his faith and accept deceit. As we know, many deceived people, people that did not feel rest, urged by his reputation, went to meet him and discuss their existential problems. It is true that many of those people went there full of delusions and left repented, seeking then guidance in their spiritual fathers.

If, therefore, someone gets involved with some of the heresies and para-religions that have flooded our country mainly in recent years as well as if someone advances in the initiations, rites and other demonic activities imposed in order to become a member, this means a conscious or unconscious negation of the faith to the Trinitarian God, Christ, the Church and the Baptism, I once asked the Elder: “What should we do with these people when they repent and want to return to the Church?” “You will say,” he said, “the Service for the One that returns to the Orthodox Church. The people that return will denounce the bad faith with libel, they will confess the faith of the Church by reciting the Symbol of Faith and then you will anoint them with the holy unction.”

All of us are very much concerned about our dear departed, their state and what we can do about them. We used to ask the Elder about this and wanted really convincing answers. He would emphatically advise us to pray a lot for them. “Prayers,” he said, “memorial services, liturgies, mercies are very much to the benefit of the departed ones.” “You should pray more,” he added, “for the departed ones than the living. Because there is nothing they can do on their own any more, but we can help them attracting God’s mercy through praying and the other means we have mentioned so that their state can be improved or even change, because they are still under judgment.” And he concluded by saying in his characteristic way: “Is it a small thing to take our departed one from a sunless basement to a sunny apartment through our prayers?”

At some point, I remember, he mentioned something overwhelming as regards the departed ones and our stance for them. There was a suicide once, a person who put an end to his life by falling from a bridge into a river. This man, as the Elder said, repented while he was falling, asked for forgiveness, his repentance was accepted and his soul was received by a Lord’s angel. We must learn not to despair; and pray for our brethrens asking for God’s mercy and according to the words of St. Isidoros Pilousiotis: “do not forerun God’s judgment.” (P. G. 78, 377) and be judges of the others.

Georgios Chr. Efthymios

Source: Pemptousia

Saint Paisios the Hagiorite (1924-1994) – I

+ 12 July 

St. Paisios of Mount Athos, my spiritual grandfather and my patron Saint

paisios 2

In the summer of 1975, I was blessed with going for the first time to the Garden of the Mother of God, Mount Athos (Agion Oros). I visited various age-long monasteries; I paid my respects to many of the priceless treasures of the Holy place, that is, holy remnants of martyrs and saints of our faith as well as holy icons. I participated in the daily all-night long masses which are concluded with the Divine Service early in the morning. I sat at the simple monastery table, where everything reminds you that you eat in order to survive and fight for your salvation and you do not live in order to eat, where the reading of the devout patristic text aims at transporting the minds of the table companions to heaven. I associated with conscientious monks who, inspired by the divine love and obeying the urging of Basil the Great, “take care of thy self”, have denied the world, but not man for whom they pray unfailingly with love and “with many tears” (Act. 20:19) in their cells and the church during the sacred vigils.

During my visit, I did not succeed, despite my wish, to meet Elder Paisios who was then an ascetic at the Stavronikita cell of the Holy Cross. This came later, “when the time was mature” (Gal. 4:4). What I realized about this full-of-grace person during my first pilgrimage to Mount Athos were the characteristic words of another co-pilgrim, today an assistant professor at the Medical School of the University of Thessaloniki, who had met him and told me that “his love breaks you apart”, something I verified myself later on.

I will deal with this genuine man of God briefly, as I had the opportunity to do in the past with my dear spiritual fathers, Elder Porfyrios and Elder Iakovos Tsalikis.

Paisios 5 years old, with his parents

On Tuesday, July 12, 1994 , the late Elder Paisios, the Hagiorite, rested in the Lord, at the Holy Cemetery of St. John the Theologian, in Souroti of Thessaloniki.

***

This genuine man of God, whose secular name was Arsenios Eznepides, was born to pious parents, Prodromos and Eulabia, at Farasa, Cappadocia on the 25 th of July, 1924.

Due to the extraordinary and harsh conditions, he was baptized a few days later at Farasa, on the 7 th of August, by St. Arsenios Chatziefentis and was given the name “Arsenios”.

Barely a month after his birth, he was driven along with his parents, relatives and other citizens of Farasa away from his paternal home and became a refugee.

Paisios while serving in the army

The boat with the refugees arrived in metropolitan Greece on September 14. The Elder’s family lived for a little while first in Piraeus , then in Castro of Corfu and in a small village near Igoumenitsa prior to settling down in Konitsa in 1926.

He finished the Konitsa Elementary School and, then, he worked as a carpenter until 1945 when he was enlisted in the army. His military service, during those unlucky years of the civil war, lasted for approximately four years, until 1949, when Arsenios Eznepides, the radio operator, received his discharge certificate marked with “excellent” conduct.

In 1950, he went to Mt. Athos aiming at realizing the dream of his life; that is to receive the angelic schema.

In 1954, he was tonsured at the Monastery of Esphigmenou where he was serving as a novice as a rasophoros monk with the name of Averkios.

Paisios just tonsured

In 1956, he was tonsured to the “Small Schema” in Philotheou Monastery taking the name “Paisios”.

In 1958, after being asked by the people of Konitsa who were spiritually in danger by a “raid” of Protestants who had managed to proselytize eighty poor families, he went to the Monastery of the Theotokos Birthday, at Stomio, next to the Aos River. He stayed there for four years and greatly helped the inhabitants of the area who visited the Monastery.

In 1962, we find him as an ascetic at the Cell of Saints Galaktionas and Episteme, in the desert of Mt. Sinai.

In 1964, he returned to Mt. Athos and took up residence at the Archangels’ cell, at the Scete of Ivira.

In 1966, he was operated on and had part of his lungs removed due to a serious illness.

In 1967, he settled down at Katounakia, at the Cell of Ypatios of Lavra, for more intense discipline.

In 1968, Papa-Tychon clothed him in the “Great and Angelic Schema”, at the Holy Cross Cell of Stavronikita Monastery. He remained in the Cell after the repose of Papa-Tychon on the 10 th of September, 1968, and stayed there until 1979.

Paisios while staying in Mount Sinai

In 1979, he moved on to his final home, the Panagouda Cell of the Monastery of Koutloumousiou, near Karyes. He stayed there until 1993 receiving many thousands of people who visited him in order to share their pain with him and ask his advice and prayer.

I was blessed by God to manage to visit him and talk with him during that blessed and fruit-bearing period of fifteen years that he lived in the Panagouda Cell.

paisios 3

I remember my eagerness when I went down the path that led from Karyes, the administrative centre of the Athos State , to the Elder’s cell. The sweet expectation of my meeting with this true man of God flooded my heart and gave wings to my feet.

The waiting in front of the yard’s gate at the Cell was short or long depending on the case. The Elder took good care to “make this waiting sweeter” having always in the Cell loukoumia or other sweets and water to offer to the pilgrims. The inscription written by him “to eat is a blessing” is characteristic. Apart from all the above, there were also makeshift seats so that the waiting pilgrims could rest and various articles of clothing to be worn by them so that they would not get cold as they were sweaty. Such affection, such love, such providence for everybody!

Georgios Chr. Efthymios

Source: Pemptousia

St Paisios and the woman in Hell

st paisios.jpg

* I really do not know what ‘impresses’ me the most in this story: the role of St Paisios or that of the Guardian Angel. May the Lord have mercy on our souls and may we never give such a hard time to our Guardian Angels!

A soul in Hell

The Elder related: ”I knew an old woman who was very stingy. Her daughter was very good, and whatever she wanted to give as alms she would throw out the window so she could leave the house with empty hands, because her mother would always check to see if she was taking anything. But if she told her mother that ‘the monk’ [that is me] had asked for something, then her mother would be willing to give it up. ”After her death, I saw a young man [her guardian angel], and he said to me, ‘Come-so-and-so wants you.’ I couldn’t understand what happened to me, but we were standing in front of a grave in Konitsa. He moved his hand, like this, and the grave opened. Inside, I saw a grimy mess and the old woman, who had started to decay. She was calling out, ‘Monk, save me.’ ”My heart went out to her. Feeling sorry for her, I climbed down inside and without being repulsed I embraced her and asked, ‘What’s wrong?’ ”She said, ‘Tell me, didn’t I always give you anything you asked, willingly?’ ”Yes,’ I said, ‘that’s true.’ ”All right,’ said the young man, soothing her. He moved his hand like this again and closed the grave like a curtain, and I was back in my cell. ”The sisters from Souroti asked me, ‘What happened to you on the feast day of Saint Andrew?’ I answered, ‘Pray for so-and-so’s soul.’ Two months later, I saw her again. High above an abyss, there was a plateau with places, a lot of houses, and many people. The old woman was up there. She was very happy with the face of a small child that had just a tiny spot that her angel was also scrubbing to clean off. In the abyss, in the distance, I saw people being beaten and harassed, and trying to climb up. ”I embraced her out of joy. I took her aside a little, so the people in the abyss wouldn’t see us and be hurt. She said to me, come on, let me show you the place where the Lord has put me.’ ”

From the book, Elder Paisios of Mount Athos by Hieromonk Isaac

 

In a Grave For Three Years

The monasteries of Mt. Athos are hundreds of years old, and hundreds and thousands of monks have ended their earthly lives in them. But where are all of the graves of the reposed? Can it really be that the monks just don’t consider it necessary to take care to preserve the memory of their deceased brothers?

Purity of soul

Anyone that visits Mt. Athos’ monasteries will notice two peculiar things: first, even large monasteries have small cemeteries with only a few wooden crosses mounted in the ground; second, the oldest burials in these cemeteries are, at best, twenty or so years old. But how could that be?

First of all, let’s take note of the fact that Athonite monks are usually always buried on Mt. Athos itself. However, it does sometimes happen though that an Athonite monk due to various circumstances may end up living in another monastery outside of Mt. Athos and thus will be buried there instead. For example, at the Danilov cemetery in Moscow can be found the revered grave of the Athonite monk Aristoklis (Amvrosiev), who for many years had presided over the Athonite metochion in Moscow and thus was buried in Moscow after he reposed. However, any monk that reposes on Mount Athos, even if he had come to the Holy Mountain from another country for the first time, is not taken to his homeland to be buried, but is buried at the same Athos monastery in which he had reposed.

To repose on the Holy Mountain, in fact, is actually considered a kind of recognition of the deceased’s righteousness and almost a guarantee of the salvation of his soul. An Athonite monk of our time, hieromonk Gabriel, would always say, “What a joy it is to die on Athos! Here, the Mother of God herself meets the monk after his death, guiding his soul on its way from Earth to Heaven…”

On Mt. Athos, according to tradition, the burial of the deceased is preceded by a special rite. Also, the deceased monk’s clothes will not be changed and neither will his body be washed before burial. On the one hand, proper hygiene is, of course, always maintained; on the other, too much care for the body and health in general is considered an unnecessary occupation, not worthy of a monk’s time. And in fact, this manner of burial is not exactly something unique to Athonite monasticism. For example, in the “Monastic Rite of Burial” we read the following: “When a monk reposes in the Lord, it is not appropriate for his body to be washed or be seen unclad.”

The deceased instead will first be clothed in a “schema” and his head will be covered with a “koukoulion” (attire worn by schemamonks). Afterwards, a cassock is sewn over the body, serving as a coffin for the deceased, and an icon of the Holy Virgin Mary is placed on his chest. It’s worth noting that usually during burial procedure the icon of the Virgin Mary is only given to women, while men are given the icon of the Savior. But, since Mt. Athos is considered to be a place where the Mother of God is especially present, and according to belief, is the first to meet the souls of the deceased, the funeral traditions that have formed here are unique.

Generally burial takes place on Mount Athos on the day of death and without a coffin, so that the body may return unto the ground as soon as possible. Such a burial practice is actually common in many religions and cultures. In particular, Abrahamic religions adhere to this rule in accordance with the words that God addressed to Adam before his exile from Paradise: In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return (Gen. 3:19).

After the customary prayer rule is read, the deceased monk is carried by his fellow brethren to his place of rest and is buried. Afterwards, on top of the grave the brethren mount a low four-pointed wooden cross on which, using simple paint, is made the most concise inscription: the name of the monk and the date of his death.

Stone after stone

It should be noted that the Athonite grave, that is, the very ground that the body is buried under, is much different than it is elsewhere. For example, the ground in Russia, which is mostly flatland, does not share in common any of the burial-related problems that inhabitants of the Mediterranean and other mountainous areas face. In Russia, the usual environment where the body of the deceased is placed is usually a homogeneous, soft, crumbly mass: at best, it is soil or sand; at worst—clay. On Mount Athos however there is nothing of the sort. Mt. Athos is all stone. Sometimes the ground is just a single stone mass, but more often it consists of cobblestones and large gravel. Soil on Mount Athos is in deficit even more than wood is. Therefore, agriculture on the peninsula is practically absent—there are no appropriate conditions for it. By the way, some time ago in the past, the Russian Panteleimon monastery on Mt. Athos had soil delivered to it by sea so that the monks, despite harsh conditions, would nonetheless be able to plant a few gardens. During our trip we happened to see some monasteries that had a bit of farmland, which at best had a few dozen rows of cabbages and some kind of gourds. The largest garden we saw was at the Great Lavra monastery, which had about 40 yards of land. And, no doubt, the soil for this garden was also brought from elsewhere, for the ground around the monastery is mostly all stone. As for the ground of the surrounding roads, it is either siliceous or consists of dense red soil resembling something like grated brick.

Now let’s take a look at the following scenario: a monk in one of the Athonite monasteries reposes in the Lord. In order to bury him, the brethren of the monastery have to urgently fulfill an extremely laborious obedience—prepare the place of burial for their deceased brother. Let us not forget that the deceased, according to monastic customs, are buried as soon as possible, usually on the very day of their death. Little by little, or rather, stone by the stone, the hardworking monks, with their shovels ringing, dig through the rough terrain of Mt. Athos. Finally, the grave is complete and the body of the deceased brother is gently placed within. But now what? Will they really fill the grave back up with all those stones and boulders they just dug up?! Of course not—for a cause such as this they can’t find enough soil. Now let us again keep in mind the deficit of soil on Mt. Athos, as this circumstance will soon help us understand the reason behind other important burial customs on the Holy Mountain.

With the grave now covered and topped off with a small mound of earth, and the wooden cross with its inscription mounted in place, the burial is complete. Now, here is the incomprehensible part of the procedure to one who is not familiar with Athonite burial customs: In just three years’ time the grave will be dug up, and the deceased brother’s bones will never again return to their former place of rest!

On Mt. Athos, a monastery brotherhood prays for newly-reposed monks with especial assiduousness. For the first 40 days, the entire brotherhood of the monastery reads the customary prayer rule for the reposed, repeating it according to the amount of knots on their prayer ropes. Also, in memory of the reposed monk, the monastery prepares “kolivo” (also called “kutia” in Russia), a ritual memorial dish which consists of some grain such as wheat, rye, oat, or rice, as well as honey, raisins and nuts. Furthermore, for the following three years the deceased is commemorated at every Liturgy during the proskomedia. Now bearing in mind that the Divine Liturgy in the monasteries is served daily, this means that the deceased monk receives commemoration every day and for quite a long time. Finally, the name of the deceased is also recorded in a special memorial monastery book, the so-called “Kuvaras”, which bears record of the names of all the deceased monks that have lived in the monastery from the time of its very foundation. For example, the “Kuvaras” of the Great Lavra monastery, read during special memorial days, has been recording the names of its brethren to this very day since the 10th century!

The ossuary

After three years have passed, the grave of the newly-reposed monk is carefully dug up and the brethren now examine the remains of the deceased to see what state they are in. If the soft tissues of the body are not completely decomposed yet, the grave will be covered up in likewise manner and the following procedure will be repeated again until it is clear that only the bones remain. By the way, according to Athonite tradition, a body that is not “accepted by the earth”, i.e., doesn’t decompose, is regarded as a sign that the monk did not make the effort to lead a proper monastic way of life and that his soul has not found rest in Heaven. In such case, the entire brotherhood begins to pray even more diligently, beseeching the Lord for the forgiveness of sins and purification of their fellow brother’s soul.

If the bones of the deceased are completely free from flesh (and this, under the Athos climate, while also taking into account the terrain, occurs most often in just about three years), they are taken out of the grave, and after being thoroughly washed with water and wine are transferred to the ossuary, which is a building that resembles a chapel and is usually located somewhere nearby, outside the walls of the monastery. As for the empty grave, it’s now ready to grant rest for another three years to someone else after his repose.

So now we know how Mt. Athos manages to solve the problem of soil deficit and why there are so few graves in the cemeteries of these ancient monasteries. As it turns out, there can’t possibly be too many graves, as there is a constant “rotation” going on that many at first aren’t aware of.

Now an ossuary is, in essence, a crypt. But the peculiarity of this crypt lies in the fact that the deceased, or rather, their remains, are not hidden there, but are in plain sight: the skulls are lined up in rows along the shelves, while the other bones are neatly laid right on the floor along the walls. The names of the monks and the date of their death are usually found written on each skull. Here is how the well-known Russian writer Boris Zaitsev, who visited Mount Athos at the beginning of the 20th century, described the ossuary of the Skete of Saint Andrew: “The ossuary of St. Andrew’s Skete is a rather large, secluded and well-lit room on an underground floor. Inside the ossuary is found a cupboard with five human skulls. On each is inscribed a name and a date. These were the abbots of the skete. Then on the shelves lay the skulls (about seven hundred) of ordinary monks, which also have inscriptions. And, finally, what to me seemed most incredible—small bones (the hands and feet) were neatly put together in stacks near the wall, reaching up almost to the ceiling. All this was done with the most profound care that is inherent to this kind of burial tradition. It seemed to me that the only thing missing from this whole picture was a monk that would spend time here keeping record of things and compiling biographies of the reposed brethren. There is some literature present here as well. On the wall here, by the way, hangs a saying that the brethren themselves composed: “Remember, O brethren, that we were once like you, and you will once become like us.”

Thus, in such a manner do the Athonite monks lay at rest after reposing in the Lord, with the ossuary basically serving them as a common mass grave. It’s also worth noting that on Athos it is thought that the color of the skull of a reposed monk is a sure sign of whether or not the monk’s life was well-pleasing to God. Thus, according to this belief, the skulls of the righteous have a beautiful yellowish shade—they look as though they are emitting light, and, sometimes even produce a sweet-smelling scent; the monks that have honestly carried out their monastic vows have white-colored skulls; and a dark colored skull, on the other hand, signifies that the judgment of the departed monk’s soul due to his sins did not have a positive outcome. The last case, however, is quite rare on Mt. Athos.

Mt. Athos’ ossuaries are never locked. Any inhabitant of the monastery can at any time can enter the ossuary and in solitude reflect on the transience of life. Looking at the bones of monks whom one once knew, or of those who had reposed centuries ago, it is unlikely that one would not come to the thought that they themselves will one day also find rest here along with their fellow brethren. Now that is truly something to ponder for the monk… However, monks do not at all fear ending up here in this gloomy house of bones, knowing for certain that there is no need to fear death, for it has already been defeated by the Risen Christ!

Yuri Ryabinin

7/7/2017

 

Twelve Recommendations on How to Prepare Yourself for Confession

confession3

Confession is a sacrament of reconciliation of a man with God, which occurs in the Church. Through the sin a person losses the Kingdom of Christ, shown in numerous sacraments of the Church. Thanks to repentance, which makes a person reborn, we have an opportunity to enter the spiritual life of the Church again. When a priest is accepting someone’s repentance, he becomes a witness on behalf of the Church and at the same time a guarantor who states that this person was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found (Luke 15:32). What is more, a priest proclaims before God that this person is going to reconcile with the Church. At the end of Confession, a priest reads a special prayer, in which he asks God to unite the person with the Church – just like the broken brunch which can take on the tree and bear fruit.

It is better to discuss the frequency of Confession with your parish priest. He serves in the church you usually attend, and this is why it is exactly him who should know about your spiritual life.

Anyway, if you confess from time to time but do not analyze regularly your condition in terms of the New Testament, then your Confession is not full. The less attentive we are the worse we realize our sins.

confession4

Here are the general tips for preparing for Confession:

  1. You should confess everything you have committed. To do this you need to think about it and recall everything in advance. The newcomers can use special spiritual literature such as “The Experience of Confession” by Archimandrite John (Krestyankin). Such literature can help to recall something we have forgotten or have not considered a sin.
  1. Confession means that we spell out certain sins. What is not spelled out is not healed. And this “spelling” begins even before your Confession. It is an inner dialogue with your conscience in terms of the Gospel. On the other hand, if a person begins to confess with the words “I’m sinful, just like all the others”, that means he has not prepared for the sacrament, and he does not recognize the sins of his life.

Another problem is that a person learns that something in his life is a sin, but he himself does not recognize that as a sin, and does not see the point of confessing such things. The thing is that in such case a person lies when he says, “I repent”. Hiding is not an option. It would be better to say about this to the priest: “I have learnt that from the Christian point of view this is a sin, but I still cannot understand this with my own mind”. Then the priest can help to make certain steps, which will help you to recognize your sin. Perhaps, he will decide to accept your Confession as it is and let you partake of the Holy Communion so that your soul can be warmed by the sacraments, by the meeting with Christ.

confession1

  1. It is better to confess to your local priest, especially if it is not another “regular” Confession, but the first Confession in your life or in a long time. It is much easier to confess to a priest from a far monastery, because you possibly will not see him in the future. However, it is much harder to tell everything the priest from the local parish. This means you are ready to overcome your pain and shame, to drop your “shell” off.  This will be the opposite of what Adam has done. The process of our healing starts only when we make this step of revealing ourselves.
  1. At Confession we should avoid general phrases such as “I have sinned by condemnation, negligence, deception” and so on. The meaning of these words is too abstract, which means that one can hide anything behind them.  Under “condemnation” one can understand just fleeting thoughts, while the other one falls asleep and wakes up condemning his colleague or supervisor and suffers from this himself as well. I think, there is a big difference.
  1. The best way to prepare for Confession so that it become more specific, is self-examination. If a Christian is getting used to such everyday analysis and begins to analyze each day from the spiritual view point, his Confession become full.
  1. If you are not experienced enough, then you can put down your Confession. Making such notes is quite useful for it helps to avoid unnecessary words and details while speaking. At the same time, our memory works better when we write, and thus it becomes easier for us to analyze our life. The text of your Confession will help you not to get lost or to forget something you want to confess. As a rule, the necessity of such notes declines with time.
  1.  The sins which are most difficult to speak about should be spoken at first. I think, it is clear that hiding the sins at Confession causes harm to our souls. Sometimes people hide them indirectly. For example, one can confess a grave sin with general words using mild synonyms (“got involved with a woman” instead of recognizing it as “fornication”) or puts it between typical sins (“slander, impatience… adultery, gluttony”). You see, a person puts one of the most destructive sins in one line with the sins, to which the priest is usually less attentive. Perhaps, this is exactly what this person is counting on. But this is a slyness caused by the false hope that the sacrament will “work automatically”; that there will be no need to blush, that the priest will not ask for details to find the root of the sin, that he will not demand to acknowledge the sin unconditionally. Such Confession will not heal your soul. It will weight you down at best, and thus it will make you come once again for a true Confession. In the worst case, a person will “sedate” his conscience.

    confession2

Unfortunately, people often come to Confession with exactly that aim – to sedate their conscience. To set free from the questions it asks them. They want it happen easily and without any difficulty. But my purpose at Confession is not to sedate your conscience, but to awake it.

  1. Do not justify yourself. When you confess you have been aggressive towards your family members, do not say that they have caused your anger with their behavior. My feelings are my feelings. This is my responsibility. It depends on me how to react on this or that event in my life.
  1. Confession needs from you to be ready for penitential work. The sins, and especially the grave sins, will not fall behind. In my opinion, it is a mistake when a priest accepts too easily the Confession in which the deadly sins were eliminated. Quite often, the following situations can take place. A woman confessed the sin of abortion, but she did not receive any penance. Soon her conscience begins to torment her again. She repeats this sin again and again at every Confession, but she cannot find peace. Why? Deadly sins are just like cancer, and in this case, we need chemotherapy. We need work a lot to heal ourselves. Usually I suggest to read a short penitential prayer for committed abortions. At the same time, a person should make bows and pray the Lord that He forgive both of the child’s partners for their sin, as well as pray for the unborn children.

In addition to this one can visit hospitals and serve there as a volunteer to help other people to avoid this dreadful decision. One can simply visit children’s hospice and read the children different bedtime stories. And then such work will help to heal your wound and get free. What is more, it will become the proof of your sincerity.

  1. You should not solve your life problems at Confession. Confession is a sacrament of reconciliation of a man with God, but not the sacrament of guidance. A priest should not interfere with people’s personal affairs until it concerns the issues of sin and virtues. To buy a car or not, how to divide the inheritance between the relatives and so on – such problems should not be solved at Confession. The aim of the priest as a pastor is to help a Christian to learn how to coordinate his life circumstances with the Holy Gospel.

Of course, it is possible to ask for advice. But such conversation should occur outside the sacrament of Confession. Another important point is the following: if a priest gives you a piece of “spiritual” or “everyday” advice, it does not mean you must obey it blindly. If the pastor does not know much about certain circumstances and the peculiarities of the person, he can be wrong. He can recommend, but it is up to you to decide whether to follow his advice or not.

  1. Do not speak about third parties at Confession. Sometimes, when people begin to explain the details of certain sins, begin to gossip about other people. This is a mockery of Confession. It is not that “They make me feel aggrieved”, but “I feel aggrieved”; not “They annoy me”, but “I get annoyed”. What is more, outer circumstances do not provoke us, but help us to reveal our passions. Thanks to this, I can see my weaknesses and fight against them. Otherwise, they would “sleep” in me, and I would not be able to notice them. Then at the Last Judgement, I would see that there is so much sin in my soul. But it would be too late, because the time of repentance has passed.
  1. Sin is an illness. Healing this illness is the work of the whole life.

There is no case when it is impossible to repent. A soul can be tough, but there is a disciplinary system of fasts, home prayers and other church prescriptions, which help to awake the soul. There are many examples when people confessed and partook of the Holy Communion without any feelings. With time, their souls were warmed by the light of God’s grace, and that led them repent for real.

The path to God is open. There is no sin, which cannot be forgiven or healed. “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews, 13:8).

By Hieromonk Agapius (Golub)

Children of the Cross

isis1

The Christian Response to ISIS – Fr Matthew the Poor – Coptic Orthodox Abbot and Theologian

 
See also 
at “Paris Massacre’s “Act of War” and Islam’s New Martyrs’ ‘Army'”  — In Memoriam  —  A Video, Liturgic Chant and Iconography Tribute

isis.jpg