Homily before Confession – Friday the Second Week of Lent

It is good to give praise*[confess] unto the Lord (Psalms 91:2 LXX in Holy Transfiguration Monastery translation)

*Translator’s note: The Slavonic text reads “confess.” Other examples of use of the same verb in the Slavonic are Ps. 96:12, 6:6, 29:10, 117:1, 78:13, and 75:11. The Slavonic verb can mean both to praise and to confess. In the HT translation three such examples are translated as confess: “For in death there is none that is mindful of Thee, and in hades who will confess Thee?” (Ps. 6:6), “Shall dust confess Thee, or declare Thy truth?” (Ps. 29:10), and “We will confess Thee, O God, for ever” (Ps. 78:13). According to my unprofessional comparison, all but one of these verses (78:13) in the Greek text uses the same verb. In the text I have adapted the verse to match the Slavonic.

To such a personality as was St. David-a king, blessed by God with both gifts of nature and grace, but, however, falling to the depths from the height of his particular, prophet-king honor-it was, without a doubt, not any easier than for us, my brothers, to confess his sins and admit his transgressions. But see how he looks upon confession: as a great mercy, as a precious gift, as a softener of the soul and heart: “It is good to confess unto the Lord”

But many of us go to confession as to a certain torture, being ashamed to admit our sins. Where does this difference come from? From the fact that St. David clearly sees how sin is harmful and deadly for man, but we do not. For, one who sees the deadliness of sin, naturally, attempts to free himself from it and, therefore, loves confession as the truest means to freedom. The one not sure of the ruin contained in sin, accordingly, does not value confession, but, on the contrary, is burdened by it, for confession demands that we reveal before a server of the altar all the shame of our sinful deeds. Therefore, before confession, everyone absolutely needs to acquire the certitude that sin is the greatest evil for man, so that if he doesn’t free himself from it with the means of repentance and confession, then, sooner or later, he will perish eternally.

Is it difficult to be convinced of this? No, it is enough to turn our attention at least to, so to say, the surface of sin.

For what is sin? It is the transgression of the all-holy will of the Creator. Now, consider for yourself. Is it something small to become an adversary and enemy of an Omnipotent Being, that Being in Whose hands are we and all the world, our life and breath, and our time and eternity?

What is sin? An inclination to the side of the enemy of God, the devil. Consider again: is it nothing to become united with that man-killer, to make ourselves like him in the treason of the truth, and be infected with his snake-like poison?

What is sin? It is the blindness of the mind, the corruption of the will, the destruction of the conscience, and the decay of the body. Is it a mere trifle to ruin, in this manner, your god-like essence, to deviate from the purpose of existence in the opposite direction, and to introduce in it the seed of corruption and eternal death?

What awaits the sinner in the future? Even more darkness, even more exhaustion, and even more grief and ruin awaits. The eternal deprivation of all good, both spiritual and physical; the ultimate rejection from the face of God; and judgment to eternal suffering in hell with the devil and his angels awaits.

Even this most simple understanding of sin is sufficient to cause you to tremble with all your being that you are a sinner!

But trembling at the thought of ones sins, how can one not rush to confession when in it is, by the power of the Wisdom of God, the open means to reconciliation with God and our conscience? For in it, in return for the sincere admission of ones iniquities and repentance, is given complete forgiveness. Indeed, we would need to rush to confession even then if it demanded something the most difficult and impossible for us , for it is better to suffer everything and lose all than remain an enemy of God and a friend of the devil. But from us nothing of the kind is demanded-only the most necessary, that we would confess our sins, show an aversion to them, decide to abandon them forever, and to compensate for the past, as much as we can, with the present. Why should we withdraw from this? Why is this considered difficult? And for this reason we remain in sin? What, then, does our repentance mean after this? Where is the hatred towards sin? Where is love of God and oneself?

We will also, my brothers, say with St. David, “It is good to confess unto the Lord!” And we will rush to the holy lectern as criminals rush to the place where royal mercy is given. Amen.

St. Innocent (Borisov), Archbishop of Kherson

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