A Little Bit About Confession and a Short Bio of St. John of Kronstadt
I have reprinted below a beautiful and rather concise preparatory prayer written and used by St. John of Kronstadt which may be read by anyone before confessing.
The Roman Catholics have the sacrament of Reconciliation, but Eastern Orthodox Christians still call it Confession. Confession is one of the Holy Mysteries or sacraments of the Orthodox Church, and is arguably the most powerful sacrament because it has the ability to heal. The Church teaches us that it is necessary to confess our sins in order to cleanse our soul before partaking of the Eucharist at Communion. Confession is also important to our individual well-being because it helps us to grow spiritually.
Some Orthodox jurisdictions insist that communicants make a confession once a week before partaking of the Holy Gifts in the Eucharist. Others require confession to be made as often as necessary, but generally not less than once a year. Confession is admittedly the most difficult Holy Mystery in which to participate because it is only natural for people to feel uncomfortable confessing their sins before their father-confessor. In any case, reading through St. John’s prayer reminds us that no man or woman is without sin, and using this prayer as a tool to recount the numerous ways we conciously and unconciously sin makes the job of cleansing the soul much easier. A key concept here is unconcious sin which is why Orthodox Christians have a short prayer in the Liturgy, just before communion, asking God’s forgiveness for “…our sins, both voluntary and involuntary, committed in knowledge or in ignorance…”
Why confess at all? The object of confession is to heal the rift and rejoin with God from Whom we have separated ourselves. This is the reconciliation that we seek. For without Christ we face death. Every day in the Divine Liturgy we are taught that Christ conquered death with His death and resurrection through which He offers us eternal life through Him if only we repent. To begin this process of healing, we must first confront our own spiritual weaknesses. You must look inward at your soul and admit to yourself before God that you have sinned, and then beg God’s forgiveness. The priest may offer spiritual counsel to troubled souls, after which he then covers the penitent with his stole and calls upon God’s mercy and forgivess while delivering his blessing in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The confession usually ends with the Priest saying the same words that Jesus Christ uttered to the adulteress whom He rescued from an angry crowd that was about to stone her to death. They are simply, “Go and Sin No More” (John 8:11).
About St. John of Kronstadt
St. John of Kronstadt (1829-1908) was a Russian Orthodox Christian priest and a member of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church. He was a striking, unconventional personality, deeply pious and immensely energetic. He was one of the most internationally famous and beloved Orthodox Christian leaders of his time. From 1855 he worked as a priest in St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Kronstadt, the naval base on the outskirts of St. Petersburg. Here he committed himself to charity, especially to those who were remote from the Church, and travelled extensively throughout the Russian empire.
In the early 1890’s Father John became well known, and people from all over Russia came to him every day in thousands. He was already greatly venerated at the time he died, on 20 December 1908. He was canonized by the Russsian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in 1964 and by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1990. His life and work are commemorated on the feast days of December 20 and October 19. Many churches around the world are dedicated to John of Kronstadt.
Photo: An American Russian Orthodox priest hearing a woman’s confession.
Holy Cross Monastery; Wayne, West Virginia, USA
A Preparation for Confession
by St. John of Kronstadt
I, a sinful soul, confess to our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ, all of my evil acts which I have done, said or thought from baptism even unto this present day.
I have not kept the vows of my baptism, but have made myself unwanted before the face of God.
I have sinned before the Lord by lack of faith and by doubts concerning the Orthodox Faith and the Holy Church; by ungratefulness for all of God’s great and unceasing gifts; His long-suffering and His providence for me, a sinner; by lack of love for the Lord, as well as fear, through not fulfilling the Holy Commandments of God and the canons and rules of the Church.
I have not preserved a love for God and for my neighbor nor have I made enough efforts, because of laziness and lack of care, to learn the Commandments of God and the precepts of the Holy Fathers.
I have sinned: by not praying in the morning and in the evening and in the course of the day; by not attending the services or by coming to Church only half-heartedly, lazily and carelessly; by conversing during the services, by not paying attention, letting my mind wander and by departure from the Church before the dismissal and blessing.
I have sinned by judging members of the clergy.
I have sinned by not respecting the Feasts, breaking the Fasts, and by immoderation in food and drink.
I have sinned by self-importance, disobedience, willfulness, self-righteousness, and the seeking of approval and praise.
I have sinned by unbelief, lack of faith, doubts, despair, despondency, abusive thoughts, blasphemy and swearing.
I have sinned by pride, a high opinion of my self, narcissism, vanity, conceit, envy, love of praise, love of honors, and by putting on airs.
I have sinned: by judging, malicious gossip, anger, remembering of offenses done to me, hatred and returning evil for evil; by slander, reproaches, lies, slyness, deception and hypocrisy; by prejudices, arguments, stubbornness, and an unwillingness to give way to my neighbor; by gloating, spitefulness, taunting, insults and mocking; by gossip, by speaking too much and by empty speech.
I have sinned by unnecessary and excessive laughter, by reviling and dwelling upon my previous sins, by arrogant behavior, insolence and lack of respect.
I have sinned by not keeping my physical and spiritual passions in check, by my enjoyment of impure thoughts, licentiousness and unchastity in thoughts, words and deeds.
I have sinned by lack of endurance towards my illnesses and sorrows, a devotion to the comforts of life and by being too attached to my parents, children, relatives and friends.
I have sinned by hardening my heart, having a weak will and by not forcing myself to do good.
I have sinned by miserliness, a love of money, the acquisition of unnecessary things and immoderate attachment to things.
I have sinned by self-justification, a disregard for the admonitions of my conscience and failing to confess my sins through negligence or false pride.
I have sinned many times by my Confession: belittling, justifying and keeping silent about sins.
I have sinned against the Most-holy and Life-creating Mysteries of the Body and Blood of our Lord by coming to Holy Communion without humility or the fear of God.
I have sinned in deed, word and thought, knowingly and unknowingly, willingly and unwillingly, thoughtfully and thoughtlessly, and it is impossible to enumerate all of my sins because of their multitude. But I truly repent of these and all others not mentioned by me because of my forgetfulness and I ask that they be forgiven through the abundance of the Mercy of God.
So, the next time you need to go to confession and can’t think of anything to confess, remember this prayer that St. John has given to us.