Holy Confession

The sacrament of Holy Confession has always been a central part of an Orthodox Christian’s spiritual journey during our pilgrimage with the Lord in life. Anyone interested in participating in this Holy Sacrament of Confession and Reconciliation can meet with Fr. Elias before or after any of the weekday services, or call Kathy in the office to make an appointment 914-967-2838 or email kathysp@optonline.net

Confessional Prayers

The Scriptures exhort us to repent and confess our sins. “Repent and turn from all your transgressions… and get yourself a new heart and a new spirit” (Ez 18:30-31)! “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean… cease to do evil, learn to do good” (Is 1:16-17). “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:15). “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9).

Like faith, repentance is a turning from self and the world to God as the source of life. The biblical words for repentance suggest a complete “turning around” (shub), a radical “change of mind” (metanoia), abandoning evil thoughts and deeds and adopting by God’s grace a new way of life. Jesus emphasized the joy of repentance because of its results: forgiveness, reconciliation, renewal of life and personal communion with God. The Church Fathers speak of repentance as “a gateway to heaven,” “second baptism,” “new birth,” and “renewal of the soul.” They also teach that repentance is a permanent part of Christian life and that, since no person is perfect, everyone needs to repent and confess his or her sins frequently.

Repentance is a gift of God. However, it definitely lies within our powers to seek repentance. The prodigal son “ came to himself” and said, “I will arise and go to my father” (Lk 15:17-18)! Acting upon his decision he went forth, confessed his sin and was joyfully welcomed by his father as one who had come alive from the dead (Lk 15:22-24).

Come to God in repentance whenever you are burdened by sin and guilt, or whenever you feel lost and separated from God. Confess to Him your sins. Be specific and resolve to do your utmost not to repeat them. Trust that God will receive you with open arms and that there will be more joy in heaven over your repentance than over ninety-nine righteous who do not need repentance (Lk 15:7).

Prayers to Christ

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, Shepherd and Lamb, You offered Your life on the cross to take away the sins of the world.

You granted forgiveness to Peter and to the harlot who turned to You in tears. You forgave the debts of the two debtors and also said, “him who comes to me I will not cast out.” Lord, receive me, a sinner, and hear my prayer of repentance. (Confess to the Lord your specific sins.) I acknowledge my sins and transgressions, voluntary and involuntary, known and unknown. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to turn away from my sins and to amend my life according to Your teachings. Help me to walk in the way of the righteous and to offer praise to Your glorious name forever. Amen.

Sweet Jesus, my Lord and Master, through Your holy passion You have healed my evil passions, and through Your sacred wounds You have cured my sinful wounds. Grant me, who have greatly sinned against You, tears of compunction. Purify my body with the fragrance of Your life-giving Body, and sweeten my soul with Your sacred Blood, casting out the bitterness with which the adversary has fed me. Lift up my earthbound mind to You and take me out of the pit of perdition. I have no sincere repentance, I have no true compunction, I have no consoling tears to lead me as a child of God to my spiritual inheritance. My mind has been darkened through worldly passions. I cannot look up to You in grieving remorse. I cannot warm myself with tears of love for You. But, Lord Jesus Christ, the treasury of blessings, grant me thorough repentance and a diligent heart to seek You. Grant me Your grace and renew in me the form of Your image. I have forsaken You; but, Lord, do not forsake me. Come out to seek me; lead me to Your pasture; number me among the sheep of Your chosen flock and nourish me with the food of Your sacred mysteries, through the intercessions of Your all-pure Mother and of all the Saints. Amen.

Prayer of St. John Chrysostom

Lord, deprive me not of Your Heavenly and eternal blessings.
Lord, deliver me from everlasting torments.
Lord, if I have sinned in word or deed, in mind or spirit, forgive me.
Lord, deliver me from all distress, ignorance, forgetfulness, laziness and stony hardness of heart.
Lord, deliver me from all temptations and spiritual abandonment.
Lord, enlighten my heart which has been darkened by evil desire.
Lord, being human, I sin: but You, being God, have mercy on me.
Lord, take heed of the weakness of my soul, and help me with Your grace, that Your holy name may be glorified in me.
Lord Jesus Christ, inscribe the name of Your servant in the book of life, granting me a blessed end.
Lord my God, I have done nothing good, yet by Your compassion help me to make a new beginning.
Lord, refresh my heart with the dew of Your grace.
Lord, God of heaven and earth, remember me, who am sinful, wretched, evil and impure, in Your kingdom, according to Your steadfast love.
Lord, receive me in repentance and do not forsake me.
Lord, put me not to the test.
Lord, grant me good thoughts.
Lord, grant me tears of repentance, remembrance of death and contrition.
Lord, grant me sincere confession of my thoughts.
Lord, grant me humility, deliverance from my own will and obedience.
Lord, grant me patience, forbearance and meekness.
Lord, implant in me Your holy fear, the source of all blessings.
Lord, enable me to love You with all my soul, my mind and my heart, and my neighbor as myself.
Lord, protect me from evil people and demons, from impure passions and all unseemly things.
Lord, as you command: Lord, as You know all things, Lord, as You desire in Your goodness: let Your will be done in me.
Lord, let Your will not mine, be done, through the intercessions of the all-holy Theotokos and of all the Saints, for You are blessed forever. Amen.

The Prayer of Manasseh

This prayer is a classic prayer of repentance attributed by tradition to Manasseh; a wicked king of Judah (2 Chr 33: 11-13), who pleaded God’s forgiveness for his many sins.

Lord, almighty, God of our fathers, of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and of their righteous posterity.
You have made heaven and earth with all their adornment.
You have bound the sea with Your word of command.
You have confined the abyss and sealed it with Your fearful and glorious name.
All things shudder and tremble before Your power.
The magnificence of Your glory cannot be endured.
The wrath of Your threat against sinners cannot be resisted.
Yet immeasurable and unsearchable is Your promised mercy.
For You are the Lord Most High, compassionate, long-suffering and merciful, turning away from the evils of people.
You, Lord, according to the abundance of Your goodness, have promised repentance and forgiveness to those who have sinned against You;
and in the multitude of Your loving kindness
You have appointed repentance for sinners unto salvation.
Surely, Lord, God of the heavenly powers, You have not appointed repentance for the righteous, for Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, who did not sin against You;
but You have appointed repentance for me a sinner.
For the sins I have committed are more in number than the sand of the sea.
My transgressions are multiplied, Lord, they are multiplied!
I am unworthy to look up and see the height of heaven because of the multitude of my iniquities.
I am weighed down with many evil bonds and cannot lift up my head because of my sins.
I have no relief because I have provoked Your wrath and have done evil before You, not doing Your will, not keeping Yours commandments, but setting up abominations and multiplying offenses.
And now I bend the knee of my heart, beseeching Your goodness.
I have sinned, Lord, I have sinned and I know my transgressions.
Do not be angry with me forever or store up evils for me; and do not condemn me to the depths of hades.
For You, Lord, are the God of those who repent, and to me You will show Your goodness.
Unworthy as I am, You will save me in Your great mercy and I will praise You continually all the days of my life.
For all the powers of heaven sing Your praises and Yours is the glory forever. Amen.

Preparation for Holy Confession

The gift of God’s forgiveness is received through private prayer, corporate worship, the disciplines of prayer and fasting, penitential services and above all through the sacrament of Holy Confession.

The value of Holy Confession is twofold, First, through this sacramental act of the ordained priest and the Christian believer we have the assurance of divine forgiveness, according to the words of Christ (Jn 20:23). Secondly, Holy Confession provides the opportunity to talk about one’s deep concerns, to receive counsel and to be encouraged toward spiritual growth, all of which are universally recognized as extremely beneficial to personal life.

Holy Confession is appropriate whenever an Orthodox Christian feels the need for it. It is also a part of our total spiritual preparation during the fast periods leading up to the great feasts of Easter, Christmas, the Falling Asleep of the Theotokos and the Feast of The Twelve Apostles. However, Holy Confession is especially necessary a) when a serious sin has been committed; b) when a habitual sin has overwhelmed a Christian, or c) when a Christian has stopped growing spiritually and needs a reexamination of priorities.

We confess our sins to God and the power of forgiveness is God’s. However, the gift of God’s forgiveness, although assured, is not magical. It does not automatically spare us from spiritual struggle – the continual vigilance against evil and the unceasing warfare against sin. Holy Confession will bear fruits in the Spirit only when the believer hates evil, utterly rejects sin and patiently cultivates positive habits of the life in Christ, “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ Jesus… Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life”. (Rm 6:11,13)

How can one prepare for the Holy Confession?

Preparation for Holy Confession is a prayerful examination of feelings, thoughts, words, acts, attitudes, habits, values, priorities, goals, direction and way of life. This prayerful self-examination includes not only the personal religious life, but also family relationships, social activities, job conduct, business dealings, political commitments and even recreational pursuits, because our entire existence should be lived in Christ. The goal of this sincere search of conscience under the light of the Holy Spirit is not to condemn ourselves, but to affirm our true selves in Christ who has given us access to God’s mercy and forgiveness, and who has taught us to live for God’s glory.

Pray and think about your confession over several days. Ask God to help you perceive your sins and to make a thorough confession of them. Sometime before the sacrament of Holy Confession, offer selected prayers from the previous Confessional Prayers or the following prayer of repentance.

A Prayer of Repentance

O Lord my God, I confess that I have sinned against You in thought, word and deed.
I have also omitted to do what Your holy law requires of me.
But now with repentance and contrition I turn again in Your love and mercy.
I entreat You to forgive me all my transgressions and to cleanse me from all my sins.
Lord, fill my heart with the light of Your truth.
Strengthen my will by Your grace.
Teach me both to desire and to do only what pleases You. Amen.

Now, without justifications or self-pity, make a prayerful examination of your conscience regarding all things. As a help, reflect on your life in the light of the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. Take pencil and paper and specify your sins so that, at the time of the sacrament, you will be able to make a thorough confession from the list, without confusion or lapse of memory.

The Ten Commandments

I am the Lord your God, and you shall have no other goads before me.

Has God been the source, center and hope of my Life? Have I put myself, others or things before God? Have I failed to trust in God’s existence, love and mercy? Have I failed to pray to God, to worship Him and to thank Him for His blessings? Have I tried to serve God and keep His commandments faithfully? Have I murmured or complained against God in adversity? Have I praised and glorified God through my words and deeds?

You shall not make for yourself a graven image in order to worship it.

Have I valued anyone or anything above God? Have I given to anyone or anything the love, honor and worship that belongs to God alone? Have I made an idol of any person, idea, occupation, or thing?

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

Have I blasphemed God’s holy name in any way? Have I sworn a false oath? Have I broken any solemn vow or promise? Have I entered into an agreement, promise or contract against God’s law? Have I cursed or used foul language?

Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.

Have I worshipped regularly on Sundays and major feastdays and have I helped others to do the same? Have I worked unnecessarily on Sundays or major feast days or caused other to do so? Have I spent the Lord’s Day in wholesome and edifing ways?

Honor your father and mother.

Have I loved and respected my parents as I should? Have I neglected them or failed to help them? Have I disobeyed them, deceived them or caused them pain by my words or deeds? Have I treated all my family members with patience and love?

You shall not Kill.

Have I caused the harm, injury or death of anyone? Have I wished my own anyone’s harm or death? Have I been cruel to animals or destroyed any life unnecessarily?

You shall not commit adultery.

Have I committed any immoral acts alone or with others? Have I caused others to commit immoral acts? Have I committed immoral acts in my heart or mind?

You shall not steal.

Have I taken anything that was not mine from anyone or from anywhere? 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 rightful wages? Have I paid my debts? Have I given to the poor and to philanthropic causes in proportion to my means?

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 disclosed to anyone the sins and faults of another? Have I made careless statements or done anything else to harm the name and reputation of another? Have I engaged in idle gossip?

You shall not covet.

Have I looked with envy, jealousy or hatred toward the possessions, talents or achievements of others? Have I desire the downfall or loss of others out of evil intent that I might benefit? Have I grieved that God has bestowed greater blessings on others than on me?

The Beatitudes

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Have I truly recognized my complete dependence on God? Have I been proud, arrogant and self-righteous in my ways? Have I been selfish, possessive and self-seeking? Have I sought after status, power and wealth?

Bless are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Have I endured, difficulties and afflictions with faith and patience? Have I left sadness for the sufferings of the poor, the hungry and addicted, the sick, the lonely and the sinful of the world? Have I truly been sorrowful for my sins and faults?

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Have I tried to serve or rather to dominate others at home, school, work, office, Church and elsewhere? Have I nursed hatred in my heart or desired revenge against anyone? Have I been resentful, bitter, unforgiving or insulting and abusive to others? Have I loved my enemies?

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Have I truly yearned for God’s will to be done in all things? Have I worked for justice in my family, society and the world in ways within my reach? Have I tried to cultivate a righteous life through prayer, fasting, worship, receiving Holy Communion and deeds of love toward others?

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Have I shown compassion and help toward the poor, hungry, lonely and needy around me? Have I tried to understand and forgive others? Have I been indifferent, judgmental or legalistic?

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Have I loved goodness, purity and holiness? Have I succumbed to evil motives and intentions? Have I given way to impure thoughts, words or deeds? Have I been guilty of bias and prejudice? Have I been hypocritical, pretentious or self-indulgent to sinful passions?

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Do I have God’s peace in my heart? Have I been unfairly angry, aggressive or impatient? Have I worked for peace at home, work, Church and in society? Have I been irritable, polemical, or divisive?

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Have I complained when persecuted for God’s sake? Have I prayed for my persecutors? Have I failed to defend anyone in the truth for fear of humiliation or persecution? Have I had to courage to stand up for what is right despite criticism, ridicule or persecution?

Blessed are you when they revile you and persecute you on my account; rejoice and he glad, for your reward is great in heaven.

Is the joy of Christ in my heart even in trying moments? Have I been pessimistic, despondent or desiring? Have I truly delighted in the promise of God’s treasures in heaven?