As I write this, we’re in the middle of Great Lent with Holy Week due in about three weeks. It is customary for Orthodox Christians to prepare for Holy Week by:
- Fasting from certain types of food
- Increasing their focus on prayer
- Reviewing who they are in comparison to the Saints
- Being brought to repentance
As the faithful do this, many discover certain habits about which they are ashamed. As they try to break free of these habits, they discover who (or what) is really in control. We like to think we choose our actions, and often we do. But as we indulge in certain choices, invariably our will is eroded. Habits we come to hate actually prove to be in control of our mind and heart.
How to break free?
We might try to cease a habit, or to replace a bad (or sinful) habit with a good one, and find we cannot. If this describes us, we’re in good company. We all find ourselves with this problem from time to time.
There is a solution though. It’s a solution the Church has recommended for millennia. It’s called the Mystery (or, sacrament) of Repentance. Some call it “Confession”.
In an Orthodox confession, we stand or kneel before an icon of Christ, in the presence of a Father Confessor, and confess our sins to Christ. The priest may ask us questions, and may choose to apply a therapeutic solution that we call penance. (In the Orthodox Tradition, penance is entirely directed toward healing, never punishment.) The priest will then cover us with his epitrachelion (the vestment that is draped around a priest’s neck) and pronounce absolution.
Many who have experienced the Mystery of Repentance emerge from the confessional feeling cleansed. If before, their prayers seemed forced; now they seem fresh and alive. If before, they felt like they were wading through molasses; now their joints feel lubricated and they walk with more energy. If before, they were troubled; now they rejoice. The faithful describe Confession as “liberating” and “cleansing.” They feel lighter on their feet.
And best of all, sometimes even a single confession is enough to break the habit’s control over us. Before, its attraction by-passed thought. Now, its hold on us is interrupted; we have a new-found sense of control.
Any communicant within The Good Shepherd may book a confession with Fr Geoff between 4:00 and 5:00pm on Saturday afternoons for the remainder of Great Lent. The link to the booking form may be found in the parish newsletter.
For more information
- The Grace of the Holy Mystery of Repentance
- Learning to Live a Life of Repentance
- Confession: The Forgotten Sacrament