Confession: Overcoming the Error of Silence

Christ came into the world to save sinners, calling all of us to repentance – to a recognition that we are alienated from God and need to change our lives in order to accept the reconciliation which God is offering to us.   Confession of sins is one way which the Church has offered to us to experience the forgiveness of God.  There is an abundance of literature in Orthodoxy regarding repentance and confession.  The Lenten season we are now in is an entire season (some literature calls Lent a “school”) of repentance.  So while we work through our repentance during Lent – and this takes place both before and after our actual confession – here are some thoughts from the Orthodox tradition on overcoming sin in our lives.

Abba Isaac in the desert fathers tradition says:

“My brother, if you err in something, do not tell a lie because you are ashamed, but make a prostration and say: ‘Forgive me,’ and your error will be immediately forgiven. Do not have different words in your mouth than you have in your heart, for God is not mocked, but sees all: both things hidden and things in the open, Therefore, do not hide any of your temptations, or any concern, or any desire, or even a simple thought; but freely confess them to your Abba. Whatever you hear from him, take care to carry it out, performing it with sincerity. For, then, the battle will be easier for you. The evil spirits find joy nowhere else but in the man who keeps his thoughts silent, whether they be good or bad.” (The Evergentinos: Volume 2, pg. 134)

St. Clement of Alexandria (d. ca 211AD) says:

“Though men’s actions are ten thousand in number, there are only two sources of all sin: ignorance and inability. Both of these depend on ourselves. Either we will not learn, or we will not restrain our lust. If one does not learn, he does not judge well. If he does not restrain his lust, he cannot comply with right judgments. If someone is deceived in his mind, he will be unable to act correctly, even though he is quite capable of doing what he mistakenly knows. Another man may be capable of judging what is required of him, but he will not stay pure if he does not have the power to do what is right. So there are two remedies to sin. The first type of sin needs knowledge and clear proof from the testimony of the Scriptures. The other type of sin needs the training according to the Logos. This training is regulated by the discipline of faith and fear. Both disciplines develop into perfect love. The completeness of the one who knows God is twofold: It is part contemplation, and it is part action.” (The One Who Knows God, pgs.119-120)