Reorienting Your Psychological and Spiritual Condition
“Attend to thyself, and keep thy heart diligently” ~ Deuteronomy 4:9 “Confession is not an option which we can choose or not choose to do. It is absolutely necessary for our spiritual healing and well-being”~Metropolitan Joseph “For reception of Holy Communion more than once a month, Confession must be on a regular basis, and heard not less than once a month.”~ Schmemann
Our Ultimate Pilgrimage
- Repentance and Confession are a pilgrimage - Pilgrimage: “An abandonment of a secure, familiar place to journey toward the unknown, with the expectation of a ‘spiritual change’ via an encounter with the divine.” - The Challenge: “A challenge not to be self-satisfied individuals but to seek for higher levels of personal awareness, psychological health, and spiritual encounter and dialogue with the other, the neighbor, and ultimately, God” (Archimandrite Chrysostom Tympas, 199).
Confession: Challenge of Confronting One’s Inner Turmoil
“Among the holy sacraments of the Christian Church, confession appears to present us with the most profound and relentless personal challenge: It poses the question of who we are and how we understand ourselves…It confronts us with an underlying difficulty that we are not always ready to overcome: the demanding task of facing our psychological as well as our spiritual reality, far from the narcissistic image with which we usually comfort ourselves. To face one’s reality means to look bravely into deeper levels of our personal life, beyond what the reasoning intelligence and the emotions alone can reveal” (Arch. Chrysostom Tympas, 175).
Confession: Restoration of Humanity
Confession “is not about the pardoning of individual sins for their own sake, but about the healing and restoration of fallen humanity as a whole and our reattachment to the community, the Body of Christ” (Protopresbyter Panayiotis Papageorgiou 149)
“Repentance means unifying that which has become disparate and broken. The repenting person longs for wholeness and cannot bear to experience mere fragments of life” (Dimitrios Karagiannis, 153). Confession: More than “Sin”; One’s Entire Psychological Reality
“The practice of confession very often engages one’s psychological reality. For instance, anger, anxiety, or uncontrolled behavior could stem from a neurotic personality rather than from deliberate choice; or they could result from constant pressure at work or in the family environment. When a person overwhelmed by these issues comes to confession, this troubled psychological background should always be borne in mind. The confessor could first discuss manners and other social behaviors that might alleviate anxiety and improve working conditions [psychological dimension]…and then discretely ask about what spiritual causes might have resulted in this behavior: pride, lack of self-knowledge, condemnations [spiritual dimension]” (Arch. Chrysostom Tympas, 191).
The Potential Good for Psychological Issues
“Psychological issues should be handled in such a way that they can be transformed into a fertile ground for the spiritual relationship with God to grow; they should not just be treated as passions to be eliminated” (Arch. Chrysostom Tympas, 193). Confession: Bringing Grace into Unconscious Darkness “It is of prime importance to help the individual to enter into the relationship with God, whose grace can transform the unconscious darkness into light” (Arch. Chrysostom Tympas, 194).
Confession: Redirecting…Not Suppressing
“Each person is an absolutely unique ‘value’ in Orthodox anthropology…his free will (and sexuality) are not aspects to ‘liberate’ or to ‘negotiate’ or to control, but rather to embrace and reorient as far as possible toward God’s unique calling for this person” (Arch.Chrysostom Tympas, 195). “It is the synergy between God’s will and man’s that should be sought for and not just reluctant ‘submission’ to Christian rules” (Arch. Chrysostom Tympas, 195).
Guideline for Confession: Hierarchy of Sins & Order of Focus
1# - Issues related to faith, relationship to God and his Church, disbelief… 2# - Issues related to others (condemnation, hypocrisy, hatred, lack of love for enemies)… 3# - Issues related to one’s personal life and treatment of one’s own soul and body “For example, disbelief in God is more sinful than judging others, whereas condemning others is more sinful than mistreating our own soul and body…(e.g., depression, egoism, sins of the flesh) (Arch. Chrysostom Tympas, 198).
Training the Conscience
The challenge of people in our society (I.e.: “lay people living, in today’s permissive society with little sense of discipline or awareness of the meaning of obedience…”)
“While all human persons should indeed learn to listen to their conscience, the conscience itself needs to be educated…” (Kallistos Ware, 198).
Do not do this alone
“It is perilous to journey alone. Each of us requires a counsellor and intercessor, a father or mother in God, who will not deprive us of our distinctive personhood, but who will serve precisely as the guardian of our evangelical freedom” (Kallistos Ware, 198).
*The following notes are taken from Word into Spirit: Pastoral Perspectives on Confession, a collection of articles compiled by editors Vasileios Thermos and Stephen Muse. I hope that the words offered bring insight into our relationship with God and this most Holy Sacrament and Crown of the Christian life.