Posted by: oldbelieving | January 19, 2012

Orthodox Spirituality Part 4: How to Make a Good Confession, by Fr. Alexey Young

Lesson 4: How to Make a Good Confession

-how often should I go to confession? Whenever you have serious sin on your conscience

-examine conscience- beg God to show your faults – if you don’t know who you are you don’t know what Christ came to save you from – this can be difficult process but its necessary

-such study reveals our self-love by which we blind, deceive ourselves

-our sins offend Almighty God – He wants to forgive us, share mercy

-not satisfied just with avoiding serious sins but even smallest sins – striving for holiness

-our sins cause ourselves and others unhappiness- why would we want this

St. John of Kronstadt: if live just one day in obedience to commandments we’ll have foretaste of Heaven

-once we know and detest faults we can replace them w/ virtues- wont happen all at once

-be the simple, difficult, weak creature you are and start small – to try to stop sinning all at once is proud

-start with baby-milk of spiritual struggle before getting to strong wine

-how to examine conscience? Should do daily, take time at night to reflect- use 10 Commandments, Beatitudes, etc as guide

Fr. Seraphim taught: 1. How have I sinned against God? 2. Against my neighbor? 3. Against myself?


begin to discover what is our predominant passion(s)– sin we fall into most frequently; tries to master us

-love of ease, love of power, complaining, judgmental, etc etc etc

-one of worst things to happen to us is someone asks our advice so we give “learned advice” but they don’t follow it and we get very upset

-practice the opposing virtue to overcome the vice – Ladder of Divine Ascent is great help in this regard

St. John Climacus: analyzes each vice and virtue as master of psychology- see cause/effect relationships in theocentric framework

-identify predominant vice, locate its opposite virtue and begin to cultivate it- just avoiding vice wont work – passion will be replaced by other passions

-if we do this we see that spiritual life works!

-we don’t like anyone to point out our faults, but we NEED spiritual father to do this

-each has predominant virtue too- study and practice this, tends to draw other virtues along with us

-overcome vice by practicing presence of God- begin to develop awareness that at all times we’re in presence of God and He observes- icon corner serves this purpose- windows to Heaven – 2-way window

-before doing or saying anything thinkg: “would I do this in Church in front of altar?” if answer is “no” then DON’T DO IT – Church is place par excellence where we come into God’s presence and receive Him

-Theotokos practiced presence of God more perfectly than anyone else- her virtues grew, she had powerful influence on others, ppl made better just by her presence

-predominant passions: pride-mother of all sins; opposite is humility

-no soul has any holiness without some humility, and yet pride will lurk in our darkest recesses whole life

-Adam and Eve thought they knew better than God – pride

-most follow 2 master- a little pride, a little humility

-pride is love of self, beginning of all sin, neglect of fact that we depend on God for everything

-what separates us from death is so little – our lives are very fragile

-pride places us in opposition to God bc we work for our own glory

-pride places false regard on opinions of others- if what YOU think matters more than what GOD thinks

-desiring good reputation- to be thought well of, to be honored- great temptation for priests- ppl looking for latest guide or guru – priest must stay humble about what ppl say

-criticism against priest is blessing for him to keep him humble – in turn is good for whole parish

-overbearing towards others, insult or critique others, argumentative, get angry easily – pride

-Fathers give antidote to go from vice to virtue – spiritual life is a science not an art form– most of us aren’t spiritually talented and need laws and cause/effect to learn spiritual life

St. John Climacus: antidote for pride is prayer: identify where pride is in your life, ask for strength against it

-human effort can do very little- realize all depends on God, prayer makes use of God’s grace- then can do almost anything- move mountains

-pride becomes humility also by acts of humility, accepting humiliations- someone criticizes you (even unfairly), insults you, talks about you behind your back- instead of becoming defensive – accept it!

-cheerful bearing of small failures on part of ourselves and others- bear one another’s burdens

-important to bear without complaint or self-justification the misunderstandings of others- we’re prone to ecxue ourselves, urge our opinions on others

-when we learn to accept humiliations that come our way we’re learning to be humble

-as pride is mother of all sins, humility is mother of all virtues

avarice: opposite of detachment and denunciation, desire for many goods, power over ppl, etc

-combat it by cultivating spirit of generosity- Lord’s command to give coat is literal- St. John Maximovitch often came back practically naked bc gave away clothes to poor and starving

St. John of Kronstadt did same thing

-don’t have to give away everything- but don’t possess our possessions with our hearts- have spirit of poverty if we aren’t poor – only buy what we absolutely need

-German Lutheran pastor – Wurmbrandt: prisoner of Romanian and Russian communists

-asked how he could manage solitary confinement: he had practice beforehand; suggested that Americans with much wealth go into a store where they have no intention of buying anything, every time you see something you like go up to it and look at it and say “I don’t need it,” do this repeatedly and you train yourself to be detached from worldly goods

-he realized that who he is isn’t dependent on what he owns- most of us really do define ourselves by what we surround ourselves with

-Desert Fathers had Psalter and vigil lamp, that was it – and they were FREE and belonged to God

-cultivate generosity, have spirit of detachment- practice this by NOT using credit cards

-we live in time where its possible with imagination and credit card that we can create environment straight out of another time – colonial America, Tudor England, etc – never before was this possible – something very abnormal about it when you think about it- how about we just live simply and love and care for one another and use our blessings to care for the Church, for the poor, etc

-need spirit of detachment from ppl too- can have affections that are not immoral but too strong– don’t define yourself in terms of other ppl

-spirit of Christian poverty-allows for what is genuinely needed- don’t get something just bc someone else has it

-detachment DOESN’T mean laziness, dirt, slovenliness, chaos, carelessness, anything less than orderly, clean

-this is form of self-love

-Christian poverty isn’t stinginess- this is also avarice

-possession can be passion that spreads to even things not worth keeping

-avarice regrets that you don’t have what others have, avarice is stinginess

-giving to a beggar is for YOU, not so much the beggar- if youre not willing to give that tells you something about yourself

we cannot rest in our diligence– there is always something there for avarice or pride to creep in

-antidote to avarice is prayer

-“What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of His soul” – put this in a frame in your house!

lust: clean of heart shall ascend mountain of Lord and see God, pure of heart see God- such verses refer to modesty and chastity according to our state in life – NOT just big things like fornication, adultery

-“Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” – Christ is speaking specifically of sexual sins

-our culture is awash in cesspool of immorality, lust- dominates every aspect of entertainment, commerce, etc

-Christ encouraged chastity and celibacy amongst His disciples

-even seemingly “innocent” things need more discipline: too much hugging in Churches – monks and nuns don’t hug, they greet one another with kiss of peace

-Fr. Alexey wouldn’t hug Fr. Seraphim but they loved each other

-hugging isn’t awful but its part of general looseness of our culture; looseness of dress, esp. in Church, etc

-women in Church in pants, man in shorts, woman with uncovered head- there was a time when this would NEVER happen

-if we had tea with the Queen we’d wear our absolute best but we walk into Church with the Almighty God as if we’ve just come from a picnic: we need to rekindle the higher standard

-men shouldn’t wear short-sleeves, shorts, pants too tight, don’t need tie (St. John called it a noose)

-combat lust by fasting: St. John ClimacusL gluttony is mother of may sins, particularly lust: if youre struggling here begin fasting with blessing of spiritual father- beyond fasts of the Church even

-if you fast you will find that lustful temptations go away

-learn how to guard our eyes- monastics know not to look all around- keep eyes on where youre going

-photos of Saints: often not looking directly into camera- learned to discipline their eyes so what comes into soul via the eyes wont harm them

-Russian evening prayer: ask forgiveness if seen anyone and been wounded by it in my heart

-control the mind too –discipline imagination, day-dreaming, curiosity, etc

-antidote of lust is prayer
-spiritual life is constant battle, will end only at death, battle not against flesh, blood but against fallen angels

-examine conscience, identify predominant virtue and vice, seek guidance of spiritual father

-soul is garden, but often choked with weeds (vices)- learn how to pull out weeds one-by-one and plant flowers of virtue

Q: if youre on path but still have passions you’ll see Kingdom?

A: must make sure we’re really on the path, often delude ourselves into thinking we’re on path but haven’t actually repented

-don’t have to achieve absolute perfection but need some victory that shows our heart

Q: we can’t give to everyone who asks of you’ll be broke

A: called to give but do need to be discerning, want to keep some money to provide for family, give to charitable organizations

Q: what is difference between self-respect and self-love?

A: some have special grace to stay in and redeem abusive situation but very rare- almost like martyrdom

-must be very careful about this- our culture tells us we’re just a little higher than animals, or even less worthy than animals (ppl save whales but not babies), until 150 yrs we believed we were a little lower than angels – ppl tend to live up or down to that image they’re given of who they are

-if youre given image of animal that can be abused, exploited- women often feel abuse is their fault

-work with these ppl very carefully to give self-respect that isn’t pride

-self-respect comes from being image of God, knowing He redeemed us- don’t define ourselves by other ppl

Q: how to safeguard yourself to keep healthy balance? Is it a sin to decorate your house, etc?

A: have responsibility as stewards to make pleasing environment, but use common sense about how much money we spend

-some ppl have lovely homes but also very generous- case-by-case basis

-have to surround ourselves with beauty- that is Christian virtue

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