Confession: From an Athonite Pamphlet by An Athonite

This is a prayer that can be said in preparation for confession.

Bless me, O Lord and my Saviour, to confess to Thee not only with words but with bitter tears as well. There is much to weep for…

My faith in Thee is shaken, O Lord! The thoughts of little faith and faithlessness crowd into my soul more often than not. Why? Of course, the spirit of the times is guilty, the people with whom I associate are at fault, but above all, I myself am guilty, in that I do not struggle with faithlessness and do not pray to Thee for help; I am incomparably more guilty if I become a scandal for others by deed, by word, or by a cold silence, whenever conversations concerned the faith. I am sinful in this, Lord, forgive and have mercy and grant me faith.

Love for my neighbor and even for my close relatives fails me. Their incessant requests for help, their forgetfulness of how much has been done for them already, arouse mutual discontent among us. But I am guilty above all in that I have the means to help them, but help them grudgingly. I am guilty in that I help them, not out of pure Christian motives, but out of self-love, out of a desire for thanks or praise. Forgive me, Lord, soften my heart and teach me to look not at how people act towards me but at how I act towards them. And if they act in a hostile way, remind me, O Lord, to pay them back with love and good, and to pray for them!

I am also sinful in that I seldom, very seldom, think about my sins. Not only during week days, but even when preparing for Confession I do not remember them, do not strive to bring them to mind for confession. General phrases come to mind: “I’m not guilty of anything in particular, like everyone else.” O Lord, it were as if I didn’t know what sin is before Thee – that every vain word and the very desire in the heart is an abomination before Thee. And how many words and desires come each day, not to mention in a year! Thou alone, Lord, knowest them; do Thou grant me to behold my sins and be compassionate and forgive!

Moreover, I realize that my constant sin is the virtual absence of any struggle with evil within me. As soon as any excuse or suggestion appears, I already dive headfirst into the abyss of sin, and only after my fall do I ask myself: what have I done? A fruitless question, because it does not help me grow better. And if I feel sorrow at the same time, it comes from the fact that my self-love is wounded, and not from the awareness that I have offended Thee, O Lord!

I do not struggle with obvious evil, nor even with the most trifling and harmful habits. I do not control myself and do not even try. I have sinned; forgive me!

Furthermore, there is the sin of having a short temper. This passion rules over me, does not leave me at all. When I hear a sharp word, I do not reply with silence, but act like a pagan: an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. An enmity arises from something insignificant and continues for days and weeks, and I do not think of reconciliation, but rather try to be, as it were, stronger, to get revenge at the first chance. I have sinned beyond reckoning, O Lord, be compassionate, forgive me and put my heart at peace!

Apart from these major sins, my entire life is a chain of sins. I do not value the time which Thou hast granted for the acquisition of eternal salvation. I often stand irreverently, pray mechanically, judge others as to how they pray, and do not look after myself. At home I pray sometimes only with great effort and scattered thoughts, so that often I myself do not even hear my prayer, and I even omit my prayers sometimes. Such are my relations to Thee, O Lord, and I cannot say anything except: forgive and have mercy!

In my relations with others I sin with all my feelings – I sin with my tongue, by pronouncing false, profane, provocative and scandalous words; I sin with my eyes; I sin with my mind and heart. I judge others and harbor enmity often and for long periods of time. I sin not only against the soul but also against the body, taking food and drink without restraint. Accept, O Lover of mankind, my repentance, that I may approach Thy holy and life-giving Mysteries with peace for the forgiveness of sins, for the setting-aright of temporary life and the inheritance of life eternal. Amen

“I am unworthy to ask forgiveness, O Lord,” Thus exclaimed once the great teacher of repentance, St. Ephraim the Syrian.

“How can one keep from falling into sin? How can one block the entrance to the passions?” St. Basil the Great asked St. Ephraim; and the answer was his tears alone.

Then what can I say before Thee, O Lord, I so great and habitual a sinner?

By the prayers of our holy Fathers Ephraim and Basil grant me, O Lord, repentance and tears! Help me to expel from myself, like deadly poison, my evil deeds, vain words, wicked thoughts. And if I forget to mention any sin, Thou knowest all, remind me, for I do not wish to hide anything. Thou commandest me: State your cause, that you may be justified (Is. 43:26), and I say: my sins are multiplied Lord, and multiply themselves without ceasing, and there is no limit to them. I know and I remember, that even an impure thought is an abomination before Thee; and at the same time I not only think but even do that which grieves Thee. I know that I commit evil, and do not turn away from evil…

Thus, the beginning has not yet been made for my repentance, and the end is not in sight of my lack of concern over my sins. In truth, there is no end to the vile thoughts within me, the bursts of self-love, vanity, pride, judgments, bearing grudges and vengeance. I often argue, for no cause at all become angry, cruel, jealous, lazy, blindly stubborn. I myself am of very little significance, but I think a great deal of myself. I do not want to honor those who are worthy, but demand honor for myself without any basis. I constantly lie and am angry at liars. I condemn slanderers and thieves, but myself steal and slander. I corrupt myself with lustful thoughts and desires, but strictly judge others for lack of modesty. I do not endure jokes about myself, but myself like to tease others, considering neither the person nor the place – even in church. Whoever speaks the truth about me, I consider my enemy. I do not want to bother myself with serving others, but if I am not served, I grow angry. I coldly refuse my neighbor who is in need, but when I myself am in need, I make my requests of him without end. I do not like to visit the sick, but when I am sick, I expect someone to care for me without my even asking.

O Lord, send the light of Thy heavenly light into the depths of my soul, that I may see my sins! My confession almost always ends with the merely external recounting of certain sins. O my God, If Thou be not merciful, if Thou grant me not help, I perish! Innumerable are the times my conscience has given promises to Thee to begin a better life, but I violated my promises and live as before.

Without correcting myself, I am ashamed to show my face before another person, before whom I have not kept my word. How then can I stand before Thee, my God, without shame and self-abasement, when I have made promises so many times before Thy holy altar, before the angels and saints, and then did not keep my word? How low I am! How guilty I am! Thine, O Lord, is righteousness, and mine is a shameful presence (Dan.9:7). Only Thine infinite goodness can endure me. Thou didst not condemn me when I sinned; do not condemn me as I repent! Teach me how to call to mind and recount the sins of my former life, the careless sins of youth the sins of self-loving adulthood, the sins of day and night, sins against Thyself, O Lord my Saviour! How can I recount them in the few minutes when I stand in this holy place! I remember, Lord, that Thou didst attend to the brief words of the publican and the thief; I know that Thou wilt mercifully accept even the readiness to repent, and I pray Thee with all my soul, my Lord, accept my repentance, even in a daily confession of sins, according to the Prayer Book. I have far more sins than are mentioned in it, and have nothing with which to erase them.

I now offer only my striving towards Thee and the desire for good, but I myself do not have the strength to correct them myself. O Lord and Lover of mankind, Thou dost not drive away the sinner who comes to Thee, begging Thee for forgiveness. Even before he approaches the doors of Thy Mercy, Thou dost already open the way for him; even before he falls before Thee, Thou dost stretch forth Thy hand to him; even before he confesses his sins, Thou dost grant him forgiveness. Grant this to me, as I repent, grant this according to Thy great mercy; forgive all the evil that I have done, said and thought. And by granting forgiveness, send me, O Lord, the strength that henceforth I might live according to Thy will and not offend Thee. Help me, and I will be saved; help me by receiving Thy Holy Mysteries. And for the worthy reception of them, speak to me the grace of mercy and forgiveness through the lips of the servant of Thine altar, speak by Thy Holy Spirit not heard by the ear but heard in the contrite heart and peaceful conscience. Amen.

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