About Why We Must Not Conceal Sins at Confession


        Brothers and sisters!


        We have just completed the first week of the Great Fast, the time of the year when all Orthodox Christians without exception go to Confession.

        When you, dear brothers and sisters, confess before your spiritual father, you must have a firm resolve to tell him all your sins, all your faults, all your temptations, all the thoughts that run through your mind and are possibly suggested by the evil one.  You must tell him these things with a pure heart before God, without any self-justification, and without making excuse with excuses in sins.[1] 

        Coming to Confession, you of course desire that your spiritual father, acting on behalf of the Lord, will forgive your sins.  But how is he to forgive sins that you have not revealed to him?  You of course yearn for healing of spiritual illnesses and help in dealing with temptations.  But how can the spiritual physician treat your wounds, if you do not tell him, clearly and in a straightforward manner, what ails you?  Perhaps this is difficult for you; but sin is only forgiven when the sinner perceives how grievous it is and truly repents of it.  The heavier the load you feel when you come to Confession, the lighter you will feel after you unload yourself.  The more you regret your wayward thoughts, words, and deeds, the easier you will breathe after admitting them.   Far better a few moments of embarrassment, than months or many years of inner torment:  far better than, perhaps, an eternity of torment.  The serpent of temptation and sin does not cease to burrow into our soul until we pull it out, kill it, and cast it away; that is, until we reveal it at Confession.  As the prophet David wrote, “Because I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my crying all the day long.  But then I said:  I will confess mine iniquities before the Lord against myself.  And Thou forgavest the ungodliness of my heart.”[2] 

        Perhaps you are afraid that if you really open your soul before him, your spiritual father will think poorly of you, knowing all your weaknesses and flaws, your errant thoughts, and your vices.  But your spiritual father is a human being like you.  Not only has he heard every human weakness and vice at Confession before:  he is himself plagued by sin, and perhaps is a worse secret sinner than you.  The more frankly you admit your temptation and sins, and the more earnestly you ask his advice, the more fervently he will be moved to pray for you, and the higher will be his opinion of you, as one truly honest and humble, or at least one willing to accept humiliation.

        In any case, you must not forget that while you can hide your sin from your confessor, you certainly cannot hide it from God.  The Lord knew your sin before you committed it; He knew it from all eternity.  He knows all the hidden imaginings, ruminations, and plottings of your mind.  Perhaps you can present yourself to your spiritual father as one pure and almost blameless, but if you do so, God, Who knows the heart, will know you as one doubly blameworthy, on account of your insincerity and deceptiveness at Confession.  In truth, it is a most grievous sin to conceal sins at Confession!  It is totally senseless to try and deceive your Heavenly Father by deceiving your earthly spiritual father.  So doing, you deceive no one but yourself.

        Ask yourself:  what is it that really causes me to conceal my temptations and sins at Confession?  What else could it be besides pride?  Only pride is so powerful in man as to persuade him to think that he is not totally overburdened with grievous, shameful, base, unworthy thoughts, words, and deeds.  But consider:  could anything be so terrible as for one to be so proud as to conceal sins at Confession, and thus to fail to have them forgiven before one’s death, and then to have those same sins revealed at the Last, Dread Judgment, and for them to remain unforgiven in eternity?  Are you afraid to reveal your sins to your spiritual father who loves you and will provide loving spiritual care for you to the degree you allow him, yet you are unafraid to have your sins uncovered before the whole world, the living and the dead, and all the numberless hosts of angels?  On that Last Day, if we have concealed our sins, then we shall truly know what is shame, such shame that we shall cry, Mountains and rocks, fall on us, and hide us![3] 

        And so, dear brothers and sisters, let us confess our sins with perfect honesty before God and our confessor, hiding nothing:  not our thoughts, not our motives, not our words, and not our deeds.  While we ought not go into excessive, graphic detail about carnal sins and imaginings, for the rest, tell plainly everything unworthy that you perceive in yourself.  Do not make excuses for yourself; do not justify yourself.  Do not be spiritually presumptuous or self-directed, but seek spiritual guidance from your confessor, so that your wounds will heal, rather than fester.  For the more we humble ourself at Holy Confession, the less we shall be humiliated on the Last Day before the dread judgment seat of Christ.  Amen.


[1] Ps. 140:4

[2] Ps. 31:3,5

[3] Rev. 6:16