I was thinking about Confession today, mainly because I was looking at an orthodox book catalogue and I saw a title which I don`t have on my bookshelves.
I always know when I desperately need to go to Confession.
It is usually when I least want to go, when everything and everyone is getting me down, life seems tough and I am feeling low. This is when I realise I am in dire need of spiritual medicine.
There is nothing like a thorough examination of my life and my conscience prior to Confession to make me realise just how much God has blessed me, and how very much I have to be thankful for. It always raises me out of the doldrums.
When I go to Confession, after the prayers are said, my priest stands me in front of the Icon of Christ and tells me to confess my sins without fear to Christ, who already knows them and is just waiting for me to acknowledge my sins and ask for forgiveness.
It is surprisingly hard to meet the eyes of the Christ the Judge depicted in the icon with the sorry tale of my failings and misdeeds on my sinful lips. The feeling of shame can be almost unbearable sometimes.......
Father offers me advice and consolation regarding what I have confessed, and his loving gentleness always makes me tearful.
How can I describe the incredible feeling of my priest placing his epitrachelion on my head, making the sign of the Cross and assuring me of God`s forgiveness, both in this world and the next ? It is the most blessed and liberating feeling, to know that I have faced my many sins, confronted them, acknowledged them in front of a witness and asked for forgiveness.
To know that that forgivness has been granted, and my burdens lifted , is such a great blessing and a truly humbling experience.
The most amazing thing of all is that after my confession is ended, Father looks me in the eye, smiles and gives me the threefold kiss.
No matter what I have had to confess, however awful it has been, his unconditional love for me as his daughter in Christ shines out.
This is the priest who knows more about me than possibly any person alive, who knows my faults, my failings, my sins, my worries, my fears......who hears about the very worst of me, yet who loves me and cares deeply for the welfare and salvation of my soul, and can still look me in the eye, smile and care for me.
It makes me realise just how far *I* have to go to be able to truly love others, warts and failings and all.
What virtue is there in loving people who are easy to love ? Almost everyone does that.
It is much harder to show love for the unpleasant folk who may sometimes cross our path.
Now that is a real test of our ability to love all of our neighbours as ourselves........