Repentance and Confession

Returning to God,

The Source of Inner Joy

Repentance is an opening up of the heart so it can

accept the joyful Kingdom of God; it is the exercise of a

son or a daughter who longs to enter into the new depths

of his/her heavenly Father’s bosom; it is a renewal of the

inner man as he/she longs to reach the measure of the

stature of the fullness of Christ (Epistle to Ephesians

4:13). Indeed, repentance is a renouncing of sins that

prevail in the darkness, and the bonding to the divine

Light, the Grantor of victory.

As for confession, it cannot be separated from true

inner repentance. They both work together to fulfill the

commandment of the apostle to “…work out your own

salvation with fear and trembling” (Epistle to Philippians


Our Lord Jesus Christ has always honored man; for

He has never separated Himself from His Church, rather

He considered it His Holy Body. His honoring of man

lives on, by granting His forgiveness by His Holy Spirit

by way of His disciples. He told His disciple, Peter, “And

I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will

build My Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail

against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of

heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in

heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed

in heaven” (Matthew 16:18, 19).

Note that this promise came after declaring that the

Church will prevail against hell, for this promise was

given for the Church to bind and loose according to

the will of God and His Gospel, and within God’s love

and righteousness. This promise was not given broadly

to every believer. If that was our Lord’s intention then

Christ, the Lord, would have given it during one of His

public homilies, like the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew


Not also that He gave this gift again to His disciples in

the upper room – not as an absolute power and authority

– but to use it through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Just before He made this promise through them: “He

breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy

Spirit” ( John 20:22).

Through repentance and confession our inner eyes

are opened to realize that both of them are one sacrament

– a sacrament for the preparation for the heavenly nuptial.

We can then behold God the Father rushing toward us

to hold us in His bosom; and we would behold God the

Son accepting us as a heavenly Bride for Himself; while

God the Holy Spirit makes us more beautiful to become

an icon of the heavenly Groom.

Repentance and confession are a love offering of the

soul before God, where man experiences the crucifixion

of his lusts and fondness of the world, and seeks a

provisional glory, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Then,

he would be able to ascend with Him to the heavens.



Note that in our prayers we always start with the Prayer

of Thanksgiving, followed by the Psalm of Repentance;

suggesting that it is proper for us to thank God for all that

He has given us, before we confess – so that we would

not be ungrateful. It is proper for the faithful to give an

offering of thanks to God for His unconditional love and

His constant work in our lives. Thanksgiving is offered

in the anticipation of a renewed and positive revival of

one’s life with the help of the priest, as if the sins that

were corrupting his insides were simply thrown away.

How Do I Repent? How Do I Confess? What Should

I Say?

You might wonder, “I practiced repentance and

confession for over ten years now, and I’m repeating the

same words over and over again. I don’t feel any progress.

How should I truly repent and grow closer and closer to

God? How should I truly confess?

Many people believe that Confession is a mere

confession before God and the priest that they have

sinned. This idea represents an incomplete concept of

the sacrament and ignores its other positive aspects.

Repentance and confession are not a strict enumeration

of one’s sins before God and the priest; neither are they

a mere reappraisal of the mind that is sick of its previous

evils and habits. Repentance and Confession are also not

mere regrets over a particular sin; or are they a means of soothing one’s conscience; or are they akin to a session

with a psychologist or a social worker.

Practically, when we repent and confess (whether

in private or before a priest) we should not focus our

attention completely on our sins, but more on the Holy

Trinity, in order to enjoy the divine Love. Consider

also the following scenario.

A mother asked her five-year-old child to confess,

the child began to cry as if she was going to be punished.

The priest then asked the child, “Do you love Jesus?”

The little child answered, “Yes.” He replied, “There you

have just confessed!” The little girl hugged her mother

joyfully who then said, “Do you know what confession

is? It is confessing our love for Jesus Christ, our Lord!”

If we follow this example, we can foster love and

devotion for our Lord Jesus Christ in our children, and

they will focus on the Person of Christ, the Lover of

mankind, the Forgiver of sins, and our hearts’ Source

of all joy. Gradually, one would then start to confess his

weaknesses, while trusting in God’s love for all sinners.

St. Augustine and St. John Chrysostom explained

that Confession has two elements: 1) confessing that

God is Good, the Forgiver of sins and the Lover of

mankind, and 2) confessing our weaknesses while

trusting in the richness of God’s grace which covers

our sins. The Psalmist says: “Praise the Lord… for His

merciful kindness is great toward us, and the truth of the

Lord endures forever” (Psalm 117:1, 2).

The following are some general guidelines to help in

repenting and confession more effectively:

1) One should dedicate some quiet time to read

the Holy Bible with a prayerful spirit – requesting the

enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. We are not to count

our sins, but to discover their hideousness and to realize

the wondrous work of the divine Grace, so that we would

grieve and moan – yet enjoy peace and consolation.

2) One should always exercise repentance with

confession, for they are inseparable.

3) Your relationship with your father of confession

should be of a loving familiarity, yet be bonded with the

fear of God. The moments of confession are moments at

the feet of the Crucified, where both of you would enjoy

His wondrous work. Note also, that with every confessor,

the father of confession experiences a new start for his

own personal life as well.

4) Don’t put it in your heart the need to hide anything

during your confession, knowing that there is no need

for the details that had tempted you to sin.

Many girls have told me that they feel afraid when

they are about to go confess and are tempted to not offer

a full confession. I asked them: “How would you feel on

your wedding day in the midst of the stress of getting

ready for that moment to prepare to meet your groom?

Surely, at that moment, your feelings of unique and utter

joy and happiness are unmatched!” Likewise when we confess; we approach the Spirit of God so He can wash

us and make us beautiful for our wedding – our union

with God. Oh, what a happy and delightful moment!

5) Offer a thankful prayer to God, the Grantor

of gifts, and the Forgiver of sins, before and after your

confession. You should realize that when you repent and

confess, you are supported by the Holy Spirit of God

Who works within you; thus start by thanking God for

what He has already given you. Do not deny what He has

done for you and with you. Remember that He granted

you sweet times of prayer, a realization of the mystery of

His word, sharing in His features, and a chance to return

back to Him. After thanksgiving, start asking for help

with your weaknesses with the spirit of hope and trust in

God’s work.

6) Don’t make a routine out of merely enumerate

your innumerable sins; rather let your confession reveal

your deepest heart’s desire that longs for its heavenly

Groom. Ask for the workings of the Holy Spirit, the

Grantor of forgiveness, to grant you a spirit of glory,

strength, power, and royalty to realize the truth about

your soul as a bride, as a heavenly queen, that dwells to

the right of the heavenly King of kings.

Several times I have asked young people, “What is

the most significant sin in your confession?” Most of the

answers of the Egyptian youth pertain to evil thoughts;

while the American I found that it was frequently

regarding lying! The young man in Egypt feels that he  has a malicious fight against lustful and evil thoughts,

while the American is usually occupied with his struggle

against lying – the worst sin that he cannot tolerate.

In my opinion, the worst sin that we should consider

is not realizing our mission as we properly should. In

other words, we, being ambassadors of Christ in this

world, do not carry ourselves as agents for God – neither

inside ourselves nor amongst our brethren! I remember

when I was still a student, the counselor responsible

for the youth used to tell us, “Don’t ask from God to be

anything less than being His icon!”


  1. Confession keeps us Safe from Pride

St. Augustine, who lived many years fighting against

lusts, believed that the basis for the question of whether

to confess to another was really human pride. As it is

rather easy for man to secretly confess his sins so as not

be exposed; but when he is stricken by a physical illness,

he exposes his body before the doctor hoping that he

would cure him!

  1. True Confession breaks the Power of Sin

Sin lives and rules in the dark, for it cannot stand the

light. Thus, the believer must experience the shining of

the Sun of Righteousness upon him by being completely

honest with himself and with his father of confession

under the supervision of the Holy Spirit.

It was said of St. Pachomius that a certain extremely

righteous monk was having a fierce fight against hunger.

This monk used to take a loaf of bread every day from

the common table and hide it to eat later. He used to cry

out bitterly to the Lord about this wrong doing. Then,

he heard St. Pachomius talk with some hermits about

how the devil sometimes fights the righteous people

with sins that they never had committed in their youth,

which makes them ashamed to confess them, and then

they choose to conceal them. When the righteous monk

heard that, he confessed his sin with great shame and

broken-heart. His father of confession told him, “The

minute you humbly confessed your sin, you were set

free from its captivity. Today you have conquered your

enemy!” Indeed, the war was lifted from him.

The devil resembles an evil person trying to trick a

simple girl, asking her not to tell her father about what

he told her (to keep the deception hidden), and so she

would remain deceived by the devil’s sweet and tender

words! Sin is like a dark cloud; once it rains, it fades away.

It is like a group of scorpions hiding to breed under a

stone; but once the stone is lifted, they would run away

at once.

  1. Confession keeps the Spirit of discipleship and the

Unity of the Church

Furthermore, confession keeps alive the biblical spirit

of the Church; for example: living the life of obedience,

and of humility, etc. It is highly likely that the absence of the sacrament of confession in the non-apostolic

churches has caused the appearance of new faiths every

day, despite all the great efforts exerted and the immense

costs paid to unify the church.

  1. The Holy Bible calls us to Repent and Confess

The Holy Bible does not differentiate between

repentance and confession. What you confess before

the priest, you actually confess before God himself. And

this confession is an extension of the continuous life

of repentance that you exercise in your room, at work,

and even during sleep, for repentance is an endless life


The following are some Bible references for


  1. When Saul of Tarsus experienced a personal

meeting with the heavenly Christ, the Lord, he was

committed by a divine order to go see Ananias, the

priest, in Damascus to get baptized (Acts 9). When God

Himself appeared to him, Saul asked Him, “Lord, what

do You want me to do?” (Acts 9:6) God didn’t tell him,

“Believe in Me, and you will be delivered,” rather He told

him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what

you must do.”

  1. The apostle James told us to, “Confess your

trespasses to one another” ( James 5:16). The apostle

didn’t mean that the person at fault should confess his

trespasses to the one he wronged, or to any other believer.

He underscores the importance of confession when he

continues, “that you may be healed.” It is obvious then,

that the sick person should confess before the priests to

obtain God’s forgiveness, which is the healing of the soul,

as well as the healing of the body.

St. John wanted to underscore the importance of

confession even amongst the disciples when he said, “If

we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us

our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we

say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His

word is not in us” (1 John 1:9, 10).

It is mentioned in the Book of Acts that those, who

accepted the faith in Christ, had come to confess their

sins (Acts 19:18).

We wouldn’t enjoy the spiritual depth and the

declaration of God’s grace and mercies evidenced in

the Book of the Psalms if David the Prophet had not

exercised repentance and confession. For all night he

had filed his bed and couch with his tears of repentance,

confessing before the Lord. Finally, His prophet, Nathan,

told him: “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall

not die” (2 Samuel 12:13). Nathan said this through a

divine authority, as no creation has the right to say these

words unless given the right by God Himself.

David also confessed his sins publicly through the

Psalms of repentance, which became an integral part of

our prayers, and through which all believers exercise the  sacrament of repentance and confession, realizing the

rich outpouring of God’s gifts. The trespasser used to offer

certain burnt offerings before the priest in the presence

of God to confess his sins. The believers exercised

confession even in the days of John the Baptist, for it was

said, “They were all baptized of him in the Jordan River,

confessing their sins” (Mark 1:5).

The wise Solomon inherited his father’s experience,

who said, “When I kept silence, my bones grew old.

Through my groaning all the day long” (Psalm 32:3),

and thus said, “He who covers his sins will not prosper”

(Proverbs 28:13).

During the spiritual revolution led by Nehemiah,

repentance was joined with confession, as it was said that

they “stood and confessed their sins” (Nehemiah 9:2).


  1. I confess certain sins, but I do them again. What

should I do?

Many times we are inspired to make well intentioned

promises during our confessions, but we fail to adhere to

our commitment. This shortfall is often due to the fact

that we overlook the sacrament of repentance. It is not

the mere promises of not returning to our sins that will

distance us from them, but rather a decision to change

course – where the Spirit of God will guide you toward

the Father so that you could turn your back on the world

and its lusts. You would then focus your attention on God instead of the world. He would become your priority

above everything else. Who can change my course but

the Spirit of the Lord Himself?!

Don’t be afraid of falling, because with every time

you pick yourself up again, you will enjoy a new spiritual

growth and a new cycle for your struggle against sin.

However, beware of slowing down, and of not resisting the

causes of sin. When you fall and rise, give a thanksgiving

offering to God, who revealed your weakness to you.

  1. Is the will of God in what my father of confession


  1. a) If a humble spirit of prayer exists, then God will

speak through him.

  1. b) Discuss matters with your father of confession,

for God asks you to have a dialogue with him. Don’t be

embarrassed of being completely honest with him if you

didn’t like his opinion. You should converse with him

with a strong spirit, with kindness and love.

  1. c) Your father of confession does not have the right

to give you advice that opposes biblical commandments,

for God dwells above all; thus, obey him in the Lord!

  1. I committed some mistakes during my youth. I

repented, and confessed them; but my conscience is still

not cleared!

  1. a) You must trust that God, your Savior, is the Forgiver

of sin. Indeed, we should always put our weaknesses

before us so that we won’t have undeserved pride; but  we should not try to remember and be weighed down by

the details of the sin. Never doubt the power of Christ’s

blood and the work of the Holy Spirit.

  1. b) You need to thank and praise God for forgiving

your sins, for the spirit of praise takes away any feeling of

distress or doubt in His forgiveness. Repentance is not

complete without giving thanks to God, our personal


  1. I don’t have a true desire to repent; should I wait

until I repent then confess?

Go see your father of confession and talk with him

openly. He will guide you and show you how to start

your repentance. Sometimes the enemy makes you

doubt your repentance to destroy you with despair.

Don’t ever despair, but shout out with the earnest son,

“I will arise and go to my father” (Luke 15:18). Cry out

to your Heavenly Father from the bottom of your heart.

Also, consider the desperation and determination of the

sinful woman:

Simon, the Pharisee, could not stand to see the sinful

woman touch Christ, the Lord, and said, “This Man, if he

were a prophet, would know who and what manner of

woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner”

(Luke 7:39). But it was the very first time for this woman

to find someone to understand her tears, to defend her,

and to grant her the most precious desire of her heart,

“Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48). But, those who sat

with Him could not comprehend this Divine love, and  they began to say amongst themselves, “Who is this who

even forgives sins?!”

  1. I committed a certain sin and I am too ashamed

to confess it to my father of confession; can I confess this

sin to another priest that doesn’t know me?

  1. a) It is better for you to experience the spirit of

contrition, and to feel that this is an opportunity to speak

frankly about your weakness, which God covers with His


  1. b) Don’t be ashamed to talk to your father of

confession, for his nature is no different than yours. He,

himself, knows that he could fall under a sin that he has

never committed before, thus he will be gentle on you.

David, the prophet and king, fell under a series of sins

– each paving the way to another. But when he repented

of them, he wasn’t ashamed to confess them even in his

Psalms, which are read by all people and through which

we praise God.

  1. c) Keep Judgment Day in mind. Choose to be

exposed now so that God will cover up for you then.

Your continuous and patient prayers will support you!

  1. d) Despite all this, if you are still unable to go to

your father of confession, then go to another priest. He

will support you and lift you up by the Spirit of God, so

you would be strengthened to return to your father of

confession. Then, you will find spiritual rest when talking

openly with him.

  1. Can a priest talk about confessions he has heard

with other priests?

No, under no circumstance is the father of confession

allowed to talk about confessions to any man – no matter

who he is, or what his priesthood rank should be – even

if it was in the confessor’s interest; unless the confessor,

himself, allows him to.

  1. I usually forget certain sins; should I write them

down so I can recall them during my confession?

I believe that this would, to a great extent, cause the

confession to lose its spirituality. Confession is about

confessing one’s weaknesses and wrongdoings with a

heart full of love for God, and not a mere retelling of a

certain sin. Thus, if you unintentionally forgot a certain

sin, don’t be troubled; for God’s mercies are massive.

With all your heart confess that there might have been

other sins you have forgotten. But also keep in mind that

forgetting is sometimes an indication of carelessness

towards the true repentance.

  1. I don’t know what to say during my confession.
  2. a) Care to pray first, so that the Spirit of God would

work through you and guide you.

  1. b) Ask your father of confession to help you in your

confession, for he is a spiritual healer, who should help

the sick person to discover his illness with the Holy Spirit

of God that reproves man over his sins.

  1. How can I choose a father of confession?

The Church does not appoint you to a specific father

of confession; rather every believer is completely free  to choose the priest that he feels comfortable with – no

matter where he is. When choosing a priest however,

keep in mind that he will be your father, your leader,

and your spiritual healer; thus, the Early Fathers advise

you not to rush this decision. Wait for the help of Jesus

Christ, and you will find the priest that is able to support

you. Pray for this.

  1. Why do I need the support of a priest?

Priests are the servants of the people, and are longing

to make themselves servants unto all; that they might

gain the more (1 Corinthians 9:19).

All priests also exercise confession themselves, for the

Church is not infallible; even the Pope and the bishops

exercise confession. To whom do they confess? Well, to

their fathers of confession, who might be elderly priests

(even those residing in the wilderness); for confession

does not mean that the confessor is in a lower rank than

his father of confession!

The main purpose of the Church is the salvation of

every soul through the spirit of repentance in humility

and contrition, through a spirit that is full of trust in

God’s free grace; that then truly realizes the fatherhood

of the Father, the power of the Blood of Christ, and the

working of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers.