Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | February 5, 2010

Met. Anthony on What to Bring to Confession

Y’know that first life confession… the one before Chrismation? That was easy. Well… no actually it wasn’t… but it was easy to do from the perspective of not having any preconceptions. You just did it. And it was earth shattering to confess all those sins all at once.

Nothing since has been quite like it. And frankly, I’m not sure whether that’s good or bad. I suppose tears in a life confession are the norm, but I’m far less certain about them in your average every-day “didn’t kill nobody”… “didn’t even think of killin’ nobody” confession. So maybe I’m not missing something… though I feel as if I have. The difference could be the sense that now there is an orderly process, a place for everything and everything in its place… or that I just haven’t gone out and done enough spare time sinnin’ and whuppin’ it up to “make it real”.

I am after all one of those middle class suburban conformist bums we’re told are ruining so many Orthodox Churches. No… I’m not living the fantasy… I am SOOOOO not living the fantasy of being your authentic Orthodox animal… that I know I”m on someone’s endangered list. No, not THAT endangered list… I mean the list certain people keep of those they want to see extinctified… if there is such a thing.

“When a child comes to Confession, usually he brings either on paper or by memory a long list, or a short list of sins. And when he has finished I always say, ‘Are these things which break your heart? Are these things which you feel are wrong in you? Did you invent for yourself this confession?’ And most of the time the answer is, ‘No, my mother gave me this list because that makes her cross!’ After that I usually have a conversation with the mother. But as far as the child is concerned, it has nothing to do with him, it is not his confession. It is the judgment which the parents have established, accusations against him. And the same could be asked about grown-up people who come with list of sins which they have found in manuals, or been told to consider by their spiritual fathers. And the answer is always the same: it is not my confession, yet it is a challenge which I was given.”

Busted. Yep. Read those books, too. Find long lists of things: “Why I do that. I do that. Yep, that one, too. Oh.. and I”ll take two of those, and three of the one on the left… yeah. That ought to do it for this week. Goes down, real good. Bad… but not like “goin’ to jail bad”. Yeah.. that’s safe enough.” Yeah. Done one of those confessions.

Oh… and the other… the one where we confess the things we’ve done or left undone like staying late at the office (honest) or not getting all the work at the office done, or not letting the kids speak their peace, their piece or just unload on the old man… hmmmm. I mean we can summarize in generic terms, too… like “sloth”… I mean that’s a good one. It’s not lust… though there is that. And it’s not murder. Another safe one. And of course there’s the catch-all: Pride. I mean that’s always a good any time teller. But no… that’s not really feeling all that authentic either, is it?

“What do you know of Christ? Does He attract you? Do you like Him? Does he mean anything to you?….Ask yourself… with regard to Christ… in what way have you tried in the past week to give some joy to the Lord Jesus Christ, or in what way have you been for Him a cause of pain. ‘I have loved him to the point of giving My life and My death to him and he does not care at all… Not for My suffering or My death… but for Me’. If that is the conclusion, begin to re-examine all your status as a Christian. If you can say, ‘yes, I choose Him as a friend,’ begin to ask yourself every day, every day: what have I done, said, thought, felt, been, which can be to Him a joy or a pain?

And when you will come to Confession that is what you must bring to Confession; between the last Confession and today’s Confession this is what I have been: an unfaithful friend, and indifferent friend, a cowardly friend, or on the contrary, no, I have chosen Him for my friend and I stood by Him…”

“…we should not have recourse to lists of sins, we should not search even the Holy Scriptures for the sins we might have committed; but we should ask ourselves a question: in what have I personally sinned before God, in what have I personally revealed myself unfaithful? …What have I preferred to Christ?… what am I constantly, invariably? To do this we can take and read the Holy Gospel and mark in it not the passages that accuse us, but things about which we can say as the disciples said, going with Christ to Emmaeus: didn’t our hearts burn within us when He was talking to us on the road?”

“So when we prepare for Confession, let us ask ourselves a question: here is the encounter with our closest friend, the beloved one, with the One with Whom we want to be at one, inseparable, forever, completely in our depths. And we have transgressed this friendship of ours where it already existed as is witnessed by our heart, our memory, our mind, when we remember those passages that made our heart burn, our mind become clear, our will move towards good, our body grow quiet, forgetful that it is flesh and become body, a sacred thing, sacred because through Baptism it has united with the humanity of Christ, through Chrismation it has become a vessel of the Holy Spirit, through our Communion it has become the Body of Christ, however incipiently.

“That is what we should bring to Confession. May God give us to come that way, and then we will be able to repent, we will be able to regret not that there is in some list a sin that we have touched in passing, but that something has been broken in my friendship, in my unity with Christ, my Saviour, Friend, Beloved. Amen.”
Excerpted from Metropolitan Anthony Bloom’s five sermons on Confession beginning here.


  1. Sigh. “Did this break your heart?” My confessions would be very short and very few if that is the criteria.

  2. “we will be able to regret not that there is in some list a sin that we have touched in passing, but that something has been broken in my friendship, in my unity with Christ, my Saviour, Friend, Beloved.”

    Very helpful. Thanks Skip.

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