Table of Contents:
HELPFUL GUIDELINES FOR CONFESSION
WHEN SHOULD I GO TO CONFESSION?
Criteria for Judging Sin and Transgression
REVIEWING THE VIRTUES, GIFTS AND FRUITS
REVIEWING SINS AND VICES
REVIEWING GOOD DEEDS
REVIEWING THE PRECEPTS OF THE CHURCH
A SAMPLING OF CHURCH FATHERS REGARDING CONFESSION TO A PRIEST
SOME PRAYERS OF PREPARATION AND THANKSGIVING
A PREPARATION FOR HOLY CONFESSION BY SAINT JOHN OF KRONSTADT
THE EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE
HELPFUL GUIDELINES FOR CONFESSION
Before confession one should attempt to recall all the sins which one has committed voluntarily or involuntarily. One must attentively reexamine one’s life in order to recall not only those sins committed since the last confession, but also those which have not been confessed through forgetfulness or shame. Then, with compunction and a contrite heart, approach the Cross and the Gospel and begin the confession of your sins.
1. Confess your sins honestly, remembering that you open them not to a man, but to God Himself. God knows your sins already and only wants your admission of them. You should not be embarrassed before the priest for he is a person just as you are. He knows human shortcomings well, and a person’s tendency towards sin. Never feel embarrassed to confess before the priest. You will never lose his good opinion; on the contrary, your spiritual father will have all the more love for you when he sees your open, honest confession.
2. Be specific when you confess, listing all your sins separately. St. John Chrysostom says: “One must not only say: I have sinned, or I am sinful, but one must declare each type of sin.” “The revelation of sins,” says St. Basil the Great, “is subject to the same law as the declaration of physical ills…” The sinner is spiritually ill, and the spiritual father is the physician or healer. It stands to reason that one must confess or tell about one’s sins in the same way as one who is physically ill describes the symptoms of his illness to a physician from whom he expects to receive healing.
3. Do not mention anyone else during confession, i.e. do not complain about anyone or confess anyone else’s sins. When you fall into this trap you no longer are confessing your own sins, but are bordering on judgment of others.
4. Do not attempt to justify yourself in any way during confession: blaming weakness, custom, etc. The more one justifies himself during confession, the less one is justified by God. The more one honestly denounces, judges and accuses oneself, the more one is justified in the eyes of God.
5. When questioned by the priest, answer honestly and try your best to remember your sins. If the priest asks questions he is not trying to embarrass you, but is trying to help you come to a deeper sense of repentance and closeness to God.
6. Unless asked by your spiritual father, do not list the sins you have not committed or things you have not done. By doing this, we can become like the Pharisee of the Gospel.
7. You must confess with sorrow and a contrite heart the sins by which you have grieved our Lord God. And you must always confess with a sense of remorse and seriousness, never casually, or in laughter.
8. Confess your sins with faith in Jesus Christ, and with hope in His mercy. Only with faith in Jesus Christ and hope in Him can each of us receive forgiveness of our sins. Without faith, we cannot receive remission. An example of this is Judas—who was remorseful of what he did, but did not have faith in Jesus, nor hope in His mercy, and thus ended his own life.
9. Finally, it is important to say something about what is often called: ‘the seal of confession’. The Church of Christ binds the priest to reveal nothing of what is said in the context of your sacramental confession (even in a civil court of law!) So be at peace…
WHEN SHOULD I GO TO CONFESSION? (Taken from: The Divine Liturgy: An Anthology for Worship)
Distinguishing Sin and Transgression / Mortal and Venial
1. The Scriptures teach that there is a basic undercurrent of sin in everyone’s life, “for all have sinned, all have fallen short of the glory of God”
(Rom. 3:23). At the same time, it teaches that there are distinctions in sins.
2. In distinguishing among sins the Eastern Churches have employed the distinction: between sins and transgressions. A sin would be considered a misdeed committed deliberately and with knowledge. A transgression would be an action which may be wrong objectively, but is committed inadvertently or in ignorance. It is this distinction which is employed in many liturgical prayers. In the Divine Liturgy we pray, “have mercy on me and pardon my offences: the deliberate and the indeliberate, those committed in word and in deed, whether knowingly or unknowingly…” Thus to insult someone deliberately, or to maliciously destroy their property would be a sin; to hurt someone’s feelings unintentionally or to accidentally break a favorite item would be a transgression. The other person would still be hurt, but inadvertently. In either case the image of God in us has been scratched and disfigured, but sins committed in malice are clearly more serious to our spiritual condition than those committed from weakness or unconsciously.
3. Minimalism (i.e., doing the absolute least necessary) would be content with avoiding the more serious offence while ignoring the lesser: “It’s only a venial sin,” or, “I didn’t mean it so it’s just a transgression.” However, a person who is serious about deepening his relationship with God is concerned with anything which will affect that relationship or cause love to grow cold.
4. In distinguishing among sins the Western Church has favored the distinction of mortal and venial sins. To borrow an image from the Psalms, all sin is slipping down a slope. Slipping so far or falling so rapidly that our relationship with God is ruptured would be mortal sin. Venial sin would be a slower slipping or a separation not as distant. (Shown to be Holy, pp. 32-34)
Criteria for Judging Sin and Transgression
5. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says the following about mortal sin (sin) and venial sins (transgressions):
(1855) Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to Him. Venial sin allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it.
(1857) For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must be together in me: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is 1) grave matter and which is also committed with 2) full knowledge and 3) deliberate consent.”
(1858) Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: “Do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, honor your father and your mother.” The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.
(1859) Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.
In essence, then, a Christian should seek sacramental confession (the Mystery of Repentance) at least when he or she has sinned mortally. But this, of course, is a minimum.
(N.B. Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky – of blessed memory – taught that a ‘monthly’ sacramental confession is a good spiritual habit to cultivate.)
REVIEWING THE VIRTUES, GIFTS AND FRUITS
The following virtues should be reviewed as we prepare for Confession.
The Theological Virtues
1. Faith (belief and obedience to God);
2. Hope (trust and confidence in God’s mercy and power);
3. Love (sacrificial commitment, respect and self-giving).
The Cardinal Virtues
1. Prudence (good judgment and common sense);
2. Justice (fairness and the desire to do what is right and equitable);
3. Fortitude (the courage and strength to do God’s will);
4. Temperance (self-control in our thoughts, desires and actions).
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit (see Isaiah 11: 2-3)
1. Fear of the Lord (a deep awe and reverence for God);
2. Piety (prompts us to do all things with devotion and respect for God);
3. Fortitude (the courage and strength to do God’s holy will, even in the face of persecution);
4. Knowledge (the gift of learning divine truth);
5. Understanding (a better and deeper awareness of the divine truths we have learned);
6. Counsel (to see what is pleasing to God and to give good advice, first in relation to self, then to others);
7. Wisdom (guides us in seeing and living life according to the divine plan – this gift is especially evident when all the other gifts of the Holy Spirit are present and working in harmony).
The Fruits of the Holy Spirit (See Galatians 5: 22-23)
1. Charity (Love) 6. Goodness
2. Joy 7. Faithfulness
3. Peace 8. Gentleness
4. Patience 9. Self-control
REVIEWING SINS AND VICES
“If anyone could see his own vices accurately, without the veil of self-love, he would worry about nothing else in his life.” (Saint John Climacus, ‘The Ladder of Divine Ascent’)
The Eight Vices (or Passions) and Their Opposite Virtues
1. Gluttony (Temperance)
2. Lust (Chastity)
3. Greed (Generosity)
4. Dejection (Joy)
5. Anger (Gentleness)
6. Listlessness (Peace)
7. Vainglory (Modesty and Humility)
8. Pride (Humility)
Nine Ways That We Participate in Another’s Sin
1. By counsel
2. By command
3. By consent
4. By provocation
5. By praise or flattery
6. By concealment
7. By participation
8. By remaining silent
9. By defending the sin committed
REVIEWING GOOD DEEDS
The Three Companions
3. Almsgiving (works of mercy)
Spiritual Works of Mercy
1. To counsel the doubtful;
2. To instruct the ignorant;
3. To admonish the sinner;
4. To comfort the sorrowful;
5. To forgive injuries;
6. To bear wrongs patiently;
7. To pray for the living and the dead.
Corporal Works of Mercy (See Matthew 25: 31-46)
1. To feed the hungry;
2. To give drink to the thirsty;
3. To clothe the naked;
4. To shelter the homeless;
5. To visit the sick;
6. To visit the imprisoned;
7. To bury the dead.
REVIEWING THE PRECEPTS OF THE CHURCH
1. To worship God with the Church every Sunday, and on all holy days of obligation;
2. To confess one’s sins in the Holy Mystery of Repentance;
3. To receive Holy Communion at least once a year (a ‘minimum’ requirement) during the Easter season;
4. To keep holy the holy days of obligation;
5. To fast and practice abstinence on the days appointed by the Church; and to contribute to the support of the Church.
Liturgical Life of the Church
The following feasts and fasts are listed here to remind us of our obligation to gather with the Church and to foster means of spiritual growth and conversion. (N.B. Old Calendar dates are in brackets)
Easter – Pascha
The Resurrection of our Lord, Holy Pascha (“Passover”), is the greatest feast of the Church. It is the center of the liturgical year.
The Twelve Great Feasts
There are eight great feasts in honor of our Lord and four great feasts in honor of His Mother. Together, they are called “The Twelve Great Feasts.” The immovable cycle of the liturgical year begins September 1 (14).
September 8 (21) – The Nativity of the Mother of God
September 14 (27) – The Universal Exaltation of the Precious
and Life-creating Cross
November 21 (December 4) – The Entrance of the Mother of God
into the Temple
December 25 (January 7) – Christmas (The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ) January 6 (19) – Theophany (The Baptism of Our Lord in the River Jordan and the Manifestation of the Trinity)
February 2 (15) – The Encounter of the Lord in the Temple
March 25 (April 7) – The Annunciation to Mary the Theotokos
Palm Sunday – (The Sunday before Easter)
The Ascension of the Lord – (Forty days after Easter)
Pentecost -The Descent of the Holy Spirit – (Fifty days after Easter)
August 6 (19) – The Transfiguration of Our Lord
August 15 (28) – The Dormition (Falling Asleep) of the Mother of God
Holy Days of Obligation
While the tradition of the Eastern Churches stresses the importance of the Twelve Great Feasts, the following are those holy days that constitute a kind of ‘minimum’ for Eastern Catholics. Canon 880:3 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Catholic Churches states:
Holy days of obligation common to all the Eastern Churches,
beyond Easter and Sundays, are:
1) The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ (Christmas),
December 25 (January 7);
2) The Epiphany (Theophany), January 6 (19);
3) The Ascension, forty days after Pascha;
4) The Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God, August 15 (28);
5) The Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, June 29 (July 12)
Prescriptions for Fasting
According to the decisions of the Episcopal Synods of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church, the ‘minimal’ prescriptions regarding fasting are the following:
(N.B. the ‘traditional’ fasting discipline of our Church – which is encouraged as an ideal to strive toward, is given italicized and in brackets)
1) To abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year except when…
(NB. ‘traditionally’ all Wednesdays and Fridaysare meat and dairy free days of fast)
a) a feast of the Lord or the Mother of God falls on a Friday, or (NB.‘traditionally’ even should the Lord or our Lady’s Feast fall on a Friday they still remain meatless and dairy free days –albeit fish is allowed)
b) during the so-called ‘zahalnytsi’, that is, special periods when we do not fast. These periods are:
i) The period from Christmas to Theophany
ii) From the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee to the Sunday of the Prodigal Son
iii) From Pascha (Easter Sunday) to Thomas Sunday (Bright Week)
iv) From Pentecost to the following Sunday of All Saints.
2) To abstain from meat and dairy products on the first day of Lent and on Good Friday (NB. ‘traditionally’ all days of the Great Fast and Holy Week – including Saturdays and Sundays – exclude meat and diary products; the first week of the Great Fast and Holy Week are strictly observed)
3) To abstain from meat products (dairy products may be consumed)
– according to local customs – on the following days:(N.B. ‘traditionally’ dairy products are not consumed on these days)
i) The eves of Christmas, December 24 (January 6) and Theophany, January 5 (18)
ii) Universal Exaltation of the Precious and Life-creating Cross, September 14 (27)
iii) Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, August 29 (September 11).
Additional Notes Regarding Traditional Fast Periods
While the prescriptions for fasting listed above constitute a kind of ‘minimum’ requirement for Ukrainian Greco-Catholics, all Eastern Christians are encouraged to observe – to the best of their abilities – the following traditional periods of fasting.
Lent – The Great Fast
Lent begins forty days before Palm Sunday, on the Monday after Forgiveness Sunday (Cheese-Fare Sunday), and lasts until the Friday preceding Palm Sunday.
(NB. ‘traditionally’ meat is excluded the Monday of Cheese-Fare Week, which is one week before Forgiveness (Cheese-Fare) Sunday; the ‘traditional’ fast – which also includes Saturdays and Sundays – excludes meat and diary products throughout the whole Great Fast)
Holy Week is a special Fast in honor of our Lord’s Passion; it lasts from the evening of Palm Sunday until Holy Saturday inclusive.
(NB. the ‘traditional’ fast excludes meat and diary products throughout the whole of Holy Week, with Great Friday and Great Saturday being the strictest fasting days of the entire liturgical year)
The Fast of the Holy Apostles
The Fast of the Holy Apostles begins on the Monday after All Saints Sunday (the Sunday after Pentecost) and lasts until June 29 (July 12), the Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. This Fast varies in length depending on the date of Easter.
(N.B. ‘traditionally’ this Fast is also meat and dairy free with Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays being the days of the week calling for greater strictness during this fast, the other days allowing fish)
The Dormition Fast
The Fast which precedes the feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God begins on August 1 (14) and lasts until August 15 (28), the feast of the Dormition. (N.B. ‘traditionally’ this Fast is also meat and dairy free with only Saturdays and Sundays – and the Transfiguration Feast – as relaxed days when fish is allowed)
The Christmas Fast – St Philip’s Fast
The Fast before Christmas begins November 15 (28) and lasts until the eve of the Feast of the Nativity, December 24 (January 6). (N.B. ‘traditionally’ this Fast is also meat and dairy free with Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays being the days of the week calling for greater strictness during this fast, the other days allowing fish)
A SAMPLING OF CHURCH FATHERS
REGARDING CONFESSION TO A PRIEST
St. John Chrysostom, On the Gospel of John, Homily 86, 4 (391AD):
Let us then do all we can to have the Holy Spirit with ourselves, and let us treat with much honor those into whose hands its operation has been committed. For great is the dignity of the priests. “Whosoever sins,” it says, “you remit, they are remitted to them”; wherefore also Paul says, “Obey those that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves.” (Heb. 13:17.) And hold them very exceedingly in honor; for you indeed care about your own affairs, and if you order them well, you need not give account for others, but the priest even if he rightly order his own life, if he has not an anxious care for yours, yes and that of all those around him, will depart with the wicked into hell.
St. Jerome, Commentary on Matthew, [3:16,19], (398 AD):
Just as in the Old Testament the priest makes the leper clean or unclean, so in the New Testament the bishop and presbyter binds or looses not those who are innocent or guilty, but by reason of their office, when they have heard various kinds of sins, they know who is to be bound and who loosed.
St. Basil the Great, Rules Briefly Treated, 288 (379 AD):
It is necessary to confess our sins to those to whom the dispensation of God’s mysteries is entrusted. Those doing penance of old are found to have done it before the saints. It is written in the Gospel that they confessed their sins to John the Baptist (Mk. 1:6); but in Acts they confessed to the Apostles (Acts 19:18), by whom also all were baptized.
St. John Chrysostom, On the Priesthood, Book 3, 5 (386 AD):
For indeed what is it but all manner of heavenly authority which He has given them when He says, “Whose sins you remit they are remitted, and whose sins you retain they are retained?” What authority could be greater than this?” “The Father has committed all judgment to the Son?” But I see it all put into the hands of these men by the Son. For they have been conducted to this dignity as if they were already translated to Heaven, and had transcended human nature, and were released from the passions to which we are liable. Moreover, if a king should bestow this honor upon any of his subjects, authorizing him to cast into prison whom he pleased and to release them again, he becomes an object of envy and respect to all men; but he who has received from God an authority as much greater as heaven is more precious than earth, and souls more precious than bodies, seems to some to have received so small an honor that they are actually able to imagine that one of those who have been entrusted with these things will despise the gift.
St. Augustine, On the Gospel of John, Tractate XXII, 7, (416 AD):
For you were lying dead in your heart as in a tomb, and pressed down by the weight of evil habit as by a stone. Rise, and go forth. What is Rise, and go forth? Believe and confess. For he that has believed has risen; he that confesses is gone forth. Why said we that he who confesses is gone forth? Because he was hid before confessing; but when he does confess, he goes forth from darkness to light. And after he has confessed, what is said to the servants? What was said beside the corpse of Lazarus? “Loose him, and let him go.” How? As it was said to His servants the apostles, “What things you shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.”
St. Hilary of Poitiers, Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew [on Matthew 18:18] [4,22], (353-355 AD):
The power of binding and loosing given to the Apostles; – In our present condition we are all subdued by the terror of that greatest dread. And now, out in front of that terror, He sets the irrevocable apostolic judgment, however severe, so that those whom they shall bind on earth, that is, whomsoever they leave bound in the knots of their sins; and those whom they loose, which is to say, those who by their confession receive grace unto salvation: – these in accord with the apostolic sentence, are bound or loosed also in heaven.
SOME PRAYERS OF PREPARATION AND THANKSGIVING
from a monk of the Eastern Church…
Lord Jesus Christ, my Saviour and my God, You Who know the dark depths of my sinful and rebellious heart and yet still earnestly desire my salvation. Through the prayers of Your All-Pure Mother, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, by the power of the precious and life-creating Cross, the protection of the honorable, heavenly incorporeal powers and all the saints, grant unto me the grace of a good confession. Remove the guilt of my sins, heal my soul and refresh me with Your salvific blessing that renews Your baptismal life within me. For You are the One Who both knows us best and loves us most, and we give glory to You, and to Your beginningless Father, and to Your All-Holy Good and Life-creating Spirit, now and ever and for ages of ages. Amen.
from the Prayer after the Canon of Repentance…
O Master Christ God, Who has healed my passions through Your Passion, and has cured my wounds through Your wounds: Grant me, who has sinned greatly against You, tears of compunction. Transform my body with the fragrance of Your life-creating Body, and sweeten my soul with Your precious Blood for the bitterness with which the foe has fed me. Lift up my downcast mind to You, and take it out of the abyss of perdition, for I have no repentance, I have no compunction, I have no consoling tears which uplift children to their heritage. My mind has been darkened through earthly passions, I cannot look up to You in pain, I cannot warm myself with tears of love for You. But, O Master Lord Jesus Christ, Treasury of good things, give me thorough repentance and a diligent heart to seek You; grant me Your grace, and renew in me the likeness of Your divine image. I have forsaken You – do not forsake me! Come out to seek me; lead me up to Your pasture and number me among the sheep of Your chosen flock. Nourish me with them on the grass of Your Holy Mysteries, through the intercessions of Your most pure Mother and all Your saints. Amen.
Glory to You O Lord, my Creator and Savior, for You have not allowed me to flounder in the abyss of my sins but raised me up like drowning Peter and establish me upon the rock of repentance. I glorify and magnify Your compassion, O Savior, for You have not forsaken me while I was perishing in my iniquities but permitted me, a sinner, to repent and confess my sins to You, O Lord, and to disclose the mortal wounds of my soul to the spiritual physician ordained by You. I believe O God that my sins are forgiven for You came not to save the righteous but to call sinners to repentance, and return those who are lost to the Truth. You bestowed every good thing upon those who call upon You and You opened to me the doors of compassion and mercy for You are a God of mercy and love. To You we ascribe glory, to the Father, Son, Holy Spirit: now and ever, and to ages of ages. Amen.
O sovereign Master, Who loves mankind, lead me in Your way, that I may walk in Your truth. Make glad my heart, that I may fear Your holy Name. O Lord, mighty in mercy and gracious in strength, aid, comfort and save me, as I put my trust in Your holy Name. Rebuke me not, O Lord, in your displeasure, neither punish me in your wrath, but show unto me Your great mercy and compassion, O physician and healer of my soul, O merciful Savior, blot out all my transgressions, for I am heartily sorry for having offended You. Grant me Your grace that I may avoid my previous evil ways. Strengthen me, O mighty One, to withstand those temptations before which I am weak, that I may avoid all future sin. Keep me under Your protection and in the shadow of Your wings, that I may serve You, praise You, and glorify You all the days of my life. Amen.
A PREPARATION FOR HOLY CONFESSION
SAINT JOHN OF KRONSTADT
I, a sinful soul, confess to our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ, all of my evil acts which I have done, said or thought from baptism even unto this present day.
I have not kept the vows of my baptism, but have made myself unwanted before the face of God.
I have sinned before the Lord by lack of faith and by doubts concerning the Orthodox-Catholic Faith and the Holy Church; by ungratefulness for all of God’s great and unceasing gifts; His long-suffering and His providence for me, a sinner, by lack of love for the Lord, as well as fear, through not fulfilling the Holy Commandments of God and the canons and rules of the Church.
I have not preserved a love for God and for my neighbor nor have I made enough efforts, because of laziness and lack of care, to learn the Commandments of God and the precepts of the holy fathers.
I have sinned by not praying in the morning and in the evening and in the course of the day; by not attending the services or by coming to Church only half-heartedly,
lazily and carelessly; by conversing during the services, by not paying attention, letting my mind wander and by departure from the church before the dismissal and blessing.
I have sinned by judging members of the clergy.
I have sinned by not respecting the Feasts, breaking the Fasts, and by immoderation in food and drink.
I have sinned by unbelief, lack of faith, doubts, despair, despondency, abusive thoughts, blasphemy and swearing.
I have sinned by self-importance, disobedience, willfulness, self-righteousness, and the seeking of approval and praise.
I have sinned by pride, a high opinion of myself, narcissism, vanity, conceit, envy, love of praise, love of honors, and by putting on airs.
I have sinned by judging, malicious gossip, anger, remembering of an offence done to me, hatred and returning evil for evil; by slander, reproaches, lies, slyness, deception and hypocrisy; by prejudices, arguments, stubbornness, and an unwillingness to give way to my neighbor; by gloating, spitefulness, taunting, insults and mocking; by gossip, by speaking too much and by empty speech.
I have sinned by unnecessary and excessive laughter, by reviling and dwelling upon my previous sins, by arrogant behavior, insolence and lack of respect.
I have sinned by not keeping my physical and spiritual passions in check, by my enjoyment of impure thoughts, licentiousness and unchaste thoughts, words and deeds.
I have sinned by miserliness, a love of money, the acquisition of unnecessary things and immoderate attachment to things.
I have sinned by self-justification, a disregard for the admonitions of my conscience and failing to confess my sins through negligence or false pride.
I have sinned by hardening my heart, having a weak will and by not forcing myself to do good.
I have sinned many times by my confession: belittling, justifying and keeping silent about sins.
I have sinned against the Most-holy and Life-creating Mysteries of the Body and Blood of our Lord by coming to Holy Communion without humility or the fear of God.
I have sinned in word, deed and thought, knowingly and unknowingly, willingly and unwillingly, thoughtfully and thoughtlessly and it is impossible to enumerate all of my sins because of their multitude.
But I truly repent of these and all others not mentioned by me because of my forgetfulness and I ask that they be forgiven through the abundance of the Mercy of God.
THE END AND GLORY TO GOD!
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn. 1:8-9)
THE EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE
The presiding Priest now leads the Faithful in
a thorough examination of conscience…
Pr: Brothers and sisters (sincerely reflect in your hearts) do you believe that which has been transmitted by the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, which was planted and nurtured in the East, and which has spread from the East into all the universe and which abides even to this day undivided and unchanged?
Do you doubt any of its teachings and traditions?
After a moment of silent reflection we continue with…
THE NICENE-CONSTANTINOPOLITAN CREED,
Recited alternatively between Clergy and Faithful…
I believe in one God, / the Father almighty, /
Maker of heaven and earth, / of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, / the Only Begotten Son of God, /
born of the Father before all ages.
Light from Light, / true God from true God, / begotten, not made, / consubstantial with the Father; / through HHHHim all things were made.
or us men and for our salvation / He came down from heaven, /
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, /
and became man.
For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate, /
He suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. /
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead /
and His kingdom will have no end.
And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life, /
Who proceeds from the Father,
Who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, /
Who has spoken through the prophets.
And one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
The presiding Priest may now slowly read the following
Examination of Conscience below based on the Ten Commandments and their Christian implications,
and, following that, reflections on the Beatitudes of Christ…
A Note on the Examination of Conscience
“When the conscience is weakened the sense of God is also obscured, and as a result, with the loss of this decisive inner point of reference, the sense of sin is lost. This explains why my Predecessor Pius XII one day declared,
in words that have almost become proverbial, that
‘the sin of the century is the loss of the sense of sin.’”
(Blessed John Paul II, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, #18)
While no Examination of Conscience can be completely exhaustive,
what is presented here should be helpful toward gaining
some self-knowledge and sense of our sins.
Penitents may later refer to this Examination of Conscience or the Appendix of this booklet for further Church teaching regarding the nature of sin (mortal sin) and transgressions (venial sin),
other helpful instructions to examine one’s life in Christ, and preparation prayers before and thanksgiving prayers after Confession.
The nature of sin is always a ‘violation of the law of God’, but even more profoundly it is a real wounding, a disorder, a deformity,
a disfigurement of the image of God within us
(the Greek term for sin in the New Testament is most often ‘αμαρτια (hamartia) = ‘a missing of the mark’). Therefore, while an examination of conscience has a certain legal aspect to it as it convicts us of our specific trespasses against the ‘law of God’, it is even more a medicinal instrument designed for a true ‘spiritual scan’ or diagnosis of our sickness of soul. Having identified these sinful wounds,
illnesses and disfigurements through such an examination,
we can bring our sinful selves in the Sacramental Mystery
of Holy Repentance (Holy Confession) not only to the All-knowing and Righteous Judge but to Him Who is the Great Physician,
the Healer of our souls.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
1. PUTTING GOD FIRST
I am the Lord your God; you shall not have other gods before me. (Deut. 5:7)
Have I denied or seriously doubted God’s existence?
Is God, my Creator and Savior, my first and ultimate concern or have I placed someone or something above Him; making idols out of my self-love, desires, power, work, pleasures, fame, fortune, family, friends, etc.?
Have I denied or doubted the teachings of the Church regarding the revelation of the Holy Trinity, the Divine Personhood of Christ, His Presence in the Sacraments, the Final Judgment, and other truths of the Holy Catholic Faith? (cf. the Nicean-Constantinopolitan Creed above)
Have I participated in false worship or occult practices (witchcraft, fortune tellers, séances, tea, wax or tarot card reading, ouija boards, etc.) or have I given my allegiance to superstitions, good luck charms, horoscopes, and other false teachings like reincarnation?
Did I participate in or support organizations opposed to the Catholic Faith and its Moral teaching?
Have I been a ‘cafeteria catholic’: following the Church teachings I like but rejecting those that don’t agree with my personal opinions?
Do I sincerely seek God daily in personal prayer: in the morning, evening, before meals, and in the course of the day?
Have I seriously tried to inform and mature my personal faith through spiritual exercises of prayer, fasting, prostrations, visiting holy places, seeking spiritual counsel, reading Holy Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and our Eastern Church’s catechism, the Church Fathers and Mothers, and other faithful Catholic spiritual writers?
Have I denied that I was a Christian out of desire for human respect?
Have I committed sacrilege – profaning a sacred person, place or thing?
Have I been a ‘Eucharistic’ Christian, grateful to God as the Source of my life, my family and all my many blessings, material and spiritual?
2. RESPECT FOR GOD
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. (Deut. 5:11)
Did I make use of God’s Name, or the names of the Mother of God and the saints in vain, that is with mockery, in jokes, in anger or in any other irreverent manner?
Have I murmured against or cursed God?
Have I broken any solemn promise, oath, or vow that was made to or before God?
Have I cursed, used foul language or wished evil on another?
Did I discredit the name ‘Christian’ by my actions?
In Confession, have I told a lie or deliberately withheld confessing a serious sin out of fear or embarrassment?
Have I ever sinned presuming that God would forgive me afterwards?
Have I ever received Holy Communion in a state of serious sin?
Have I ever despaired of God’s inexhaustible love and mercy for me?
3. RESPECT FOR THE LORD’S DAY
Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day. (Deut. 5:12)
Have I worshipped God at the Divine Liturgy every Sunday and on the obligated Feast Days of the Church calendar? (cf. the section on Holy Days of Obligation in the Appendix)
Did I come late for the Divine Services or leave before the dismissal without good reason?
Did I prepare myself before the Divine Services (prayer, fasting, spiritual reading, etc.) and seek to be devoutly attentive during them?
Have I distracted others at the Divine Services by my dress or actions?
Have I given bad example to my spouse, children and neighbors by allowing social events, visitors, my childrens’ or grandchildrens’ activities (sports, dance, etc.) to take precedence over Sunday worship and my responsibilities to my parish community?
When traveling or on holidays have I made effort to attend the Divine Services?
Have I kept the Fasts of the Church to the best of my ability?
(cf. the section on Prescriptions for Fasting in the Appendix)
Have I worked or shopped unnecessarily on Sundays or Holy Days?
Do I make time for family and friends on Sundays and Feasts?
4. RESPECT FOR PARENTS AND AUTHORITY
Honour your father and mother. (Deut. 5:16)
Have I loved, respected, and taken real care of my parents or have I lacked affection, been neglectful or done ill toward them? Do I pray for them?
If my parents have failed me, have I held any resentment or unforgiveness towards them?
Have I loved and respected my spiritual leaders (bishop, priest) or have I resented or done ill toward them? Do I pray for them?
Have I taught my children the importance of the Catholic Faith by word and example – especially by the moral expectations in our home, fidelity to daily prayer and Sunday and Feast-day Divine Services?
Have I provoked my children to anger, given them bad example, been negligent in monitoring the influences in their lives (friends, books, internet, TV, movies) or failed to form them in the Catholic Faith?
Have I encouraged my children to seek the Lord above all things in life as regards their calling in the Church, whether that be marriage, or the monastery, or the single life, or in the ministerial clergy?
As a son or daughter do I listen to my parents, do my chores and joyfully help out my family at home?
Have I respected those in legitimate authority over me (civil authorities, superiors, teachers, employers, etc.) in word and deed?
Do I treat respectfully and justly those who are under my authority?
5. RESPECT FOR HUMAN LIFE
You shall not kill. (Deut. 5:17)
Have I desired or caused, directly or indirectly, the physical harm, injury or death of anyone?
Have I failed to come to the aid of one in danger of death or in serious need?
Have I respected and defended the dignity and sanctity of human life from conception to natural death?
Have I had or assisted or encouraged another to have an abortion or to use abortifacients (eg. ‘the Pill’, IUD, emergency ‘contraception’, etc.)?
Have I used any reproductive technologies (‘in vitro fertilization’, certain immoral fertility treatments, artificial insemination, surrogate motherhood, etc.) that the Church has discerned as gravely offensive to the dignity and inviolability of the unborn child and marital love?
Have I encouraged or assisted or agreed to the killing of sick or aged family members, friends, or those under my care by euthanasia or assisted suicide?
Have I maltreated my own health or the health of others by abuse of food, tobacco, drugs, alcohol, reckless driving, or any seriously negligent behaviour at home, at work, at recreation?
Have I held in my heart anger, hatred, resentment, racial/religious/political prejudice or unforgiveness toward anyone?
Have I despaired of life or God’s mercy and thought of committing suicide?
6 & 9. RESPECT FOR MARRIAGE
You shall not commit adultery. (Deut. 5:18)
You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife. (Deut. 5:21)
Have I been unfaithful to my marriage vows in actions or in impure thoughts and fantasies?
Am I properly married in the Catholic Church or am I merely ‘living together’ or in a common-law relationship?
Have I been married or remarried outside of the Catholic Church without the Bishop’s blessing?
In my marriage have I practiced any means of artificial contraception, been sterilized or rejected the blessing of children? Have I advised or encouraged others in the same contraceptive mentality?
Have I lusted after my spouse out of selfish pleasure?
Have I committed or encouraged others to commit impure sexual acts?
If I am unmarried, have I engaged in sexual activity with one of the opposite sex (fornication) or of the same sex (homosexual acts)?
Have I condoned grave error regarding the divine design of marriage by my public promotion or supporting presence at a polygamous ‘marriage’, homosexual ‘marriage’, or any other serious deviation?
Has my improper sexual relationship given cause for public scandal and bad example?
Have I sexually flirted with or harassed another?
Have I masturbated?
Have I sinned by welcoming impure imaginations, looks, words, conversations or jokes?
Have I indulged in websites, movies, magazines, books, nightclubs, sex stores, etc., seeking pornographic materials and sexual experiences?
Have I participated in producing pornographic material?
Have I sought to be modest in what I wear?
Am I jealous or envious of another’s spouse or family?
7 &10. RESPECT FOR PRIVATE PROPERTY
You shall not steal. (Deut. 5:19)
You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbour.
Is my life ordered excessively toward materialistic concerns and acquisitions?
Have I stolen, taken, or kept anything that was not mine and not given it back or given just restitution?
Have I cheated anyone or taken credit for work that was not my own?
Have I caused or encouraged others to steal or cheat?
Have I knowingly accepted stolen goods?
Have I tried to find the owners of lost things that I have found?
Have I willfully damaged or destroyed anything that belonged to another?
Have I treated the gift of God’s good earth and His creatures within it with willful disrespect, abuse, exploitation, cruelty, and destruction?
Have I defrauded anyone of rightful wages?
Have I paid my debts?
Have I wasted my or my family’s financial resources on gambling, vanities or spending beyond my means?
Have I worked honestly for my wages or have I cheated my employer?
Have I given generously of my time, talent and treasure to the support of the mission of the Church, the poor, my neighbour, and to charities that are in accord with the authentic promotion of human life and dignity?
Have I looked with envy, jealousy, resentment or hatred toward the possessions, talents or achievements of others?
8. RESPECT FOR TRUTH
You shall not bear false witness. (Deut. 5:20)
Have I lied, spoken evil of anyone, or spread false rumours?
Have I unjustly accused anyone?
Have I revealed information that was confidential without due cause?
Have I engaged in gossip, hearsay, idle chatter and backbiting?
Have I sinned by detraction, that is, have I used the truth with the intent of hurting the reputation of another?
Have I failed to stand up for the Faith and defend the truth when it was unpopular?
Have I borne false witness to others by my bad example or lack of morality?
Am I just in my dealings with others or am I “two-faced” and manipulative?
Am I quick to criticize, belittle and condemn others?
Do I withhold praise or compliments when they are due?
THE BEATITUDES (Mt. 5: 1-11)
These teachings of the Lord reflect for the Christian the ‘inspirations’ and ‘attitudes’ of those belonging to the Kingdom of God.
If the Ten Commandments are the foundational ‘rule’ of the Kingdom,
then the Beatitudes grant us a gaze into the very life of
the King Himself: the God-Man, Jesus Christ:
our King, Ruler, Model, and Measure.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Have I truly recognized my complete dependence on God?
Do I seek to be humble?
Have I been proud, arrogant, greedy, self-righteous and self-seeking?
Have I sought after status, recognition, power, material possessions and wealth?
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Do I deeply long for the fulfillment of the saving plan of God in my broken life, in that of my neighbor, my nation, the whole world?
Have I endured difficulties and afflictions with trust and patience?
Do I have compassion for the poor, the hungry, the sick, the lonely, those in prison, those suffering unjustly (the unborn, the refugee, the abandoned, etc.), and all the broken of the world?
Have I made effort to comfort those who are mourning a loss?
Have I been sorrowful for my sins and transgressions against God’s divine plan?
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Am I gentle with others?
Do I seek to dominate or intimidate others at home, school, work, church, or elsewhere?
Have I lost my temper?
Have I nursed hatred in my heart or the desire for revenge?
Have I been impatient, resentful, unforgiving or insulting and abusive?
Have I tried to love my enemies?
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.
Have I tried to cultivate a righteous and holy life through worship, prayer, fasting, almsgiving, frequent Confession, Holy Communion, the reading of Holy Scripture and faithful Christian spiritual works?
Have I taken a stand against injustice (by my voting; by my involvement in social action; by my support of various organizations that promote authentic social justice, etc.) or have I been apathetic to the sufferings of others?
Have I been lukewarm in my faith and its call to bear-witness in the world?
Do I receive correction from others well?
Have I been guilty of prejudice?
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Have I sought to be merciful to others as my heavenly Father is merciful to me?
Have I forgiven those who have hurt me?
Have I turned away from someone who needed my help?
Have I been cruel to any person or any of God’s creatures?
Have I been indifferent to the sufferings of others?
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Have I sought God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength?
Do I love purity and honesty?
Have I been dishonest in my speech or actions?
Do I give way to lust, impure thoughts, words and deeds?
Have I been hypocritical, pretentious, lacking in integrity, ‘two-faced’?
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Am I at peace with God?
Am I at peace with my neighbors?
Am I quick to forgive?
Do I bear to witness to the peace of Christ at home, school, work, in the Church and in my community?
Have I been angry, aggressive, argumentative, irritable or impatient?
Have I been a bearer of division, discord?
Is my criticism of the actions of others tempered with charity?
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Have I been afraid to witness to my faith in Jesus Christ and His holy Church?
Have I complained when persecuted in any way for my faith in Jesus Christ and His holy Church?
Have I sincerely prayed for my enemies?
Have I failed to defend someone or some truth for fear of humiliation, criticism, ridicule or persecution?
Have I hidden symbols of my Catholic Faith (the Crucifix or Icons, the wearing of a Cross, making the sign of the Cross, saying Grace in a restaurant, etc.) from the public eye out of fear of embarrassment?
Have I remembered and prayed for my brethren throughout the world who are persecuted, even to death, for the Catholic Faith we share?
Blessed are you when they revile you and persecute you on my account; rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.
Is the joy of Christ in my heart, even in trying moments?
Do I encourage others in good endeavours?
Do I give thanks to God in all circumstances?
Am I given over to cynicism, complaining, grumbling, pessimism, negative thoughts and words, despondency or despair?
Is my heart rejoicing in difficulties suffered for my faith in Christ knowing the reward that awaits those who persevere to the end?