Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic Church

The Holy Mystery of Repentance (or Confession)

by Fr. Roman Bobesiuk

Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained (John 20:22-23)

449 The Holy Mystery of Repentance (or Confession) is a marvellous manifestation of God’s love and mercy towards us sinners. This is because the Lord does not reject us and does not turn away from us when we, having been washed of our sins in Baptism and endowed with divine grace, sin again through malice or weakness. Indeed, the Lord awaits our repentance. He forgives us if we repent and confess our sins (see Lk 15:12-32).

450 In the celebration of the Holy Mystery of Repentance, the Church actualizes the words of the Lord to the apostles: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” ( Jn 20:22-23). Every priest continues the apostolic ministry in the Mystery of Repentance when he absolves the faithful of their sins and reconciles them with the Church. The priest pronounces the prayer of absolution (the loosing from the bondage of sin) and every penitent thereby receives Christ’s forgiveness.

How Often Should You Go to Confession?

The church urges the faithful to take advantage of the Holy Mystery often. A good rule of thumb is to go once per month. (The Church strongly recommends that, in preparation for fulfilling our Easter Duty to receive Communion, we go to Confession even if we are aware of venial sin only.)
The Church especially urges the faithful to receive the Mystery of Confession frequently during Lent, to help them in their spiritual preparation for Easter.

455 Frequent Confession allows us to know not only our faults and offenses, but also our weaknesses and inclinations to sin. Through the grace of the Mystery of Repentance, the Christian overcomes sins and the tendency to sin. This grace also raises up the Christian after a fall, and strengthens him or her in the virtues. The fruits of repentance are good works,
almsgiving, purity of heart, and sacrificial love. The gift of the Mystery of Repentance is forgiveness from God and reconciliation with him:

“[Give] thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:12-14).

461 Frequent Confession makes a person spiritually sound, capable of resisting temptation; and it increases their vigour in the spiritual struggle. Appropriate occasions for Confession are the [four] fasts of the liturgical year, during which, according to Church custom, the whole family approaches the Holy Mystery of Confession.

What Is Required?

457 Preparation for Confession requires a prayerful examination of one’s conscience. This consists of aligning our life with the divine commandments, the Church’s precepts, and the Gospel Beatitudes. Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky teaches:

A good Confession requires, perhaps, a lengthier preparation.
Before holy Confession we should beseech God in prayer for the gift of repentance, the gift of heartfelt tears. Maybe there is even a need to fast, since you know what Jesus Christ said: “This kind can come out only through prayer and fasting” [see Mk 9:29]. There are sins that cannot be expelled from the soul without fasting, without prayer.

An important condition of Confession is sincere repentance, the desire to change one’s life. This means having contrition, or sorrow for sins, and a resolution to make amends. Sincere repentance is first of all realizing that one is a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness, and seeing that one’s sins have caused a turning away from God and rejection of his love. An important requisite of Confession is also reconciliation with one’s neighbor: “When you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift” (Mt 5:23-24).

The Significance of Confession in the Spiritual Life

460 In the Holy Mystery of Repentance, God grants the Christian growth in the grace of Baptism and the virtues. The closer we come to God, we see our own weaknesses and sinfulness more clearly and thus feel the need for more frequent Confession. According to the spiritual Fathers, if a person confesses rarely, he or she gradually loses the capacity to distinguish between good and evil, which has negative consequences for his or her whole life.

Before every Divine Liturgy or by appointment.

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