Quote:'In the case of a grave sin, confession by private prayer should be supplemented by sacramental confession. In case of uncertainty as to what constitutes a grave sin, one should consult one's priest.'
'Introducing the Orthodox Church' (Coniaris) page 133
What constitutes a grave sin in the Orthodox Tradition? Is there a Bumper Book of Grave Sins which I can consult? I find this whole subject very difficult to understand and accept in my own experience. Am I bound to attend sacramental confession once a year, or be chucked out? Can I rely on private confession alone? Is this acceptable?
Quote:Matthew Chapter 5 verses 27 and 28:
27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery. 28 But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
One reason for ceasing to be a Roman Catholic was that I found sacramental confession a terrible ordeal. As I did not truly repent of a particular sin (and had no real intention of stopping doing it) then what was the point of lying to God and to the priest? It makes a mockery of the whole exercise if you do not really repent of something which the Church teaches is a grave sin. I tried to follow the letter and the spirit of what the RC Church teaches, and had to exclude myself from it because I felt that it excluded me first. If we are willing to be dishonest with God in something as serious as this, then where does our deceit end?
I am not suggesting for a moment that I shouldn't confess my sins to God whenever they occur, alone and in private. Of course that is the correct course of action. My difficulty is with sacramental confession per se.
The mental picture of Christ standing over me and waiting to drag me off to eternal hell-fire for one particular sin filled me with dread. It was as if our Lord was standing over me whispering: "Repent - or else!"
In the Russian rite of the Sacrament of Penance, the priest says:
Quote:But if you hide anything from me, you will have greater sin.
Coniaris - page 134
In my heart, I do not feel that God and Christ are like that at all. I feel that some denominations manipulate people through fear and guilt. This is unhealthy and damaging. Other allegedly Christian bodies are liberal to the point of apostasy and utter disgrace.
I am full of sin. My ego is intrinsically sinful. In some respects, the actual committing of a particular sin is the least significant aspect of the whole business. Surely it is the feeling of the attraction of sin - its "pull" - that is the most significant factor, whether one "acts out" the sin or not.
At the moment, the idea of being in the presence of someone of the holiness and genuine loving kindness of Reverend Father Michael (for example) and feeling obliged to list my sins fills me with dread. I simply don't think that I could do it. It would be absurd, grotesque and utterly, pointlessly demeaning. Only God forgives sins, and only He knows what they are. If I "confessed", where would the list end? It could never be enough to "satisfy" such a Holy God as understood in this paradigm of sacramental confession, however much I tried and however many tears I wept. Christian life is all about Grace and love, not Sin and fear, in my view.
In my experience, if you see Christ principally as Judge and Jailer, there is no end to the self-pity and concomitant self-torment you will inflict on yourself. How many serious, scrupulous Christians live lives of fear-filled self-abasement and end up despairing of the Mercy of God and committing suicide, like the sister of the Roman Catholic writer and Jesuit Gerard Hughes?
This understanding also implies that you are able to see your most serious faults and flaws. I believe that most sin is subconscious and unconscious. We are all sinners, and the nearer we come to Kindness Itself, surely the more we realise that we have never really repented. What's the point of useless self-torture?
Genuine, heart-felt repentance is one thing. The systematisation of sin and the manipulation of others through fear and guilt is another - however veiled the "Threat" may be, as in the Orthodox approach.
I want to come to a true faith in God and Christ, but I find this so hard to come to terms with in all sincerity. Please pray for me.