I spent several months discussing the importance of fasting and its relationship to remembering our Lord in our preparation to receive Communion. I now want to focus on another leg of the chair that constitutes the process of preparing to receive the Holy Eucharist on Sundays. Namely how does the sacrament of Confession help us to remember our Lord Jesus Christ? This will take several months for me to answer via the newsletter as I want to build on a solid foundation; I first need to talk about the importance and meaning of Baptism. Confession is nothing more than an extension of Baptism. We will never properly understand Confession if we don't understand Baptism as the Sacrament of Repentance.

What the Death and Resurrection of Christ Means to Me
Why I Believe in the Pascha of Our Lord

The mystery of Pascha has been, is, and will continue to be for me the awareness of a doorway into a reality of life that has no end; a new heavenly earth; a new creation.  Despite my struggles with pride and self-will; the baptismal mystery of dying to a human nature that has been corrupted by sin resulting in death, and being raised into a maturing new person, a real human being in Christ Jesus; tells me that all things are possible with God. Provided we strive to abide in the baptismal mystery of Pascha and seek its ongoing renewal in the Eucharistic life in the Church. When I am able to face those things lacking in me and continue the journey of repenting of them and turning to our Lord; I am convinced that our Lord Jesus does not abandon us. He continues His work to mold our life into one of love, peace, joy, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control; and most importantly to continually draw us closer to His Father; through Himself (as the only mediator between God and Man), in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is only through this communion that we become truly human.

In last month's newsletter, I mentioned that in the early church there was no sacrament of Confession as it is understood and practiced today. Holy Baptism was seen as the sacrament of repentance. By Baptism and Chrismation the one enslaved to sin and death was freed from this fallen reality and was empowered to live the Christian life.

When we think of Confession, most of us think that it involves revealing our sins we have committed, expressing regret, and receiving forgiveness or absolution from the Church. There is much truth to this. But when we approach Confession solely on the basis of this foundation, I can certainly understand why people are reluctant to come to Confession. Some might be too ashamed to come because of what one may have done, and fear condemnation or rejection from the person who hears the confession. Or we may just think we haven't done anything that bad that warrants confessing our sins. Could both of these attitudes be rooted in pride and arrogance? Nevertheless, I can see why some would be reluctant to partake of Confession if this how we primarily view it. I would like to suggest another way of looking at Confession that doesn't ignore confessing our sins, but puts it into a different context, one that is victorious, and positive.

In the last three months I have spent a lot of time discussing the sacrament of Confession and particularly the baptismal nature of it. Given that, I think it is time to speak some on preparing for Confession and then next month, how often one should go to Confession. When you prepare to go to Confession there should be two themes you have in mind in your preparation: 1) Your confession of the Faith, 2) Your confession of sin, or where you have fallen short and missed the mark.

This month, I would like to address how often one should go to Confession. This is not an easy issue to discuss because depending on which Orthodox Church you go to, and who your parish priest is, there are a wide variety of expectations on Confession. As I said in the introductory note to you last March, some bishops and priests equate going to Communion with going to Confession. So, if you want to receive Eucharist every week, you must go to Confession every week. Some will say Confession is important but leave it up to the person to choose. Thus you end up with scenarios where some will receive Communion throughout their life having never received the sacrament of Confession. Another practice that people observe is to only go to Communion and Confession once a year. Here in America, since the early 1960's, there has been an attempt to encourage more frequent participation in Holy Communion. This has been well received by the churches here. The only problem is that it doesn't address the question of whether there is a relationship between going to Communion and receiving Confession.