Friday, December 20, 2013



Part Three of a Series

   Christ our Head, proclaimed  that  the embryonic Orthodox Church must “go forth and preach the Gospel to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father Son and the Holy Spirit”, that is by three immersions and emersions.  All who enter the Church through the door of baptism rid themselves of all sins in the grace-filled waters, but most of the time, converts are cheated by not being baptized at all.  Baptism is done in the name of the three persons of the Holy Trinity, and in Orthodox Baptism we effectively die into a death like His, and we  certainly rise into a resurrection like His. Both the smallest and the greatest of sins   are washed away in the baptismal waters.  Who would not desire baptism such a cleansing  baptism knowing that they were never really baptized by the Church’s baptism? 

   The preaching and baptizing performed by heretics, outside the Church, cannot save a single soul. Christ issued His great command of preaching and baptizing, to cleanse the souls of converts so that they shine like a fresh cut diamond, readying them for the precious seal of the gift of Holy Spirit.  Here in the west, we are among people where there are many different christs being preached. 

We Orthodox have in our possession the most unique and awesome treasure, the truths of our holy Faith,  the beauty of the Holy Trinity, the only God, and we are not afraid to call him our Father who is in heaven. We have the assistance of the heavenly angels, each of us having our own angelic guide. We freely and frequently call upon the Saints and Martyrs, and we glorify them in hymns and song. We support Monastics who struggle to live a virginal life. Everything of beauty is preserved in  Orthodoxy, for it is pure and undefiled, Headed by the Son of God, and guided by the Holy Spirit.  It is the only true Christianity that keeps all her treasures safely in her bosom.

 It is our solemn duty to go forth, and with great joy proclaim the Gospel, not overlooking a single soul that is not Orthodox. Orthodoxy is not our property. But it is given to us conditionally, and it is our responsibility to struggle for growth of the Church, thus becoming an active member of the Body of Christ, who promises the heavenly kingdom to those who spread divine knowledge. It is easy to see the Evil One spreading his message of eat, drink and be merry!  He preaches that there is no sin; there is no judgment; there is no life after death, for when you die you are dead. Churches? Makes no difference. Religion? They are all the same.  We live in an age of artificiality and self indulgence, and because we live in the information age, it may seem to be new to us, but this has always been the lifestyle of the world. The adoration of idols is the worship of matter instead of God. Is it not matter and the world that is adored today in place of God?

 That is why St. John the Evangelist says in his epistle: “Love not the world, neither the things in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2:15-17).

    It is not our intention to engage in argumentation with the Protestants, but to show the dangers to the Orthodox if they become too friendly with them and being seduced by the “reform”  ideas which they have been taught, cause you to deny our Orthodox truths.  The danger is that some Orthodox view Protestants as good Christians and lovers of Christ, but they may not know that their souls, knowingly or unknowingly,  harbor hateful errors in the form of various heresies already condemned centuries ago by the Holy Spirit. These heresies are in respect to the Cross, the Theotokos, Christ and the Saints and Prayers for the departed. In judging the erroneous ideas they hold, we will feed those who are hungry with divine truth, and  give living water those thirsting for life. We will then with the power of truth, destroy the corpses of the heresies initiated by the reformers.

The  Protestant reformers decided to oust sacramental confession, some because the Papacy used it,  but not only did they scuttle confession, they also did away with the offices of bishops, priests and deacons,  claiming that confession and these offices are not in the Bible. They claim that they confess directly to God and to one another, thus rejecting sacramental confession and forgiveness before a priest, which results in their remaining in their sins without forgiveness. Protestant preachers boldly assert that they follow the divine Scriptures, that is,  Scripture alone.

    The truth is that sacramental confession followed by remission of sins originated in Jesus Christ, who alone among man can grant this. He bestowed this awesome authority to His Apostles, by breathing Holy Spirit upon them, and they in turn bestowed it upon the  bishops and from them upon the priest. That Christ established this flashes like lightning from the Holy Bible, which rebukes the Protestant deniers. In holy Orthodoxy we certainly agree that only God can forgive sins, for it is against Him alone that we have sinned, as David says in the fiftieth Psalm.


The Scripture
   While Christ was healing a man, and said son your sins are forgiven you, taking notice the Jews  said within themselves  that no man has authority to forgive sins, for only God can forgive sins, nor did  Christ  rebuke this idea, because He is God and does forgive  sins. The fact is that the authority to forgive sins belongs exclusively to God. Let us see what the Bible says concerning what  Jesus did with this authority.
     After the resurrection he appeared before His disciples and said: “Peace be unto you; as my Father sent me, even so I send you.  And when He had said this, He breathed upon them, and said unto them: Receive Holy Spirit; whoever’s sin you forgive, they are forgiven: and whoever’s sins you retain they are retained” (John 20:21-23).  The Scriptures prove beyond any doubt that the Church Christ founded  always has had repentance, confession and remission of sins, from a confessing priest or bishop.


     Before confessing sins, there must be sincere repentance and the decision not to repeat the sin with the Lord’s help. Repentance is best understood in the following parable. 
     “A certain man had two sons, and the younger said to his father, Father give me my portion of goods that falls on me. And he divided unto them his living, who wasted his inheritance. All the friends he made with his spending abandoned him when and not many days after, the younger son gathered everything together and took a journey to a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a great famine in that land and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him out to the fields to feed the swine. And he would almost fill his belly with the husks that the swine ate. And no man gave unto him And when he came to himself, he said, how many servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and I will say unto him, father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me one of your hired servants. And he arose and came unto his father, but when he was a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son.  But the father said to his servants: Bring forth the best robe  and put it on him, and put a ring on his right hand and shoes on his feet. And bring here the fatted calf and kill it; and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost and is found . . .”    (Luke 15:11-24

Obviously Christ transferred  the  authority to forgive sins to his disciples. Then the disciples, after they became apostles, passed this authority to Bishops, whom they ordained by laying on their hands, passing Holy Spirit to them.  Even more obvious is the fact that it was not possible to decide which sins ought to be forgiven and which retained, unless the person confesses his sins to them. The person who confesses directly to God does not hear their precious words coming from  God’s servant, the Priest.  For after confession the Priest declares to the penitent, that you have confessed directly to God to God and I am a witness. Go in peace your sins are forgiven.  This is the only way to unload the heavy burden of sins. 

   There is a form of confession which we can and should make to the Lord, especially in our evening prayers. Because no man is without sin, we have either voluntarily or involuntarily sinned, and so even the smallest sin should be immediately confessed to God. 


    “Then went out to Jerusalem and all Judea, and the region round about Jordan, confessing their sins . . .” (Mat. 3: 6).
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us”
    (1John 1:9).

   Both types of confession are in accordance with Orthodox teaching and practice, to the priest and directly to God. The usual practice is serious sins required confession and forgiveness from God through the priest. But very minor offenses, such as entertaining a bad thought and then getting rid of it, can be confessed directly to God. If a person so desires, he can mention it to his confessor, the next time he has sacramental confession.


  The benefit of confession is found in the fact that sins are a heavy burden, that we need to have lifted. Our conscience frequently accuses us of them, but only through confession is that heavy weight lifted from our hearts.

   Following confession and receiving forgiveness, we must do everything in our power to avoid repetition of that sin.  The Bible testifies this with the occasion of the adulterous woman.

     “And the Scribes and Pharisees brought unto Him a woman take in adultery, and when they set her in the midst, they said unto Him: Master this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded that she should be stoned; but what do you say? They said this, tempting Him, that they might have something to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finer wrote on the ground, as if He didn’t hear them.  So when they continued to ask Him, he raise himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her. And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. And when they heard it, being convicted by their conscience, they went out one by one, beginning with th eldest even until the last, and Jesus was left alone, and the woman was standing in the midst. When Jesus raised himself, and saw none but the woman, He said to her, Woman, where are those your accusers? Has any man condemned you? She said, No man Lord.  And Jesus said to her, Neither do I condemn you, go, and sin no more” 
(John  8:3-11).


     Holy Scripture which is part of Orthodox written tradition is always in agreement with oral tradition, passed on without writing. Both oral and written tradition of the Church has established firmly the need for confession before baptism and periodically according to the season and condition of a person’s soul. Some require more frequent confession than others. Lenten or other fast periods usually awakens the souls of Christians to confess their sins. Confession cleanses the soul and body  and renders the soul pure and wholesome. The alternative to confession is to carry the heavy burden of sins all the days of our lives. While we are able, let us rid ourselves of the heavy burden of sin and  receive forgiveness which can only be from God, but who bestows this authority on His clergy.  It is good to keep in mind that the Church is the living body of Christ and while He is our Head, we are all valuable members, if we follow Him.  There is nothing better in this life than to follow Christ and keep all of His commandments.

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