St. Philip the Apostle Orthodox Church
Orthodox Church in America
9100 El Portal Dr. Tampa, Florida 33604

COMING HOME THROUGH THE SACRAMENT OF CONFESSION

‘‘.  . . He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘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.”

John 20:22-23

Glory to Jesus Christ!

   I am Fr. Joseph; pastor here at St. Philip the Apostle Orthodox Church.  As  priest, pastor, Orthodox Christian and sinner, I know the value of the Holy Mystery (Sacrament) of Confession or more accurately termed the Mystery of Reconciliation.  When we sin our relationship with God is strained and through Confession we can be reconciled to God, that is our relationship to and with him can be made right again.

   So often we focus only on how sin affects us and do not even consider how it affects God. In the case of serious sin, it is the cause of the separation of ourselves from God. While He still loves us, it changes His relationship with us from one of joy in us to one of sorrow.  

Much like the prodigal son who broke the heart of his father, we break our Father’s heart when we separate ourselves from Him through serious sin. In the case of less serious sin it strains and taints our relationship with God.  Again, while He still loves us, even less serious sin diminishes the joy of that relationship, both for God and for us. 

   Sin is not just about me but about me and God and our love relationship. We might think of sin as having the same effect on our relationship with God as that which adultery has on a marriage. In sin, we leave the object of our love, God, and we cling to the harlot of the world and of the flesh. We break the heart of our true love for a moment of pleasure. We heed not the sweet voice of our beloved, God, but succumb to the siren song of the devil. We break our baptismal vows by which we renounced Satan and accepted Jesus Christ and we return to the arms of the evil one.  Thus, when we sin we are as St. Peter wrote of those who succumb to false teachers: “A dog returns to his vomit, a sow having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.” (2 Peter 2:22)

But God, knowing of the sinful propensities of fallen man, provides the means for the forgiveness of sins that follow baptism, that is the Holy Mystery of Confession whereby we are reconciled with Him. The baptismal robe of our soul is made white again and our sins are forgiven.  Our love relationship with God is once again made right.

 To help you to better understand the Holy Mystery of Confession and to prepare to receive the sacrament, we have prepared a booklet which we have also reproduced here. The discussion of Confession is taken from the pamphlet written by Fr. Thomas Hopko entitled, If We Confess Our Sins.  The examination of conscience included here is an amalgamation of many sources.

  It is my recommendation and that of our Metropolitan that all Orthodox Christians confess their sins at least once a month even if they are free from serious sin.  This way, sins are not forgotten nor does their severity seem to lessen with time. It likewise gives us a chance to think about how we have been living our lives over the past month. Finally, as the celebrant at Liturgy, who will give an accounting at my judgment for the Communions that I have distributed, it gives me peace of mind that those who are approaching the chalice are doing so free from serious sin.  Of course, should we fall into serious sin we must repent and go to Confession before we receive Holy Communion.

   I hope that you find this booklet helpful in your endeavor to be a good and holy Orthodox Christian.  God bless you.

 


If We Confess Our Sins

If We Confess Our Sins

  “This is the message which we have heard from Him (Jesus Christ) and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say we have communion with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie, and do not live according to the truth.

But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have communion with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

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.

If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

I am writing this to you so that you may not sin. But if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous, and He is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

  The First Letter of the Apostle John 1:5-2:2

THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

   Many people admit that the practice of confession is confusing to them. They do it, they say, from a sense of habit or duty, as a ritual formality without meaning or inspiration.

  There are any number of reasons for this avowed condition, and we could not begin to diagnose its causes or to treat its symptoms in this small booklet. It is our hope, rather, that we can come to a clear insight into the meaning of human life as God sees it and shows it to us in Christ and the Church, so that the practice of confession as we do it will become meaningful for us and will be the inspiring event that it should be: the liberating experience of life in Christ and the Holy Spirit which leads to communion with God.


Be perfect as God is perfect
 
 We claim faith in Christ. This means that we must do what Christ has shown us to do. And this means, more than anything else, that we must love with a perfect love. 

   Christians are called not merely to love God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength; and their neighbor as themselves. These are the chief commandments of the Old Testament. (See Mark 12:28) But we Christians are called to hear the Lord of the New Testament and to fulfill His commands:

                                                                                 Love  your enemies.

Do good to those who hate you,

Bless those who curse you,

Pray for those who abuse you,

Turn the other cheek to those who strike you,

Give to those who steal, beg or borrow

from you, asking nothing in return,

Do to all men---not as they actually do to

you---but as you would wish them to do to you,

Do not condemn or judge, but give and forgive.

You, therefore, must be perfect as your

Heavenly Father is perfect.

This is the teaching of Jesus Christ, told simply and clearly on the pages of the Gospels. (See Matthew 5 and Luke 6)


Love with Christ’s love

     All of the commandments of Jesus Christ can be summed up as the “perfection of God” in the  one new commandment that the Lord gave: that we should love with the very same love with which He loves.

      “A new commandment I give to you, that

       you love one another; even as I have loved

       you, that you also love one another. By this

       will all men know that you are my disciples,

       if you have love one for another.”


The original destiny of man
  
This “new commandment” of Christ came to a world-without-God as something radically new. But it was not originally meant to be new at all.

God wanted the world to be filled with His Love from the moment of creation. This was the original destiny of man: to live with God’s life and to fill all the ends of creation with His Divine Presence, which is Love Itself. (See 1 John 3 and 4)


Continual confession
  
 We all fail to fulfill our destiny to be “perfect as God,” the bearers of His Presence which is Love. In some sense our failure is understandable – not justifiable, but understandable.

       It is understandable to the extent that such a task is never fully achieved. In this sense, the Christian life, the life of every man as Christ has revealed it, is not a “state” but a “movement.” No one is a “real” Christian—or even a real man—until he is fully filled with God’s love. And this is eternal life.

    Our failure, however, is not merely that we have not achieved what is in fact eternal, for that is certainly not sinful!  Our failure is that as baptized, chrismated Christians who have the Holy Spirit and Holy Communion with God in the Church, we hardly even realize our task! We hardly pay attention to it! We hardly desire it! We hardly work at it!

This is our sin. Not only that our life is not the constant and continual growth to perfection which St. Paul called the movement to “mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4: 13) But our sin is that we are not really aware of our “high calling” and we constantly and continually offend against it by thoughts, words and actions which are in fact movements in exactly the opposite direction. This “movement in the opposite direction” is the definition of sin. It calls us to repent, which means literally to change ourselves. It demands that we confess our sins.

  Our life in the Church, therefore—the icon of what all human life must be—must be continual change towards God. This means continual confession and repentance. This is the fundamental realization which alone can make the practice of confession meaningful to us.

This is what Christ has revealed, and His revelation is always before us whenever we gather as the Church for the Divine Liturgy where we hear His Word, beg His Mercy, and receive His Body and Blood always and forever “for the remission of sins and unto life everlasting.”


CONFESSION IN THE CHURCH

    The possibility for the continual forgiveness of sins in the Church rests in Him who makes all things possible in the Church: the Holy Spirit sent by Christ from the Father to those who are His.

   We have received the Holy Spirit just as the apostles of Christ have received Him. And we know that the words of Christ are spoken to us:

        “Receive the Holy Spirit! If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

   The presence and the power of the forgiving Christ remains in His Body, the Church, in the gift of the Spirit. Just as Christ the Teacher, the Pastor, the Priest, the Sacrifice, the Truth and the Life . . . and all that Christ is . . . remains living and active in His people by the power of the Spirit; so also does Christ remain with us always as the Forgiver of Sins.


Forgiveness through public confession
  
“If we confess our sins . . He will forgive us . . .” But to whom do we confess? To God, of course, But where is God? God is with us, is the Church’s faith, through Christ in the Holy Spirit. We confess to God in His Church. If we come to the Church to be baptized and confirmed, and to receive Holy Communion . . . it would really be strange if we did not come to the Church to confess our sins and to receive God’s forgiveness!

   We confess to God in the Church. This meant for centuries that we confess to the Church, to all the members of the Church. And it means the same today.

   Christian confession, and even confession in the Old Testament, was always public confession. Indeed there was no idea that confession could be anything but public. A “secret” confession done in the privacy of one’s soul “to God alone” --- an idea not unheard of in  very recent times --- is completely unknown both in biblical and church history. A confession which is not a totally open and public confession before God, man and all creation is no confession at all. This is the Orthodox Faith.


To one as if to all
  
In the early Church confession was to all the Church. Then, when it was clear to all that the repentance of the person was sincere, the head of the congregation – the bishop or priest—read  the “prayer of absolution” which manifested plainly that God had forgiven the penitent through Christ, present in the gathering by the Holy Spirit. As time passed, however, the public character of confession became more and more difficult to practice in the Church due to the growth of membership, and the subsequent loss of intimacy and community and mutual concern of the church members for each other. Thus confession became in fact more and more private, and Christians revealed their sins to specially-chosen men, priests or even lay monks who were considered competent and compassionate enough to hear, to co-suffer, to counsel, to encourage . . . and most of all, to love the man in his sins.

    Although the practice changed, the theory remained exactly the same: Christians confessed their sins openly, one to another. Christ in the Spirit in the Church granted forgiveness from God the Father. This forgiveness was pronounced by the leader of the local church, the bishop or priest as he received the penitent to Holy Communion. But the confession was done to one person as if done openly and to all; or to put it another way, the confession was still made openly and to all, but in the person of one of the brothers.


The pastor becomes the confessor
  
We confess our sins today to our pastor. But we should still understand that we confess to him as if confessing to all. We confess to all in this person.

  The pastors of congregations—although not universally in the Orthodox Church since some Churches have special confessors—received the function of hearing the confessions of the people because their function in the Church is to care for the spiritual integrity of their particular community; to be in charge of the Eucharistic Altar; to see that no one approaches the Table of the Lord in a faithless, blasphemous or plainly sinful manner; and in general, to care for the total life of the local parish as the one who manifests the presence of Christ in the Body.

  We confess to our pastors, therefore, not because they have the power to forgive sins as individual men, but because they have the office to stand in the community as the concrete manifestation of the Lord who is Himself present in the Spirit. We confess to our pastors also as the personal manifestation in a church of the whole membership to each individual member, as well as to God and the world. Thus in hearing confessions and bearing witness to sincere repentance and pronouncing the words of forgiveness, the priest represents not merely the Lord, but all of the members of the Lord’s body, the Church. He stands in behalf of all.



Open confession to another
  
Although it is easy to demonstrate that confession in the Bible and the Church was always a public confession, the question remains, especially these days, why this should be so?

  Cannot God forgive a man secretly if he confesses to God in the secret of his heart? Of course, He can. Yet God Himself who has revealed Himself to men has also revealed that sincere repentance involves the opening and publicizing of one’s life to all, the exposing of one’s real self to the eyes of the universe, the begging of forgiveness from every creature. But why is this so?

    There are many answers. And the most obvious of them appear to be these:

       In the first place, the experience of the Christian is the experience of the Last Judgment, the Kingdom of Heaven, the Full Presence of God. In this experience the Light of Christ illumines and exposes all the hidden things in the world. If we will stand the judgment at the “end,” we must stand it already now in the Church to be perfectly purified. And this is not just a punishment and a shame – though it certainly is this; it is also the gift of freedom, of cleansing, of forgiveness, of loosing from all that is dark and hidden and sinful within us. It is a liberating experience. At every Liturgy Christ comes in our midst to judge and to forgive.

We constantly say: Lord have mercy! And we lay bare our life before Him that we might be forgiven and blessed.

      Secondly, in our sins, even in the most personal and hidden of our sins, we sin not merely against God, but also against all men and the whole world. Each individual life has universally social and cosmic proportions. There is no life which is a mere “tête-à-tête” with God. And indeed, as far as our sin is concerned, we might even say that we are “more guilty” before creation than before God for our evil. Our sins cannot really hurt God – except as we offend His Love—but they can and really do wound and infect our brother and our world. We must, therefore, confess to those whom we have stained and injured by our transgressions. We confess to all.

   Thirdly, it is a fact that we cannot see the true ugliness and hideousness of our sins until we see them in the mind and heart of the other to whom we have confessed.

 We also cannot realize the disgusting and humiliating shame of sin until we stand revealed before an “equal.” In this sense we should see that confession is not confession at all except when it is confession to our peers, to one like us, to one of our own level, to one before whom we are guilty, to our brother in Christ.

   Thus there is no repentance before God which is not repentance before our brother, before every creature and all creation. For only such confession fulfills the fullness of what confession really means.

PREPARING FOR CONFESSION

To confess properly we must prepare our-selves.  And the preparation for confession has just one proper goal: that we would see our-selves as we really are in the eyes of God so that we could confess our sins with the sincere desire to be forgiven.



Self-examination
  
To confess our sins we must know what they are.  And to know what they are we must examine our lives: what we think, what we say, and what we do.



   The great problem here for many of us is that we do not have the proper measure by which to judge ourselves. We judge by what we think are true standards but which are in fact as far from Christianity as heaven is from earth.

    For example, we judge ourselves by our own idea of the normal human person: “We are normal, average, like others, not worse . . . “

   Or we judge by the standards which our society provides: “We are upright citizens, law-abiding, hard-working, thrifty . . . “

   Or we judge by some churchly practices which have, in themselves and by themselves, no genuine Christian value at all: “We go to Church on Sunday, do not eat meat on Friday, say prayers, do not dance during lent . . . “

   Or, finally, we judge by Old Testament standards which are very good, but not at all on the level of life to which Christians are called:

    “ We do not steal, lie, murder, commit adultery. . . “

   The real point here is that self-examination must be a deep and serious look at ourselves with honesty and courage and the desire really to see. But it also must be a judgment made by strictly Christian standards: the life and teaching of Jesus Christ.



Study of the Lord’s teachings

  
Before we can make a self-study, we must make a study of the Gospels and the New Testament as a whole. How can we judge ourselves according to strictly Christian standards when we do not really know, or take seriously, what these standards are? In preparing for confession, therefore, we should really spend more time looking at Christ than looking at ourselves. For it is certainly true to say that we can see ourselves more clearly by looking intensely at Christ for a short time than by hours of personal introspection.

   Christians should know the Gospels and the teachings of the New Testament. In preparation for confession the Fathers of the Church give us some particular scriptural passages which can help us to see what we are in respect to what we should be. These passages are the following:

      1.      The Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5, 6, 7; Luke 6.

2.      The Last Chapters of St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans: 12, 13, 14.

3.      The 13th Chapter of St. Paul’s First Letter

      to the Corinthians.

4.      The First Letter of St. John.

    Of course, these sections do not exhaust the totality of Christian life, but they are invaluable in self-examination. If we read them carefully, with attention and in application to our own attitudes and actions—and altogether they do not add up to more than thirteen pages in a normal-sized Bible—we will have more than sufficient opportunity to judge ourselves by the standards on which Christians are to be judged.



Prayer and fasting

   In addition to our self-analysis in the light of the Christian ideals, we must prepare for confession by prayer and fasting. Both of these disciplines are necessary for us to clarify our vision, to gain mastery over our thoughts and to put us in living contact with God who will Himself inspire us to see those things in actual fact which are well pleasing to Him.

   In prayer books there are prayers before confession which we can read, together with the “penitential psalms” if we wish to read those (e.g. Psalms 32, 37, 51, 102, 130, 143).

These prayers may be read privately and possibly even more effectively in common with other repenting Christians. It certainly would not be a sad thing if we could recover in our churches the communal character of repentance before the Lord – that we all who are “members one of another” are also all sinners before God and each other – and in this way recapture the “public” character of confession at least through our common devotion. If this is not practically done as a whole congregation, it certainly can be done on evenings of confession, in church or with family or friends. In general, it is sad that families do not confess and receive communion as families more often.



Setting right our life

    To do this is clearly stated as a strict requirement for repentance by Christ Himself when he tells us that if we are at the altar offering our gift and we remember that our brother has something against us, we must go and be reconciled with our brother before we can offer our gift. (See Matthew 5:23)

  Even here, however, we must be careful not to sin more by making a “display” of our setting things right, by using our supposed “Christian piety “ as an occasion for vainglory or boasting or showing-off. Thus, even our actions of setting our life in order should be done with discretion; quietly, secretly, even silently if our actions will speak louder and more convincingly than our words – but in any case these things must be done before confession, or most certainly before Holy Communion.  

   On this point too it should be very clear that no amount of fasting or praying can replace the necessary actions of true repentance in confession. Thus the person who insists that he be allowed to Communion on the grounds that he has “read all the prayers and fasted for a week” even though he still refuses to be reconciled to his brother must come to know that these ritual acts mean nothing, absolutely nothing, in detachment from real Christian life.

          “If we say that we love God and hate our brothers, we are liars. . . for if  you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

(See I John 4:20; Matthew 6:14)


Coming to Confession

There are many different customary practices concerning the actual methods of confessing in different churches; therefore, we will discuss just the most general aspects.



Follow the local practice
   When we actually come to confession the priest may ask us to stand or knee; to say this or that prayer before or after or even during confession; or before or after Communion, or even for some time in the days ahead. He may ask us questions, or he may not. He may give us a special penance, or he may not. There are many methods and no hard fast rules on these points. But the Christian point here is that we should be loving and humble enough to follow whatever method is in use where we are and not try to enforce our own particular style. This does not mean that we cannot discuss our preferred method with our confessor, but it does mean that we should realize that any method is secondary to the essential meaning of confession and repentance itself.



Come to be forgiven

  
We come to confession for no other reason than to receive forgiveness from God. We may seek advice and counsel from our confessor. But we should keep clearly in mind that confession is not a “cozy spiritual chat” or a sort of “religions psychoanalysis.” It is a standing before God with the longing to be accepted and loved by Him, to be purified and reconciled to His Kingdom. Spiritual counseling may be part of confession, and in the present time when, sadly enough, we almost never discuss our spiritual life except in confession, it may be the only occasion to do so. But still we must realize that this is a by-product, albeit a valuable one, of confession, and that the “success or failure” of confession by no means depends on the personality or advising ability of the confessor.
.

   God Himself acts in confession! And He may speak to us at a time when we least expect it, or through a priest from whom we least expect it, if only we are humble enough to open ourselves to hear Him without letting any human prejudices block His Living Presence in the sacrament. But, be all these things as they may, the fact remains that our sincere and genuine repentance and desire to be cleansed and renewed to new life is the sole aim of confession in the Church.



Confess our sins

   We come to confession to confess our sins. We are to say them clearly and openly, not indulging in gross details, but not skirting the full force of their evil by such generalities as “the normal things, household sins, everyday sins, etc.” A clear vision of Christ’s teaching is the only thing that can help us to do this well. We should also make it a practice to say what we think is the sin or several sins which most dominate our life.

   We come to confession also to confess our own sins. It is quite easy to fall into the temptation of confessing the sins of others – members of our family, people we work with, other members of the parish. Some people do this quite regularly, and not in the context of a “mutual problem,” but purely and simply in self-righteous judgment, although often veiled in the guise of interested concern. If there is a genuine need to have a spiritual discussion about another person it should be done strictly outside of confession. It is absolutely imperative that we concentrate in confession solely and exclusively upon ourselves, our own lives and our own sins and offenses.



Avoid being scrupulous

   Before we even approach for confession we should know that we will not, and are not expected to, remember every single one of our sins. Thus if we happen to forget something inadvertently and involuntarily in confession, we need not be anxious that God will not forgive it. After a sincere confession in which we have made every possible human effort to confess all our sins, the “prayer of absolution” is indeed for all our sins: voluntary and involuntary, known and unknown, confessed and unconsciously not confessed. We need not return to the priest if we have honestly forgotten some small sin in confession.

   In general it is very important that we avoid at all cost being scrupulously anxious over our sins to the point where we doubt God’s mercy or think that His forgiveness depends upon our human worthiness or our frail memory. God judges our intention and sincerity in repentance and not our capacity at memorization. This, of course, does not mean that a “sincere intention” takes the place of an actual confession of sins. But it certainly does mean that the power of God’s forgiveness is not bound to our recollection of actual sins, or even to our ability to avoid them.

   There are never so many or so great sins that God is not able to forgive them. There is never a confession so perfect that it merits God’s mercy because of its perfection. There is never a Holy Communion which is not both given and received by a sinner. Any other thoughts on any of these points is not only bad theology, but blasphemy; and could even lead to mental or spiritual disorder.



Struggle to Overcome

   God forgives our sins not merely on the condition that we confess them, but on the condition that we truly hate them and try to overcome them. When one saint was asked how we could tell if we were forgiven by God, the saint answered: “If you hate your sins you are truly forgiven.” In Christian repentance there is no place for pitying our sins, or justifying them, or explaining them away, or blaming them on others or on the “situation” or on human weakness. Sins can only be recognized, confronted, despised and rejected by men – and forgiven by God. And there is just no more to it than that.

   In confession, therefore, we must promise that we will try by every method known to us to overcome our sins and to correct our life. Our only promise, however, can be that we will try. We cannot seriously guarantee any good results. And this is, in fact, all that God desires: a firm struggle to overcome. If we make this struggle with all the strength and courage in us, then God Himself will give the victory – and at the time when he alone sees fit to do so. Our sole task is to remain faithful in battle.

The final step in preparation for confession is the “setting right” of whatever sins are still in our power to set right. This means, for example, that we cannot confess theft without resolving to return what we have stolen; or hatred, without forgiving our enemy; or anger, without apologizing to the one we have offended.


An Examination of Conscience

To help you personally prepare for the Sacrament of Confession you should find time to sit quietly, and to prayerfully examine your life using as a guide the following examination of conscience.  It is, however, only a guide and we must look at each of our actions since our last confession measuring their rightness in light of the Scriptures and the teachings of the Church.

A Short Prayer before beginning the Examination of Conscience

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Glory to Thee, our God, Glory to Thee.

O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth: Who art everywhere present and fillest all things; Treasury of good  things and Giver of Life: come and abide in us, and cleanse us from every impurity, and save our souls, O Good One!

Holy God! Holy Mighty! Holy Immortal! Have mercy on us.

Holy God! Holy Mighty! Holy Immortal! Have mercy on us.

Holy God! Holy Mighty! Holy Immortal! Have mercy on us.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen

O Most Holy Trinity, have mercy on us!

O Lord, cleanse us from our sins!

O Master, pardon our transgressions!

O Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities for thy Name’s sake.

Lord, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
For Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen

Lord send forth the Holy Spirit that the eyes of my heart might be opened so that I may examine my conscience in truthfulness, in sorrow and with a repentant heart.

Let me call to mind all of my sins since my last confession that I might sincerely and repentantly confess them and receive the healing grace of Thy forgiveness. Lord I thank Thee, that Thou didst pour out Thy life giving blood upon the cross so that by the grace of the Holy Mystery of Confession my sins should be forgiven and I be cleansed from my iniquity. Amen

1.                   When Jesus saw him there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”  (JOHN 5:6)           

   What is my attitude regarding this confession?

   Will I be properly prepared for it?

   Do I really intend to avoid my sins in the future?

Did I hide or intentionally not confess any sins in my last confession?  

   Have I made reparation to anyone I have injured?

    Since my last confession have I remained firm in my efforts to change my life, or did I give up due to laziness, discouragement or forgetfulness?

2.                 Jesus said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38).

 Do I really love God above all things?

  Are worldly things such as possessions, power or popularity, work or recreation more important to me?

  Have I placed my trust in these things or in such things as horoscopes, occult practices and superstitions?

   Have I placed any person above my love for God and my obedience to Him?

 

   Have I prayed on a regular and daily basis?

   Do I pray attentively?

   Do I approach prayer with joy and enthusiasm, or do I allow anything, no matter how trivial, to be an excuse to shorten prayer or avoid it entirely?

   Do I think about God during the course of my day?

3.                 Jesus said “And the second is like it. ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:39).

  Do I love each person who I encounter as being made in the image and likeness of God?

   Do I try to see Jesus in each person that I meet?

   Do I love those who seem unlovable?

   Do I love those who hate me?

   Do I love those who hurt me?

   Did I feed the hungry?

   Did I give drink to the thirsty?

   Did I cloth the naked?

   Did I visit the sick and the imprisoned?

   Did I comfort the sorrowing?

   Did I welcome the stranger?

   Did I do good each time I had the chance?

4. Jesus said, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33).

   Am I willing to be known as a Christian in public and private life?

   Was I embarrassed or afraid to admit my belief in Christ and His Church to others?

  

If someone said something unfair or inaccurate about Christ or Christianity, did I try to speak the truth with gentleness, respect and love?

 Did I show that I am an Orthodox Christian by my conduct or did I give scandal or lead another into sin by my words or actions?

  

5. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15).

   Do I know the teachings of God and of His Holy Orthodox Church?

   Did I take the time to read, study, or learn more about my faith?

   Am I able and willing to answer questions about Christ, the Church and my faith?

   Do I read, study or meditate on God’s Word in the Bible daily?

 

  Do I have any doubts regarding any of the teachings or beliefs of the Orthodox Church for which I have not sought guidance from a priest?

   Am I puffed up with pride because of my Orthodox faith, thinking that, because of it, I am better than others?

 6. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name. Bring an offering and come before Him; worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness (1 Chronicles 16:29)

   Do I keep Sundays and the major feast days holy by participating as fully as possible in the Divine Liturgy?

   Do I recognize that absence, without a valid reason, is serious sin?

   Do I observe the fast days and seasons of the Church?

   Do I regularly receive our Lord’s Body and Blood in Holy Communion, preparing myself by prayer and fasting?

   Have I received Holy Communion unworthily by doing so without having confessed serious sin?

7. Submit yourselves to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21).

    Am I respectful of those over me and those under me?

    Have I honored and obeyed my parents, showing them love and respect and helped them with their material, emotional and spiritual needs as best I could?

 

    Have I been loving, patient and understanding with my children?

    Did I discipline them appropriately, being neither too strict nor too lax?

    

    Have I tried to impart my faith to my family by word and example?

    Do I contribute to the peace and well-being of my family by offering my time, service and love?

    In my job or profession, am I an honest and hard worker?

 

   Do I view the service I render my employers and others as service done to and for Christ?

   If I am an employer do I pay my employees a just wage?

   Are my expectations of them fair and reasonable?

  

   Have I fulfilled my promises, contracts and obligations?

   Have I obeyed legitimate authority?

   Have I paid honor to whom honor was due?

 Have I paid taxes to whom taxes were due? 

          

   Do I work, as I am able, to promote peace, justice, morality and love in my community, my country, and the world?

   Do I use my positions of responsibility and authority for the good of others?

8. Jesus said: “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic” (Luke 6:27-9).

  Have I caused injury to another’s life, health, spiritual or emotional well-being, or material possessions by violence or neglect?

 Have I advised or helped in the obtaining of an abortion? 

   If I have injured or offended anyone, have I sought their forgiveness?

 

   If anyone has injured or offended me, have I forgiven them? Or am I still filled with hatred and a desire for revenge?

   Do I love and make peace; at home, at work, at church, in society and in the whole world?

   Am I angry and impatient?

   Do I look for fights and arguments?

   Do I provoke others to be angry?

   Do I believe in “turning the other cheek” or do I take refuge in physical force?

   Do I love violence?

   Do I worship aggression and power?

   Do I seek inner peace and quiet which is the  

 basic condition for peace in the world?

 9. It is God’s will that you should be holy; that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God (1 Thessalonians 4:5-6).

   Have I been faithful to my spouse?

   Have I misused my sexuality for fornication, masturbation, impure thoughts and fantasies?  

 

  Have I participated in indecent conversations, made use of pornographic entertainment, pictures or readings? 

   Have I visited any pornographic websites? 

  Have I encouraged others to sin by my own failures in this area?

   Have I been modest in speech, dress and conduct?

   Am I caught up by some passion; eating, drinking, smoking, gambling, working, playing, sleeping or something else which has more control over me than I have over it?

  

 10. Jesus said, “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).

   Have I envied or desired inordinately another’s position or property? 

   Have I stolen or damaged the property of others?

   Have I knowingly failed to return anything I have borrowed?

   If so, did I restore it or make restitution?

 

  Do I share my possessions with those who have less?

  Do I give freely and generously of my time, talent and money to those in need and to the church?

  

  Do I realize that all is God’s and from God?

   Am I a good steward of the material things that God has given me?

  Do I distinguish between my wants and my needs?

 11.  If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless (James 1:26).

     Have I taken the name of the Lord in vain?

   Have I blasphemed or used profane language? 

   Do I talk too much or listen too little?

   Has my yes been yes and has my no been no?

   Have I lied or, by cowardly silence, have I avoided telling the truth?

  

   Have I gossiped or spread rumors about others, whether true or not?

   Have I spoken harshly, unjustly, unnecessarily or insultingly to anyone or about anyone?

   Have I laughed at another’s sin?

   Have I revealed the hidden fault’s of another?

   Do I spend time in silence? Or must I always be talking or having the radio or television on?

   Have I been boastful about myself or judgmental about others?

  

 12. Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

   Is all that I do motivated first and foremost by a desire to love and serve God and my neighbor in the way that God wills me to?

  Do I think of myself as better than others? 

   When I pray, fast or do any good, do I try to do it secretly? Or, by word or display, do I make sure that others notice me and my works?

 13. Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall. (Psalm 55:22).   

   Is my joy and gladness in God?
   Do I believe that God loves me and that he made me in His own image and likeness?
   Do I really “consider the lilies of the fields…” and trust in God and rejoice in this trust?
   Is my treasure in God or in myself?

   Am I mean or grouchy or jealous or moody?
   Am I despairing and without hope? 
   Am I pessimistic and anxious?

   Do I complain and spread darkness and irritation to others?

   Is there a problem or hurt that I should bring to the Lord in Confession for forgiveness, healing or guidance?    



St. Philip the Apostle Orthodox Church, of the OCA Diocese of the South, is centrally located in Tampa, FL serving the entire Tampa Bay area.
Our phone number is (813) 933-9807.
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Schedule
Wednesday, August 23rd
7:00 Vespers
Saturday, August 26th
6:00 Vespers followed by confessions
Sunday, August 27th
9:30 Divine Liturgy
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SERMONS BY FR. JOSEPH

FR. JOSEPH'S SERMON ON SUPREME COURT DECISION REDEFINING MARRIAGE.
A sermon by Fr. Joseph regarding the recent Supreme Court decision legalizing same sex "marriage" and what should be the reaction of the Orthodox Church and of individual Orthodox Christians. Click here.

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Location
St. Philip the Apostle Orthodox Church
9100 El Portal Dr.; Tampa, FL 33604
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The Mission of The Orthodox Church in America, the local autocephalous Orthodox Christian Church, is to be faithful in fulfilling the commandment of Christ to “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”

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St. Philip the Apostle Orthodox Church is part of the Diocese of the South, which is presided over by His Grace Alexander, Bishop of Dallas and the South. Our mission is bringing the joy of Christ's resurrection to those who have never heard the Good News, and to strengthen and encourage the faithful who reside within Old Forge and the local area. 

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The Holy Scripture is a collection of books written over multiple centuries by those inspired by God to do so. It is the primary witness to the Orthodox Christian faith, within Holy Tradition and often described as its highest point. It was written by the prophets and apostles in human language, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and collected, edited, and canonized by the Church.

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Holiness or sainthood is a gift (charisma) given by God to man, through the Holy Spirit. Man's effort to become a participant in the life of divine holiness is indispensable, but sanctification itself is the work of the Holy Trinity, especially through the sanctifying power of Jesus Christ, who was incarnate, suffered crucifixion, and rose from the dead, in order to lead us to the life of holiness, through the communion with the Holy Spirit.

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