On the Mystery of Confession

This isn’t a time of year when confession is at the forefront of Orthodox’ thinking, so I thought I would speak from my own experience of confession in the hope that it will be of some little help to my readers.

I grew up in the Northeast in the days before Vatican II. I was young so I wasn’t paying much attention then, but if the national statistics are accurate, then I would say that half of the population of my village were practicing Christians. Most were mainline Protestants, but we had a good representation of Roman Catholics, too. We Protestants used to make fun of the Catholics because they had to go to Confession on Saturday nights in order to prepare themselves for communion at the Sunday morning mass.

An old Catholic practice using furniture now removed.

It was often said that their confession was a perfunctory operation where you ducked into the confessional booth and whispered to the priest behind the grille the sins that you could remember committing in the past week. He then gave you a quick absolution and assigned x number of Hail Marys and x number of Our Fathers for your penance. It became a societal joke that this was a cheap ticket to communion for Catholics who would undoubtedly go right back out and commit the same sins the following week.

The Catholic way of thinking is highly rational and therefore legalistic. Sin is considered to be an offense against God’s law, for which the believer must apply the merits of the salvific death of Christ stored in the Church in order to escape divine retribution. Of course, in the Protestant mindset, Christ’s death once and for all obliterated sin and since the sacramental priesthood had been done away with, there was no need for confession before a priest.

In my Anglican experience, I once had a lady parishioner, a former Catholic, who asked the rhetorical question, “Why should I have to confess my sins to a man?” She was true to her word; she never confessed to me. Nor did any of my other parishioners. It was not done except rarely, even in the Anglo-Catholic tradition of my memory. The saying about sacramental confession was, “All may, some should, none must.” Now that I’m a member of a traditional Russian Orthodox parish, the wording might be changed to: “All must… and frequently.” Confession is a prerequisite to receiving communion at the Divine Liturgy.

Until the end of 2021, I was a steward of a Greek Orthodox parish. Oh, how different it was there! The culture was more liberal. The parish priest never preached about confession. No wonder he once admitted in conversation that it was likely that some people in the parish had never been to confession before in their lives. Would I be sarcastic to say that one could tell by their behavior?

The dearth of confessions in the Greek tradition, at least as far as I have seen in my limited American experience, may be the underlying cause of the diminution of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. No wonder they have a heretical scoundrel for an archbishop. No wonder they swallowed the lure of religious covidianism. No wonder they’re missing money from the St. Nicholas finances. Sin abounds and is not dealt with.

A rediscovered emphasis on frequent confession might not save GOARCH, but it certainly would help. Conversely, strict adherence to this Orthodox praxis does not render ROCOR without fault, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.

All sins confessed stay under the stole.

I am a sinner, and I am still apt to sin, but I can say that I am more cognizant of my sins than I was until last year. I keep shorter accounts of my sins, and when it comes time for Saturday night confessions, I find myself creating a verbal list of sins before I step up before the Gospel book and tell them to God before the priest.

Pardon me if this sounds like boasting, but by the grace of God rendered through the mystery of confession, I have been able to put two besetting, lifelong sins into remission. I can’t yet say that I have conquered them, lest my pride open me up to stronger temptations. My priest has been helpful with his advice, sometimes by dispensing a dosage of penance. I now feel more at peace with God and the Church, with my family and with myself. My latest struggle is with the great question as to how I should respond to the world. I’m not young. I’ve witnessed a lot, but I must say that I find the current state of national and international affairs to be, frankly, utterly frightening. There is little that I can do about it, but I can’t be at peace with it. How should I engage with a world that seems to be spinning out of control? I’ll save that topic for a later post.

At the Passing of a Lady

We've never known a time when she was not -
Even elder brothers and sisters were tots
When she ascended to the throne
In a time gone by so far from home.

After poverty and war did she take over
From her torn father who succeeded his brother.
She vowed that she would not be the one
To doom the British crown which she had won.

Stability and grace were watchwords then
And always did she keep them to the end,
But now three score and ten years hence
She's gone.

Surely the inevitable 
Cannot be so incredible,
But even so we whisper, "How can it be
That she who reigned for an eternity
Is gone?"

She has gone the way all flesh must go
And by now, the whole world must know
A queen has died, an age has passed
Though forever indeed it seemed to last.

Let us now pause and mourn
The passing of our Lady, born
So long ago and far away
Yet over each heart held sway.

Pray her soul will meet and she will seal
A place at table for the sacred Meal
To feast on Him
Who saves from sin.

So, what about us? Will we have done
As she did, second to none
In royal servitude? What is our attitude,
We dwellers of these estates so crude?

Learn from her and emulate
The royal bearer of such grace.
And constancy in a time of change
From good to worse, so bitter is the age.

Remember her grace and stability
And emulate her ability 
To see it through both thick and thin
Until we, too, will enter in
To the reward
for servants of the Lord.

A Declaration of War, Perhaps?

On Thursday, September first, Joe Biden went to Independence Hall in Philadelphia to deliver a speech. A gigantic American flag was draped against a wall lighted up in blood red, and two Marines in dress blues stood ramrod straight as sentinels. Jill escorted the faltering Joe out to the podium. Biden is too feeble to look like a fascist, but anyone sprier than he giving such a divisive speech against such a sinister backdrop would have.

The words that were emitted from the president’s mouth were the not the sort of demagoguery that one would expect from the former candidate who promised to bring civility and normalcy back to the presidency. He would be the uniter, he said in 2020, but that speech on September 1 put the lie to that pledge.

The soul of Joe Biden?

All of twelve times in twice as many minutes, Biden denounced the MAGA Republicans as a threat to the very foundation of our American democracy. He accused them as election deniers who subvert the constitution and the rule of law while they attempt to take America backwards. Of course Biden didn’t mention the past objections of his own Democrats to certifying the elections of George W. Bush in 2000, whom they say was elected by the Supreme Court. The sword cuts both ways.

Joe Biden is no more than a ghost of a man, so it’s important to look behind the stuffed shirt to espy his handlers who actually pull the strings. Who is it who wrote that ghastly tirade about defending the “soul of America”? And, what was his purpose? Was it to drum up the support of those who oppose Donald Trump and the MAGA movement ahead of midterms? Or, did he intend to goad the MAGA people whom he accused of being “violent extremists” into committing such acts before the election so that they could be discredited and defeated? Or was this a speech tantamount to a declaration of civil war on the political battlefield? The country is so bitterly divided now that that sort of demagoguery serves no constructive purpose. The cynical people behind Biden are the ones who will ultimately be held responsible for the catastrophic policies of this administration. They will have to answer for endangering the populace from the Mexican border to the inner cities, and for the crash of the stock market and the impoverishing of the middle class by record inflation and recession.

Lucky only leftwing propaganda outlets CNN and MSNBC carried the primetime speech last Thursday. Let’s just pray that God will hasten the day when that old crackpot Biden has been yanked off the stage like the lowlife Vaudeville actor he is. And let the historians in years to come write the dark chapter about this nadir in the American epic.

When you vote in November, vote as though the outcomes of all the races depends upon your ballot.

“The Most Important Election”

This is an Orthodox blog, so please don’t get me wrong. I don’t for a minute think that there is a simple, political solution to our societal decline. The problems that our nation faces now are some of the gravest that we have seen in decades. We need to be serious about our religion, for only God can save us.

The Democratic Party is absolutely demonic, and if any Orthodox layman thinks otherwise, he hasn’t been paying attention. And he needs to go to confession to admit his support for the Democrats’ sexual perversity, runaway spending and authoritarian mandates. The presidency of the current occupant of the White House will go down in history as the worst in our history…or close to the worst. It’s an utter disgrace and we deserve better. We must elect a Republican majority to Congress that will be a strong bulwark against any further insanity or inanity that emanates from that building and from the left side of the aisles in the Capitol building.

I know, Joe. It seems like a nightmare, doesn’t it?

You are free to throw your ballot in the trash, or throw away your vote on a third party candidate with an obscure name. However, the only practical choice for us Orthodox is to vote for Republicans in any race where there is a party affiliation. I know, I know. Some Republicans act like traitors to the cause. But, both parties tend to vote as blocks, so even less-than-desirable Republicans will tend to support more favorable legislation than what the Democrats have conjured up. Bold action must be taken to clear our streets of criminals, close our southern border, lower our energy costs and regain our personal savings. These problems are mainly the responsibility of the Democrats. Unless they are stopped, they may well and truly destroy our country in time.

Even Elder Ephraim of recent memory, encouraged Orthodox believers to get involved in politics, the days are so evil. Let’s all who are citizens vote, without exception. And, let those who have the time get involved in campaigning for conservative candidates. And those who have the money – the few that are left during this crippling recession – should contribute to good candidates’ campaigns. Voting, and getting involved in campaigns is good citizenship for us Orthodox faithful. Electing the better of two candidates in any political race is certainly a step toward renewing our sick society, or at the very least, slowing the inexorable “slouch toward Gomorrah”. We – all of us – have got to get out and have an influence on our collective destiny this November. Vote as if this were “the most important election of your lifetime”, as they say. Vote as if this were the last election that you’ll ever vote in. Who knows? Given the vicissitudes of life, it very well may be……

Vote for the Republican of your choice, but vote!

A Tsunami of Outrage

Did you know that tsunami is a Japanese word? It’s written this way: 津波 and it means “harbor wave”. We used to call it “tidal wave”. That’s strange, if you think about it. Sailors know that harbors are places of refuge from the undulations of the open ocean. Harbors are protected from the wind waves that roll freely at sea. So what is a tsunami? Unlike the wind waves that affect the ocean by means of the friction of the wind passing over its surface, a tsunami is a totally different event. It is created by a seismic shift in the ocean floor. The earth shifts and the whole ocean from floor to surface buckles and ripples. Oddly the tsunami is not felt by ships in deep water. But, the undulation rushes with tremendous force once it hits the coast, crashing onto beaches, driving inland and surging into harbors. Boats and ships are ripped from their moorings mercilessly. The historical tsunami that flooded the northern Pacific coast of Japan on March 11, 2o11 was one such tsunami. Mere hours after it hit home, it also reached across our great pond to Hawai’i and the West Coast of North America. Ke’ehi Boat Harbor next to Honolulu Int’l Airport was completely wiped out. Many vessels, especially the untended derelicts, were lost in the maelstrom.

Japanese port town after historic tsunami of March 11, 2011

Geological tsunami cannot be timed; they can only be prepared for. But there is another type of tsunami coming in exactly ninety days. It is a political tsunami that will wash away many of the derelicts in our national congress and state houses. Many of the ineffective – yea corrupt – officeholders throughout the country will be sent packing. Good riddance to them.

Why are they derelicts? The short answer is that they have forgotten God. The obvious proof is that they support a corrupt regime…a junta, you might say…in the White House under the most disastrous presidency of our lifetimes. The senile, old politician who mumbles while he reads a teleprompter is not to be pitied. He is to be reviled. He has turned the power of the administrative state against his immediate predecessor. This has never happened before. His attorney general and his chief law enforcement agency have crossed over a boundary that has never been crossed. They have raided the residence of immediate past president Donald Trump. The Democrats and the deep state who serve them have not stopped hounding Donald Trump since his first campaign. They’ve spied on him, slandered him, and accused him of wrongdoing when they had no proof. The House of Representatives impeached him twice. Twice, without success. Now they have insulted him by turning his house upside down while he was away.

Once and future president?

Why? Because they think that he is a threat to their chokehold on power. By this invasion of the privacy of the former president and first lady, they may have gone a step too far. This unprecedented raid may well backfire on them in November. Most of the candidates that Mr. Trump has endorsed have already won their primary elections. They’re headed to the general in November buoyed up by the anger that is felt by a majority of Americans at the utter incompetence of an incumbent president who, although he can’t ride a bicycle, is able to destroy an economy and bungle foreign policy. There is a deep undercurrent, a tsunami of outrage that is about to be released on him and all who responsible for the damage that he has done to our nation.

Biden’s presidency may well be all but over next January when the new Congress is seated. He will no longer be able to pass any significant legislation due to opposition by the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives, and perhaps the Senate. He won’t be able to take out a second mortgage on our proverbial house and pass the burden of the monthly payments onto our grandchildren. No more big spender. He’ll be eighty years old, half a century in politics, and a never-ending embarrassment to the party and their voters who foisted him on the American republic. Look at what they’ve done to us.

The man whom they revile and whom they would like nothing better than to destroy may rise like a Phoenix in 2024. Many a voter like me who did not vote for him in 2016 will gladly give him support if for no other reason that he is “comeback kid” who suffered the slings and arrows of an irrational opposition who have forgotten God and now worship the false god of Science. Right, the so-called science that ginned up the pandemic and its phony vaccines. The science that will bankrupt a country’s people in a bogus battle against “climate change”. Now that Mr. Trump’s privacy has been invaded, and his home has been stripped they will have empathy for him. Dozens of millions will. And, what is more, he will be the remaining hope that the demonic powers that control the deep state that controls our nation will at last be vanquished. The party that has done all in its power to hasten the decline and demise of our nation will be back in the powerless opposition where they belong for good.

Pres. Trump has made an inspiring video. It’s less than four minutes long. Give it a watch.