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SACRAMENTS
 The Orthodox Christian Marriage
 The Sacrament of Penitence
 On Passing Through Death Into Eternal Life
 Fifth week of Great Lent: the Sacrament of Penitence
 Discourses on Confession
 First discourse
 Second discourse
 Third discourse
 Fourth discourse
 Fifth discourse
 Sixth discourse
 Confession
 Life after death

Discourses on confession
Second discourse.

Do we believe in God absolutely, without any doubt? Whoever was shaken in his faith, allowed doubts to creep in, dwelt on blasphemous thoughts sent by Satan - repent and weep. Ask the Lord to forgive you for your lack of faith and to strengthen you in your belief. Pray as did the man of little faith described in the Gospel: I believe, o Lord, help my disbelief (Matt. 9:24). Doubts often arise, particularly among young people, because they listen to unbelievers. But unbelievers speak from their own point of view, deliberately passing over the other side of the coin, i.e. the arguments of believers and learned theologians against disbelief. You should know that believers have many rational grounds for their faith; but no matter how much one tries to prove the rationality of faith in God, to prove the existence of God - like two times two equals four - is impossible. God is a Being totally incomprehensible to us, and requires us to have faith in the greatest divine truths that have been revealed to us - firm, indubitable faith only. You must believe, for example, that the Holy Trinity consists of three persons: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit; however, they are not three Gods, but One. This is hard to understand, but must be accepted on faith. However, the faithful are able to feel an inner presence of God, because He dwells within them. Know ye not, says the Apostle, that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? (1 Cor. 3:16). Thus, for the one who lives in grace, the reasoning of the mind is no longer necessary. Such a person has an internal awareness that God exists, that God is with him. If you wish to have faith and attain salvation, try to achieve just such a belief. Our Orthodox faith is not some kind of teaching or philosophy, but life itself. God gave us His promise, and fulfills this promise upon true believers while they are still on earth: I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people (2 Cor. 6:16).

Blessed is the one who believes in and confesses Christ! But repent those of you who have renounced Christ in some manner or other. In the early years of Christianity, hundreds and thousands of the faithful were martyred through all kinds of barbaric methods, but they did not renounce Christ. It is impossible even to describe the cruel and inhuman torture to which Christs followers were subjected by bloodthirsty Roman emperors and rulers. However, only a few martyrs renounced Christ, while the others stood firm in their faith despite indescribable tortures.

And yet, as far as we are concerned, it is enough for a relative or an acquaintance to laugh and say something, and some of us already stop going to church. But remember the terrifying words of the Saviour: But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven and before My angels (Matt. 10:33). Ponder these words. God will not accept the one who has renounced Him, but will send him into eternal torment, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Who among us would ever willingly desire such a thing?

But those who are firm in their faith, who are not embarrassed or afraid of anyone, who openly declare: God exists! I am a believer!, God will most certainly take unto Himself in accordance with His promise. Nowadays, those who openly cross themselves as they pass by a church, who attend church services despite mockery and verbal abuse from unbelieving relatives - those are already confessors of Christ, and the Lord will reward them a hundredfold.

But repent those of you who do the opposite, even though you may be numbered among the faithful. Remember the words of the Lord: Who- soever therefore shall be ashamed of Me in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall I be ashamed before My Father which is in heaven (Mark 8:38). But the fearful and unbelieving shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone (Rev. 21:8).

Repent and be ashamed only of drunkenness, lechery, abortion and other similar sinful abominations, but never of faith in Christ. Even if we were to be subjected to abuse and punishment for our faith, apostle Peter exhorts us not to be ashamed, but to glorify God for such a fate. We must love God so strongly that each one of us should be ready even for torture or death, if necessary.

Let us examine ourselves: do we love God with all our soul, all our heart, all our strength, all our mind; is God more precious to us than anyone and anything else? The Lord said: He that loveth father or mother, or son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me (Matt. 10:37). Thus Saint Barbara at first loved her father, but came to love God more, and did not cease to love Him even when her father asked the pagan rulers to allow him to behead her himself! Thus every Christian maiden will not marry anyone who is an unbeliever and does not accept a church wedding. Many young girls preferred to remain single forever, rather than marry unbelievers, while others, conversely, lost their faith, because it turned out that a man was more precious to them than God. Repent before God for such preferment of a person, and decide firmly - to love God more than anyone and anything, no matter how difficult that may be.

Examine yourself to see whether or not you have created an idol for yourself, i.e. an object or a living being that has become more precious to you than God. Abba Dorotheus, for example, did not allow his young disciple Dositheus even to touch a certain beautiful knife, fearing that the knife would entrance his heart. Children, keep yourself away from idols, - exhorts us Apostle John. But how many of us become attached to material objects as to an idol, and thus destroy our souls!

It happens sometimes that a person becomes an idol to himself. Such idolatry is called egoism. One must fight with all ones might against such self-adoration. This abominable predilection for ones own self completely pushes out of ones heart love for other people, concern for them, interest in their lives and their needs. It is a terrible thing - to worship oneself as an idol. One must renounce oneself, renounce ones inherent nature with all its passions and lusts , spend ones whole life struggling against them and suppressing them.

The same applies to gluttony. It is about gluttons that the Apostle said: Their God is their belly, their end is shameful destruction (Phil. 3:19). Whoever is guilty of satiation of the belly, repent and try to tame this beast, which leads us into many iniquitous sins.

Protopriest Anatoly Pravdolyubov.
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