Although confession is one of the seven Sacraments of the Coptic Orthodox Church (or any Orthodox Church for that matter), unfortunately, many people view it merely as an “optional” Sacrament, or one that should be practiced to purge only the most serious sins. Of course, neither is accurate.
The most common reason for rejecting confession is the spiritually flawed logic that “If I sin, I can always ask God for forgiveness directly – why do I need to get a priest involved?”
While you could, and certainly should, ask God for forgiveness, the reason you should get a priest involved is because God wants it that way. Have we forgotten what happened when God shined His light from heaven and spoke to Saul of Tarsus near Damascus? Although the Almighty God could have personally heard Saul’s confession at that instant or even forgiven all of his past transgressions with the utterance of His pure mouth, as He did the thief on the Cross, He did not do that. Instead, God told Saul to arise and go into the city where he would eventually meet Ananias, the Lord’s disciple. From there, Ananias took over and ministered to Paul as the Lord instructed him.
So, we see, God has a “system” in place… He has a particular order that He wants the believers to follow for confession – and we must all follow it (even the Pope has a father of confession). In the presence of the priest, a person confesses his sins to God. Then the priest uses the authority given to him by God to absolve and forgive sins. As our Lord Jesus Christ said to His disciples in the Gospel of St. Matthew (18:18), “Verily I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” This is a confirmation of the authority of the priesthood in general, and in the clergy’s role in confession in particular.
Moreover, we should view confession not as forced punishment, but rather as a heavenly gift from God. As the Thrice Blessed Pope Shenouda III used to famously say, “Confession gives us both a SOLUTION and an ABSOLUTION”: a solution to our problems and an absolution for our sins. Through confession, we can unload all of our heavy burdens, receive spiritual direction and be assured with 100% confidence that our sins are forgiven.Isn’t that a beautiful gift?
My beloved, I encourage you all to accept the present that the Lord is offering you today. He is reaching out and extending to each one of us His love and forgiveness. But He wants us to follow the way that He has established for the Church through the priest. If you have a father of confession, I encourage you to contact him and make an appointment for confession. If you have never confessed, I urge you to take this blessed opportunity to make your first confession. As our Lord Jesus Christ tells us, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Rev. 3:20)Will you answer the Lord’s knock? I pray that you do.