Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh
26th September 1999
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I have been asked to give a couple of sermons on Confession. This is
my second sermon on the subject.
When we come to Confession we come to meet a friend face to face. We
are not coming to be judged and condemned. We do not come in terror of
what will happen. We come to the One who, being God, beyond suffering,
beyond death, has chosen, for the love of us, to become Man, to take
upon Himself all our human destiny and to give His life for us. His
life, His death are to us evidence that we are so loved of God that we
can come up to Him whether we are good or bad with hope that He will
receive us with open arms; that if anyone is to cry over our
unworthiness and our sins it is Him, for compassion, for pity, for
love - with a readiness, as He said in a vision to one of the saints,
that if there was only one sinner in the world He would again become
Man and again die for him, because He cannot endure the thought of
This is the God, the Christ, to Whom we come when we come to
Confession - to the One who is open to us with all His life and death;
One who waits for us to come to be healed, to be consoled, to be
supported - not to be condemned, not to be judged.
And then, what is the role of the priest? In the prayer which is read
before Confession we are told, 'I am but a witness'. What does it
mean? A witness to what? To the fact that you have come? That would
not be enough. But if you think of what witnesses are: there are
accidental, occasional witnesses. You are present in the street when
an accident takes place. You are asked: what did happen? You are
neither in favour of the ones or the others. You are just telling what
your eyes have seen. It's for others to judge and to know.
There are other forms of witness. At times a friend of ours is brought
to judgement. And we come to defend him, to testify for him, to save
him. That's another kind of witness.
And then there is the witness which the Holy Gospel mentions speaking
of St. John the Baptist: as the friend of the Bridegroom, the one who
comes to the wedding, invited both by the bride and the bridegroom,
because he is the nearest, the closest, to them both. And he is there
to share their joy, the miracle of their encounter, the miracle of a
blessing that will come upon them and out of two make one, unite them
so that they are inseparable for ever in the mystery of eternal love,
of divine love shared with them.
This is the position of the priest. He is called by Christ to be
before the person, the sinner, a witness to the fact that he, the
sinner, is loved, that Christ is there, that He has no other desire or
intention but the salvation and the joy eternal of the one who has
come today. And the priest comes also in the name of the sinner
saying: Christ, my God, our Lord, this person has sinned, yes, but
look, he trusts in You, he believes in You, we all love him with the
same love as You possess. We are prepared to give our lives for him to
be reconciled and find peace and joy and be at one with You, our Lord,
our God, our Saviour, our Lover.
When you come to Confession next time, think of these things. Think of
the way you come: not with fear of punishment or of rejection but with
open heart to pour out everything evil or doubtful there is in this
heart. And Christ will receive you. Your confession may be to Him a
new crucifixion but He accepts it. He doesn't reject it. He does not
reject you. Come, open your heart, speak in all truth to Him, knowing
that you are loved beyond judgement, to the point of sacrifice and
death: His death, and your life - life in time and life eternal. Amen.
* All texts are copyright: Estate of Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh
Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh Library