It’s the fifth Sunday of Lent where Orthodox Christians commemorate St Mary of Egypt. St Mary is a strong example of someone in the faith of how no matter how far you feel you strayed from the church, you can seek forgiveness and come back. Only in words does this seem simple, right? Forgiveness is so hard to do especially when we hurt others or have fallen so far down to temptation and discover how unworthy we are – but it is attainable through finding the courage to seek forgiveness and that’s the main point of what St Mary’s life teaches us.
St Mary struggled with a sex addiction before she went to live her life isolated as a desert ascetic before she found her way back to the church thanks to the help of the monk, Zosimas.
Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, Stroudsburg PA
What St Mary’s life Means to Us
St. Mary lived in deep sin, so do we when we really examine our conscience and discover how flawed we are by design due to the fall of Adam and Eve. We have to be comfortable with referring to ourselves as sinners, not to say we’re bad people. And this isn’t to say that it’s OK to live a life of deep sin again and again but to eventually come to grip with your mistakes and work up the courage to seek forgiveness and work on our own healing through regular confession and communion.
Confession can be painful – if you’re confessing from the heart.
Our confession table is a usually hidden off to the side by the iconostasis. From far away, it looks small and delicate with usually a wooden cross placed on the table with prayers and a gospel book but it’s when you kneel or stand before it it’s when you should feel you are facing God. It’s okay if your extremities feel a bit numb. It’s okay if you blank. Until I started praying the prayers and attending more services, I only confessed a few times a year. I led a quiet life, didn’t really bother anyone, why would I have to go more than that?
But I wasn’t being fully honest with myself. And when you’re not being fully honest with yourself, you don’t allow yourself to heal spiritually and mentally. So, I gave myself that.
It eventually took time to find a spiritual father. I didn’t know how I would choose one at first. I respect and pray for all of the clergy I met and served as my father confessor that it surely took great meaning to establish that relationship between priest and spiritual child. A spiritual father is simply your spiritual physician, that stands beside you to work with you act as guidance as support as you confess sins, passions and temptations that you struggle with. A spiritual father is also someone that should know and understand you a bit and/or someone you feel very comfortable in developing trust. This takes time. And one can have multiple spiritual fathers throughout time.
Did you Know?
…that Orthodox priests receive confession as well?
….that six times a year is the absolute minimum to go to confession?
….that although it is required to fast after midnight onto liturgy, there are some exceptions if you’re ailing, very old, very young, pregnant or taking medication? (Talk and listen to your priest.)
Some Helpful Information
Do check out the sources below to help you prepare for your next confession. I promise… it will probably be your best one in awhile.