Εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ Πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ Υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος.
Καὶ γνωρίζω δύο κοινότητες στὰ πρῶτα χρόνια τῆς Ἐπανάστασης, ὅπου δύο πνευματικοὶ, ὅταν κάποιος ἤθελε νὰ ἐξομολογηθεῖ, καλοῦσαν ὅλα τὰ πνευματικά τους παιδιὰ καὶ ἡ ἐξομολόγηση γινόταν δυνατά, ἐνώπιον ὅλων, ποὺ ἦταν ἐκεῖ σὰν φίλοι τοῦ γαμπροῦ, μὲ τὴν δύναμη ποὺ ὁ Κύριος ἔδωσε στοὺς μαθητές Του νὰ συγχωροῦν ἤ νὰ δένουν ἀμαρτίες. Ἀφοῦ ὁ ἀμαρτωλὸς εἶχε ἐξομολογηθεῖ, τότε οἱ πνευματικοὶ στρέφονταν πρὸς τὴν κοινότητα καὶ ἔλεγαν: «ἀκούσατε, εἶστε ἔτοιμοι νὰ σηκώσετε τὸ βάρος τῆς ἀμαρτίας του, εἶστε ἔτοιμοι νὰ τὸν σηκώσετε στοὺς ὥμους ὅπως ἕναν ἀγαπημένο μαθητὴ ἤ ἀδελφό, συναισθάνεσθε ὅτι μοιράζεστε τὴν δυστυχία του; Ἄν νοιώθετε ἕτοιμοι νὰ σηκώσετε τὸ βάρος του ὁλόψυχα, ὁλοκληρωτικά, δίχως ἐπιφυλάξεις, ἐν ὀνόματι τοῦ Χριστοῦ, μπορῶ νὰ τοῦ δώσω συγχώρεση˙ ἄν ἀρνεῖστε νὰ τὸ κάνετε, δὲν μπορῶ, ἀλλὰ θὰ εἶστε ὑπόλογοι ἀπέναντι στὸν Θεὸ, ποὺ ἀπορρίψατε κάποιον γιὰ τὸν ὁποῖον ὁ Χριστὸς ἔδωσε τὸ αἷμα Του.
Αὐτὸ ἦταν ἡ τακτικὴ τῆς πρώτης Ἐκκλησίας˙ νὰ προσέλθει κάποιος ἐνώπιον ὅλης τῆς κοινότητας καὶ ν’ ἀνοίξει τὴν καρδιὰ του. Καὶ ὅσο ἡ κοινότητα ἦταν μικρή, ὅσο διωκόταν, ἄλλο τόσο ἦταν πράξη ἠρωϊσμοῦ νὰ εἶναι κάποιος μέλος τοῦ σώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ. Ἀλλὰ ὅταν ἡ Ἐκκλησία ἀναγνωρίστηκε ἀπὸ τὸ κράτος, ὅταν δὲν ὑπῆρχε κανένας κίνδυνος νὰ ἀνήκει κάποιος σ’ αὐτὴν, ἀκόμα περισσότερο ὅταν ἦταν εὔκολο καὶ προνομιακὸ ν’ ἀνήκεις ἐκεῖ, τὸτε μιὰ τέτοια ἐξομολόγηση ἦταν πλέον ἀδύνατη, γιατὶ δὲν ἦταν ἀποδέκτες ἄνθρωποι ποὺ θεωροῦσαν ὅτι ἡ ἀμαρτία τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ τους εἶναι καὶ δική τους καὶ ὅτι ἔπρεπε νὰ φέρουν ὁ ἕνας τοῦ ἄλλου τὶς πληγὲς καὶ τὴν ἀδυναμία. Γι’ αὐτὸ τὸ λόγο καθιερώθηκε ἡ προσωπικὴ ἐξομολόγηση.
Ἔχετε κάποια ἐμπειρία γιὰ τὸ τὶ μπορεῖ νὰ εἶναι αὐτὴ ἡ κοινὴ ἐξομολόγηση ὅταν ὁ ἱερέας, ἀφοῦ προσευχηθεῖ μαζί σας, σᾶς μίλησε καὶ σταθεῖ κοντὰ σας, ἐξομολογεῖται δυνατὰ ἐνώπιον τοῦ Θεοῦ. Μετέχετε στὴν ἐξομολόγηση του καὶ μπορεῖτε νὰ ταυτιστεῖτε μαζί του, καθὼς δέχεται νὰ μοιραστεῖ μαζί σας τὴν ἀδυναμία του, τὴν ἀμαρτωλότητα του, τὴν ἀνάγκη του γιὰ συγχώρεση. Αὐτὴ εἶναι μιὰ μικρὴ προσέγγιση, ἀλλὰ πρέπει νὰ μάθουμε νὰ μοιραζόμαστε τὸ βάρος τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν μας.
Θυμᾶμαι τὴν ἱστορία ἑνὸς Ρώσου ἀξιωματικοῦ ποὺ πῆγε σὲ μιὰ νεανικὴ σύναξη τὸ 1920 καὶ εἶπε τοῦ ἱερέα στὴν ἐξομολόγηση ὅτι ἦταν διαθέσιμος ν΄ἀναφέρει ὅλα τὰ ἁμαρτήματα ποὺ εἶχε διαπράξει, ἀλλὰ ἡ καρδιά του ἦταν σκληρὴ σὰν πέτρα καὶ δὲν τοῦ στοίχιζε αὐτό˙ θὰ μποροῦσε νὰ τοῦ δώσει λίστα ἀπὸ ἀμαρτίες, ἀλλὰ ἴχνος ἀπὸ δάκρυ. Καὶ αὐτὸς ὁ ἱερέας, ὁ πατήρ Ἀλέξανδρος Ἐλχάνιμοβ, τοῦ ἔδωσε τὴν ἐντολὴ νὰ μὴν ἐξομολογηθεῖ σ’ ἐκεῖνον, ἀλλὰ τὸ ἑπόμενο πρωὶ ὅταν θὰ τελεῖτο ἡ θεία εὐχαριστία, νὰ ἐρχόταν νωρίτερα καὶ, ἐνώπιον τῆς νεανικῆς σύναξης, νὰ ἔκανε τὴν ἐξομολόγηση ποὺ σκόπευε νὰ κάνει στὸν ἱερέα. Κι ἐκεῖνος ὁ ἄνδρας, νοιώθοντας τὴν ἀπελπισμένη ἀνάγκη νὰ ἀναστηθεῖ, ἐπειδὴ ἡ καρδιά του ἦταν νεκρή, παρουσιάστηκε κι ἐξήγησε τὶ ἐπρόκειτο νὰ κάνει. Περίμενε νὰ φύγουν ὅλοι μακρυά του μὲ τρόμο, ἀντὶ γι΄ αὐτὸ, ἔνοιωσε ὅτι ὅλο τὸ πλῆθος κινήθηκε πρὸς αὐτὸν μὲ συμπόνοια, συμπάθεια, μὲ πνεῦμα ἑνότητας. Ἄρχισε νὰ ἐξομολογεῖται καὶ ἡ καρδιά του ἔσπασε καὶ ξέσπασε σὲ λυγμοὺς καὶ λυτρώθηκε.
Ὡς ἐκ τούτου, ὅταν πηγαίνουμε νὰ ἐξομολογηθοῦμε, ἄς μὴν εἴμαστε εὐχαριστημένοι ποὺ ἐρχόμαστε στὸν ἱερέα γιὰ ν’ἀπευθυνθοῦμε μέσα ἀπὸ ἐκεῖνον στὸν Κύριο Ἰησοῦ Χριστὸ ποὺ στέκεται ἐκεῖ φέροντας τὶς πληγὲς τῆς Σταύρωσης μαζὶ μὲ τὶς δικές μας. Ἀλλὰ ἄς στραφοῦμε στὸν καθένα ποὺ ἔχουμε προσβάλλει προσωπικὰ ἀπὸ τὴν τελευταία μας ἐξομολόγηση, ἤ ἴσως ἀπὸ πολὺ καιρὸ πρίν, ν’ ἀνοίξουμε τὴν καρδιά μας, νὰ ποῦμε τὴν ἀλήθεια, νὰ λάβουμε ἄφεση γιὰ τὸ θύμα μας, νὰ θεραπεύσουμε τὸ μέλος τοῦ σώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ ποὺ πληγώσαμε κάποιες φορὲς σχεδὸν θανάσιμα καὶ μόνο τότε νὰ πᾶμε στὸν ἱερέα καὶ νὰ ἐξομολογηθοῦμε στὸν Κύριο ποὺ στέκει σταυρωμένος γιὰ νὰ λάβουμε ἀπὸ τὸν ἱερέα ἐν ὀνόματι Του τὴν συγχώρεση γιὰ τὶς ἁμαρτίες ποὺ δείξαμε ἀληθινὴ μετάνοια. Ἀμήν.
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And I know of two communities in the early days of the Revolution when two spiritual guides whenever anyone wanted to make a confession called together all their spiritual children and the confession was made aloud before all in his presence, standing there as the friend of the bridegroom and endowed with the power to forgive or to bind which was given by Christ to His disciples. And when the sinner had confessed his misdeeds these spiritual guides turned to the community and said: you have heard now, are you prepared to carry the weight of his sin, are you prepared to take him on as a beloved brother or sister, are you aware that you are sharing with him his misery? If you are prepared to take him on wholeheartedly, completely, unreservedly in the name of Christ I can give him forgiveness, if you refuse to do this, I cannot do it, but also you will be answerable before God for having rejected one for whom Christ had given His life.
This was the early attitude of the Church: come to the whole community and open one’s heart. And this was possible as long as the community was small, as long as it was persecuted, as long as it was an act of heroism to be a member of the body of Christ. But when the Church was recognized by the State, when there was no danger in belonging to it, moreover when it was easy and advantageous to belong to it, then a confession of that kind was impossible because it was nor received by people who considered that the sin of their brother was their own sin and that they had to carry one another’s wounds and weaknesses; and therefore individual confession was introduced.
You have a certain experience of what this common confession can be at retreats when the priest having prayed with you, talked to you, standing before God with you, makes aloud his own confession before God. You participate in his own confession and you can identify with him as he accepts to share with you his frailty, his sinfulness and his need of forgiveness. This is a small approximation but we must learn to share together the burden of one another sins.
I remember by hearsay the story of a Russian officer who came at a youth conference in the 1920ths and said to the priest in confession that he was in a position to mention all the sins he has committed but his heart was of ice and of stone and he had no feeling about it. He could give a list but not shade a tear. And this priest, father Alexander Elchaninov, commanded him not to make his confession to him but the next morning when the Liturgy would be celebrated to come /off/ before the Liturgy and to all the youth conference assembled there to make the confession he intended to make to the priest. And this man, feeling the desperate need of his resurrection from the dead, because he was dead at heart, came out, explained what he was about to do. He expected that everyone would move away from him in horror instead of which he felt that all the conference moved towards him in compassion, in sympathy, in oneness; he began to speak his confession and his heart broke and he burst into tears and he was redeemed.
And therefore when we come to confession let us not be content to come to the priest and to speak in his presence to the Lord Jesus Christ who stands there with the wounds of the Crucifixion to which we have added our own. But let us turn to everyone whom we may have offended individually between our last confession or perhaps a long, long time before, open our heart, tell the truth, obtain forgiveness for our victim, heal that limb of the body of Christ which we have wounded at time almost mortally and then only come to the priest and confess our sins to the Lord Jesus Christ who stands crucified and obtain from the priest in His name forgiveness of the sins for which we have truly repented. Amen.