From the writings of Saint John of Kronstad, wonder-worker of Russia (+1908), priest, healer, preacher, miracle-worker and prophet, who did shine forth into all the Orthodox world.
Consciousness, memory, imagination, feeling, and will are helps to penitence. As we sin with all the powers of our soul, so penitence must be from the whole soul. Penitence in words only, without the intention of amendment and without the feeling of contrition, may be called hypocritical. Should the consciousness of sins be obscured, it must be cleared up; should the feeling be smothered and dulled, it must be roused; should the will become blunt and too weak for amendment, it must be forced: The kingdom of heaven has suffers violence, and men of violence take it by force. [Matt. 11:12] Confession must be sincere, deep and full.
I am only a witness, testifying before Him of all things which you will say. [A prayer from The Order of Confession] The priests will witness before the Saving Judge on the terrible Day of Judgment concerning sinners, whether they did or did not repent of these or those sins and they who were penitent will be forgiven. But why is it necessary for God to have witnesses, when he himself knows everything. He needed not that any should testify of man, for He himself knew what was in man. [John 2:25] Indeed they are not necessary to God, but they are necessary for us. It will be pleasant for us to see how the priests will bear witness concerning us, before angels and men, that we repented of our sins, condemned ourselves, expressed our loathing for sin, firmly resolved not to sin further.
It is absolutely necessary to confess at least once every year. The longer we go on without confessing, the worse it is for us, the more entangled we become in the bonds of sin, and therefore the more difficult it is to give account. We ought to confess our sins more frequently, in order to strike and scourge the sins by the open avowal of them, and in order to feel a greater loathing of them.
He who is accustomed to give account of his life at confession will not fear to give an answer at the terrible judgment-seat of Christ. For this purpose was the mild tribunal of penitence here instituted, that we may give an answer without shame, having been cleansed and healed through penitence here below. This is the first motive for sincere confession.
A second motive is inner calm. The more sincerely we confess our sins, the more calm will the soul be afterwards. For sins are secret serpents, gnawing at the heart of a man, and never letting him rest; they are prickly thorns, constantly goring the soul, they are spiritual darkness.
A priest is a spiritual physician. Show your wounds to him without shame, sincerely, openly, trusting and confiding in him as his child; for the confessor is your spiritual father, who should love you more than your own father and mother; for Christ’s love is higher than any natural love. He must give an answer to God for you. Why is our life so impure, so full of sinful habits? Because a great many conceal the spiritual wounds and sores which are the root of the trouble, and therefore it is impossible to apply any remedy to them.
For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. [2Cor. 5:21] Will you be ashamed after this to acknowledge any of your sins, whatever they may be, or to take upon yourself the blame for sin which you have not committed? If the Son of God himself was made sin for us, though he was sinless, then you, too, must accept blame for all sins with meekness and love and accept blame humbly and submissively, even for those sins which you have not committed, for in truth you are guilty of all.
In this life we sin continually, and at the same time we are so self-loving that we cannot endure to be reproved for our sins and faults, above all before others; but in the future life we shall be reproved for them before the whole world. Bearing in mind this terrible judgment-seat, let us bear reproof here humbly and gently, and let us correct ourselves of all our sins, all our faults; above all, let us bear reproof from those in authority over us, and may the Lord teach them to reprove our faults not with malice, but with love and in the spirit of meekness.
As soon as you have told the Lord your sins with a contrite heart they melt away; as soon as you have sighed and sorrowed for them, they are no more. Tell me your iniquities, that you may be justified. [see Is. 43:24b-26] As they came, so they go away. They are an illusion. As soon as you have recognized that they are an illusion, an absurdity, madness; as soon as you have resolved to do aright in the future, God cleanses you of them, through his minister and the holy sacraments.
Bear in mind that for cleansing your heart from sin, you will get an infinite reward – you will see God. The work of cleansing the heart is difficult, for in the course of it we are greatly afflicted; and therefore the reward is great. Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God. [Matt. 5:8]