Fear During Divine Service Because of Unconfessed Sins

The Letters of Saint Ambrose of Optina.

Saint Ambrose of Optina

I have received your letter dated 30 September. You write about yourself in this way: "For more than two years I have been ill with an unknown illness which doctors can not understand. The disease is such that I have more fear, especially reciting the Divine Liturgy, and also the constant melancholy, and pensiveness, and anguish. Though it is inconvenient to resolve this kind of confusion and disease without seeing you, but considering melancholy and fear you experience, I think that the beginning and the first cause of your disease were your childhood sins that probably you could not confess properly or were ashamed to do it; but you should had done it especially before your deacon ordination. The second cause may be that you haven’t always kept your conscience clear combining deacon ministry with married life, because a person ordained into this service is required a particular keeping of conscience, which is not infrequently prevented by either excessive use of strong drinks or intemperance with respect to irritation and anger. Each of these weaknesses alone has the power to bring great harm to the soul, especially if they are combined at the same time.

The same condition and state happens when a man despite his weaknesses and failures does not humble himself, but becomes arrogant and abases others. I think that in your sickness, first of all, you need to strive for release from aggravating anguish and fear. And you can achieve this, first, if you can find in your region such a confessor to whom with full faith and perfect sincerity you could humbly confess everything that lied heavy on your conscience from six years to this day; and secondly - if you firmly decide not to return to such actions that cause fear and anguish, as the Lord Himself said in the Gospel to the sinner, “go, and sin no more” (Jn 8: 11). If you do so and from now on you are determined to keep yourself and your conscience, then we can hope that you will not only get rid of the grief and fear aggravating you, but you can get such a relief in your bodily disease, with God’s grace and help, that will be useful for you, by the will of Lord, All-good, All-knowing, Almighty and having the providence of salvation for everyone.