Concealment of Sins

Concealment of sins in the Sacrament of Confession due to a false shame before the priest is also a consequence of strong pride and in some sense is a kind of delusion, because the damage to the soul due to the sin is significantly enhanced, but the man does not notice it thinking that it is better to continue to conceal the sin. Also sometimes it happens with not very significant sins, some sort of mental sin, for example, blasphemous thoughts. Blasphemous thoughts are mental blasphemy, bad words, thoughts of unbelief against God, the Mother of God, Angels, Saints, and other people. These thoughts, as the Fathers say, arise from strong pride and conviction of people. "And no other thought is as difficult to admit in confession, which is why so many are dogged by it all their days. In fact nothing gives demons and evil thoughts such power over us as to nourish them and hide them in our hearts unconfessed." (The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Word 23).

This section describes how people with the Saints’ help were released from concealment and what are the consequences of the concealment of sins both during the person’s life and after death.

Headaches because of Unconfessed Sin

Elder Paisios the Athonite. "Words". Vol. 3.

Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain

One time, a middle-aged man came to my Hut with a suspicious air about him...  From a distance, when I first spotted him, I could tell he was under a demonic influence. 

"I came here so you can help me", he said. "Pray for me, because I've been having terrible headaches for a whole year, and doctors can't find what's wrong."  

"You've got a demon", I said to him, "because you've given rights to the devil". 

"But I didn't do anything!"

"You didn't do anything?" I replied. "Didn't you cheat on a young woman? Well, she went and had a spell put on you.  Go and ask her to forgive you, then go to confession, ask to have Exorcisms read over you, and you will regain your health.  If you can't perceive your error and don't repent, even if all the spiritual fathers in the world get together and pray for you, the demon won't leave you."

When people like him come to me, with such an air, I speak to them openly. They need to be shaken up in order to come to realization.

This article in Russian

Mental Illness Due to Unconfessed Childhood Sins

Letters of St. Ambrose of Optina. Letter 390.

Saint Ambrose of Optina (1812-1891)

You write about your brother who suffers from mental illness of suspicion, as if the secret police is chasing him everywhere and through everyone, so he suspects evil intents and connections with the secret police in the people closest to him. This mental disease had occurred to him due to the fact that he was ashamed, or simply did not want to repent of his childhood sins considering them unimportant. But conscience – the incorruptible judge – reminded him with its reproaches of the need to repent, suggesting that he is wrong and is to blame; but he, instead of repenting, turned the reproaches of the conscience into a police pursuit. When this was joined by unbelief and long refusal of the communion of the Holy Mysteries, it further strengthened his mental illness of unfounded suspicion.

You are afraid that he will become completely mad... But it is the lightest evil and misery. In this case, at least, his life would be saved, if he is in the insane institution, and a man in madness is no longer responsible for what he does in this condition. Of course, he shall bear responsibility for the previous deeds.

It will be good, if you could manage to bring your brother to the monastery of St. Sergius and to serve with him a prayer service in the caves before the miraculous icon of Our Lady of Chernigov, having arranged beforehand a good confessor for your brother. After the prayer before this icon, the mentally damaged people came to the common sense and confessed well and were healed through it.

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The Tactics of the Devil – Either Belittling or Increasing the Severity of a Sin

Saint Barsanuphius of Optina (1845 - 1913)

Saint Barsanuphius of Optina.

Do you know the Devil's tactics? You really need to know it. When the Devil knows that some man has a sin more or less serious, he tries to prevent him from repentance. To this end, he belittles the severity of the sin in any way, suggesting the following thoughts: "It does not matter, God will forgive this to you" - and so on. And the demon even tries to make a man forget about this sin. But when this man manages to confess the sin to his spiritual father in the confession, the Devil in every way increases the severity of sin, suggesting that this sin is so great that God will never forgive it. And he tries to bring a person into depression and despair. You see how cunning the enemy is. He knows that the sins are washed away in the confession, and therefore he does not admit people to confession, and if a man confesses, the enemy embarrasses him in every way.

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Elder Joseph the Hesychast about Concealment

Elder Joseph the Hesychast. "Monastic wisdom". From letter 3.

Elder Joseph the Hesychast

And so, my child, force yourself from the beginning to enter the narrow gate, because only it leads to the spaciousness of paradise. Cut off your own will every day and hour, and seek no other path besides this one. This is the path that the feet of the Holy Fathers trod. Reveal your path unto the Lord and He will guide you, too. Reveal your thoughts to your elder, and he will heal you. Never hide a thought, because the devil conceals his cunning within it: as soon as you confess it he disappears. Do not reveal another person’s fault to justify yourself, because at once grace, which had covered you until that point, will reveal your own faults. The more you cover your brother with love, the more grace warms you and guards you from the false accusation of men.

As for the other brother you mentioned, it seems that he has some unconfessed sins, because he is ashamed to tell them to the elder. And this is why that temptation takes place. But he must correct this improper behavior, for without frank confession, one cannot be purified. It is a shame to be ridiculed by the demons. Deep down his ego is hiding. May the Lord enlighten him to come to his senses. And you should pray and love him as well as everyone; yet guard yourself from all.

This article in Russian

Communion When Concealing Sins

Schema-archimandrite Abraham (Reidman). Unworthy communion as an aspect of spiritual life.

Report at the conference "Life of the Eucharistic Community".

Schema-archimandrite Abraham (Reidman)

I hesitated for a long time which topic of the report I should choose. Today it is no longer necessary to insist on the benefits of frequent communion, because it is becoming a tradition of our Church. At the latest Bishops’ Council, decisions were made both about proper preparation for communion and about the need to receive communion often. For example, by the decisions of this Council, believers are allowed to take daily communion at the Bright Week, which at the time of my youth seemed completely impossible. Reflecting on what may be interesting and important for all of us, I decided to raise a question, perhaps reflecting the negative aspects of the Eucharistic life, however, relevant and useful. This is a question of unworthy communion.

First of all, I want to remind you of the famous words of the Apostle Paul from the First Epistle to the Corinthians about how the sacrament of the Eucharist was established and with what feelings and thoughts we should receive it.

This is what the apostle Paul says: For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. [1 Cor. 11, 23–26].

Concealing the Sins and Aerial Tollhouses

Protopriest Oleg Stenyaev. “An exam without the right to re-sit it: how can we pass the toll houses”.

Protopriest Oleg Stenyaev

There are people who, when making their confession, show false shame in front of a priest and conceal their sins. Such people are in a serious danger of being stuck at the second tollhouse. This kind of shame at making confession is related to the fact that when a person begins to communicate closely with a priest, he or she thinks that if they reveal all their sins, the priest will change his attitude to a negative one.  In fact, it’s the devil who whispers such thoughts into one’s ears. The opposite is true: a priest, if he feels that the confession is not sincere, may become cold towards this person. When a priest sees that the person trusts him completely, he gets compassion for such a person.

The First Epistle of John states, ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us’ (1 John, 1:9-10). I mean, if we are not hiding anything in confession, we will be forgiven. If we say that we have not sinned, then ‘we make him a liar, and his word is not in us’. If we go to confession and we are doing it in front of a priest, being selfish, concealing our sins or looking for some kind of excuse, there is a danger that we may be stuck at the second tollhouse.

Unconfessed Sins Can Cause Suffering and Demonic Attacks

Elder Joseph the Hesychast

Elder Joseph the Hesychast. "Monastic wisdom". From letter 16.

As for the brother you wrote about who is suffering, we shall say prayers on his behalf. He must be committing some hidden sin now or in the past, and for this reason God allows him to suffer in this way. Many times a person commits a sin without realizing that he is sinning by doing it. He walks like a blind man in the darkness, without the courage to see himself in the light and to say, “I have sinned, my God!”

This article in Russian

The Elder Helped a Man to Make His Confession

From a conversation with Elder Mikhail (Pitkevitch).

 
Elder Mikhail (Pitkevitch) (1877-1962)

The elder said, ‘An elderly lady came to visit me once with her daughter. She told me that her son, a good and religious man by nature, an often churchgoer, nevertheless attends services without taking Holy Communion for years. This way her son used to attend the church caused his mother to worry. She asked me to lead her son on the right path. I agreed to make an attempt to do so. Soon this man visited me. I found him a pleasant and sincere person. I asked him about his education, work, way of his life, etc. He described everything in detail and was frank with me. ‘Why don’t you go to the Holy Communion?’  I asked my visitor, ‘you are already of middle age, you live in unsettling times, and suddenly death may well come to you.’ ‘You are absolutely right, Father’, my guest replied, ‘but I fear to confess because I am not used to do this.’ ‘My friend, you don’t have to make your confession now,’ I told him. ‘I just heard one of the fullest confessions of my life. Get on your knees, and I will pray above you for absolution.’ He did so, and I absolved his sins. Now he is a well-known religious man.

This article in Russian

Death Agony of a Monk Who Concealed the Sins He Committed as a Layman

Archimandrite Ephraim of Arizona (1928–2019). From the "Homily on Remembrance of Death".

Elder Ephraim of Arizona (1928–2019)

When we for the first time founded our fraternity in the New Skete, something happened to an elder of the Skete, both frightening and beneficial for all of us. Of course, the older fathers can remember that.

This elder had heart disease, therefore he should have a special sort of remembrance of the death. But, alas, the temptation overcame him and did not allow him to confess some sins related to his secular life when he was still a layman. When he felt very ill and realized that he is close to death, he send his brother, also a monk, to see me. His brother told me that the sick man was dying of impatience and was looking forward to see me. He is in need of consolation as he is being tortured by thoughts of his soul going to perish.

I was surprised, of course, that he told me that he had lost his patience, because I know that the monks are somewhat patient in temptation, in sickness and other labours. We went to his cell.

When I saw this elder I realize that it was not the problem of him being impatient. His bed was surrounded by demons. After we were left alone with the sick man, I asked him if he could see the evil spirits. He nodded. His face was distorted with anger, he was looking on the left and right and trying to protect himself with his arms. He behaved as if he was attacked by a pack of rabid dogs struggling with all his might.

I raised my voice to distract him from the demons and asked him what the demons were telling him. ‘Alas! What they are telling me… I dare not to say that.’

Knowing that the Elder Saw All the Sins of a Person, the Girl Concealed her Sin Anyway

Protopriest Vladimir Vorobyev. "Hieromonk Pavel Troitsky".

Story of Hegumenia Iuliania, when she was a young girl and wrote letters to elder Paul (Troitsky)

It was as long as several years before I felt enough courage to confess a special sin. I suffered a lot because of that but could not do anything about it. I feared to write to Fr Pavel about that, just putting at the end of every my letter to him the words of asking forgiveness and prayers. I believe it was for his prayers only the Lord gave me enough courage and I could confess my sin.

This article in Russian

Father Anthony Knew How to Make a Person Want Pure Confession

From the biography of the Venerable Anthony of Optina.

Saint Anthony of Optina

Anthony of Optina imperceptibly led everyone to getting conscious of their spiritual weaknesses. So once, someone repented before him in some sins, and kept silence about others. Anthony of Optina did not denounce the incompleteness of repentance, but, on the contrary, told the repentant that with his repentance he had pleased the Angels in heaven, and with these words great contrition and zeal for the perfect cleansing of conscience aroused in this man.

“When you ask someone,” said Anthony of Optina, “then you receive benefits according to the measure of faith: whoever comes with little faith, receives little benefit, and who comes with great faith – gets a great benefit. It happened to me at first to ask the elder, as if tempting: “What will he say to this?” Well, the answers were corresponding. And if you put it in your heart that you will hear the answer of God himself from the elder, then God will notify, and a completely different person will appear, and you will hear what you do not expect.” To some visitors, Anthony spoke about their circumstances in hints, and to simple people who accepted his words with simplicity of heart and with faith, he spoke directly and simply. If someone had already proved his sincerity and devotion by a long-term spiritual relationship, he sometimes even called for an explanation. It happened that one of his spiritual children, disturbed by a thought, revealed it to him not in the course of the confession, but in a simple conversation, narratively; then the elder himself resumed the conversation about this, and calmed down only when everything had been properly confessed. And in conclusion he would say: “Now it’s good; otherwise you show the shell, but you do not show the grain itself”. It also happened that he reminded some of those who referred to him about the cases, which they never revealed not only to him, but forgot about themselves; or commanded to pray for some sin, of which they were not aware in themselves, and did not understand at all, or did not consider it a sin, and after some time, with a careful review of their life, they discovered in themselves with a surprise what the elder had indicated. But the elder did this to those whose sincerity he tested, and when it was clear to him that they were hiding this or that, not because of stubbornness or lack of frankness, but precisely because of ignorance. In other cases, with extraordinary patience, he waited until the person himself came to his senses and consciousness; because only then spiritual healing is effective. Also, when the remarks made out of paternal love and care were not taken in the way it should have been, then he refrained from such remarks; and if he did not have the opportunity to influence on somebody with the word, he tried to bring to goodness by secretly praying for such person.

This article in Russian

 

Shame to Confess Sins (4 Questions to a Priest)

Question to a priest

February 11, 2013

Hello! The situation is such that I committed one sin. I repent of it, but I can’t confess to the priest - I’m embarrassed and ashamed. I can’t tell him that. Before God, I repented of everything long ago. Is it necessary to confess to the priest?

Katia

Katia, it is a must to confess to the priest. Sin is destroyed, it loses its strength only when we expose (reveal) it. The devil is afraid when he is exposed, when his deeds are revealed, and he runs away. You feel false shame – you should be ashamed to sin. Until sin is revealed in confession, it is not forgiven, and this sin will be with you until you repent in it during the confession to the priest.

Hieromonk Victorin (Aseev)


March 29, 2013

Hello, Hegumen Nikon (Golovko)! Thank you very much for your advice! I have one more question. But what if, during confession, you cannot confess of some sin? If you are ashamed, scary and uncomfortable talking about it? I very much repent of my sins and dream of confessing. But I’m scared, I don’t know why. Please tell me what is to be done. Thank you.

Marina

Marina, you need to imagine that you are standing before God Himself, who has known everything for a long time already, He knows everything. And now, just like a father in front of a child, He is already ready to forgive and not punish, waiting for acknowledgment - please forgive me, yes, it was I who did it.

Hegumen Nikon (Golovko)

About the Importance of a Pure Confession

New Patericon of Mt Athos. Vol. 2. Stories about asceticism

About elder Isichios of Grigoriou Monastery

A bishop from Romania asked Elder Isichios to say a word to him. ‘Teach your herd to make good confession,’ the elder replied. ‘Let them all confess, without hiding anything. Confession is a great sacrament, as is the Holy Communion. I knew some old fathers in our monastery, who made pure confessions and foresaw their deaths.’

This article in Russian

Scary Demonic Vision Due to Concealment of Sins

The Great Watch. From the cell notes of Hieromonk Jerome.

One of devoted people, wishing to retire to the monastery, asked the hegumen to accept him to the cenoby. After many of his desires expressed before the hegumen, he was asked to live a little as he lives and go to obedience, which was then assigned to him. From the very moment he received obedience, he showed a spirit of defiance by the fact that he did not like obedience or the cell. When the hegumen made a remark to him, he was very alarmed, but, however, he went on convinced by an older one, who told him about the power of obedience, he apparently set to work. And when he just got down to it, a demon suddenly appeared in the middle of the day and said to him: “And you dared to leave me! Didn’t I console you, giving you various pleasures at the request of your heart? ”Of course, the newcomer was very scared, because after that wriggling snakes and other reptiles appeared, he began to cry and scream hysterically.

Then they told the confessor, who instructed him not to cry and not to be afraid of anything. When asked why this happened, he spoke out that he concealed his weaknesses in confession, not wanting to be ashamed of the confessor. Then the first days he felt a great fear, but when he made the sign of the Cross, then everything stopped. This novice, however, lived in the monastery for only about three months and, embarrassed more and more, left for his homeland.

This article in Russian

Other People’s Sins were Revealed to Abba Eulogios

St Ignatius (Brianchaninov). "Paterikon".

A presbyter (hieromonk) Abba Eulogios, while celebrating the Holy Liturgy, was overwhelmed by the Divine Grace so much, that he could see the spiritual condition of anyone who came to him. Often he forbade to some monks who drew near to take the Holy Communion, saying, ‘How dare you draw near the Holy Communion, having unclean thoughts? This night you enjoyed unclean lustful thoughts, thinking, that both an unclean sinner and a pure man can draw near the Grace of Christ’. He also rebuked other people of different sins. ‘Do not take the Holy Communion for a short time,’ he used to say to them, ‘and repent sincerely to have your sins be pardoned and you became worthy of the Communion with God. The man who does not repudiate any communion with sinful thoughts cannot draw near to the Holy Mysteries of God.’

The communion with sinful thoughts means agreeing and enjoying them by one’s own will, but not the involuntary submission to their flood: the second cannot be avoided, but anyone can withstand them.

This article in Russian

A Man who Neglects to Reveal his Thoughts will not Gain Any Benefits

Apophthegmata Patrum translated by St Theophan the Recluse.

40. The same Elder both in order to prove the virtues of the law and to teach us told us this story: two brothers who lived in Lavra in separate cells used to visit each other. Once one of them said to his brother, ‘I would like to visit Abba Zenon to reveal him a thought of mine.’ The latter answered, ‘So would I.’ Therefore, they went together. Each of them confided their thoughts to Abba privately. The first one prostrated before Abba with begging him with tears and Abba told him, ‘Go, do not neglect, do not judge, and do not omit your prayer.’ Then that brother came back to his cell, spiritually healed. The latter, however, did not beg Abba with pain but said only, ‘Pray for me.’ After a certain time two monks got together and one asked another, ‘Did you reveal your thought to Abba you wanted?’ He said, ‘I did.’ The brother asked again, ‘Did you get any benefit revealing it?’ He said again, ‘I did; God has healed me by the prayers of the Elder.’ The latter said, ‘I did reveal my thought; however, I did not get any relief.’ Then the healed one said, ‘How did you ask the Elder?’ The brother told that he asked to pray for him, as he has such and such thoughts. The healed brother answered, ‘I poured my tears on his feet and begged him to pray for me, when revealing him my thoughts, and God healed me by his prayers.’ Therefore, concluded the Elder his story, a brother, who is asking an Abba about his thoughts, has to beg him with all his might and pain, as if he were asking God himself, and he will get help then; the one, however, who reveals neglectfully or even tempting his Abba, not only will get no help whatsoever, but will be condemned.

This article in Russian

Is it Necessary to Confess the Sin that Is Forsaken?

Question to a priest

Last winter, after worshiping the relics of the Saint Blessed Matrona of Moscow, miraculously, sin which I could not overcome for many years left me. Do I need to confess this sin, if it is in the past?

Answer of the priest Dimitry Vasiliev, the clergyman of the church of Saint Princess Olga Equal-to-the-Apostles in Kalininsk.

Even if you have forsaken the sin through the prayers of St. Matrona, this does not mean that you do not need to confess it. If the sin included, for example, accidental killing? Even if not a single person was killed after that one for decades, does this mean that confession is superfluous? However, concealing the sin in confession, we fall under the words that we hear every time before we are covered with the epitrachilion: "If you conceal something from me, you will have a double sin." Find the strength in yourself to open up to the confessor, because even when you come to the doctor whom you know, you will not be embarrassed by the fact that your illness is very personal in nature – here the situation is the same.

This article in Russian

The Reason of the Cooling of Faith in God May Be the Lack of Real Repentance for Some Sin

Questions to a priest on the Spas TV channel.

Protopriest Alexander Nikolsky.

A woman, let’s suppose, comes up to me, and says: now I haven’t taken Communion for a year already. I say: why? She says: I don’t know. I say: what sin did you commit a year ago? “I betrayed my husband, (well, for example), but I repented of it.” “What does it mean you have repented?” – “Well, I said about it in the Confession.” “Do you consider yourself wrong that you cheated on your husband?” – “No, you know, father, this betrayal has given me a lot”. I say: “What did it give you?” – “Well, such a spiritual, moral development, something else, something else. It’s even hard for me to consider this a sin.” “That's why you don’t go to the church.” The only thing that separates us from God is sin. Sin separates us from God. And when a person formally mentioned his sin in Confession - well, some, I mentioned one for example, maybe the other one, but he didn’t repent of it heartily with the contrition of the heart, he didn’t reject it internally, he kept the form of repentance, but there was no repentance, - this led him inevitably to cooling. Therefore, you just need to find out what sin lies at the basis of this cooling, or maybe it is a mortal sin, or maybe it is like when I said that football is more interesting than the Liturgy, and begin to repent of this sin, struggle, and force yourself to do the opposite.

This article in Russian

An Elderly Woman is Ashamed to Confess to a Young Priest

Archpriest Dimitry Smirnov (1951-21.10.2020)

Questions to Archpriest Dimitry Smirnov on the air of the Radonezh radio.

Question: I'm an elderly woman, in my sixties. I can’t walk for many years and a priest comes to me, whom I have known since the age of nine, very young. And in old age, I am suddenly visited by such thoughts and sinful feelings, which I am ashamed, as an old woman, to tell him, the child, because I know him from infancy. What do I do?

- Shame is like a mustard plaster. It burns, but heals. Therefore, there is nothing special about this. As before a doctor, one has to undress and talk about his sores, the same is here. For many people, this is a rather serious barrier. But we must overcome it. Age has nothing to do with it. After all, the main thing is still healing. You see, if you are tormented, it is better to apply a plaster to this. Therefore, I would advise you to pray stronger, and, as they say, go into battle. May God help you.

This article in Russian

Cruel Death Because of Secret Sin

Hieroschemamonk Mikhail (Pitkevich). "Conversations with S.N.Bolshakov. Second Conversation"

I heard most incredible stories about some people who were repenting their sins. Therefore, I am fully confident that love and compassion can convert the worst sinner into a very pious person; that a human wreck in extreme condition, even at the edge of suicide can be converted into a good man or woman, or even become a saint. Unbelievable but true – there is a multitude of people who are spending their lives in the gloomy shade of a secret sin or crime without having enough courage to confess them to a fellow-man as they do not want to lose his respect. I was called once to hear the confession of a dying monk who was greatly venerated by everyone for his spotless life. His agony was long and painful. He experienced a great fear. Of course, I understood the situation at once. The passing away monk was concealing a sin, unrevealed at the confession. I asked him straightforward, what it was. He committed it thirty years ago but never could confess until he lay on his deathbed. He rested in peace.

This article in Russian

The Consequences of Concealment of Sins Before the Priestly Ordination

Letters of elder John (Krestiankin).

Elder John (Krestiankin) (1910 - 5.2.2006)

Dear Father P.!

In Pochaev, they made you an accurate diagnosis of your disease. And the reason is clear for you. God is not mocked.

It is absolutely necessary for you to confess to your ruling bishop, because the sins mentioned by you, starting from concealing them before the ordination, are a canonical impediment for your service before the altar. You have to choose, because if you do not confess to the bishop and continue the service, the consequences could be dreadful in relation to both your illness and your future fate. A priest can not solve your problem, he has no such power.

May God give you wisdom and help you realize that you are in the toils of dark forces.

***

Servant of God S.!

The issue of becoming a priest is usually finally decided on the confession. After all, there are some sins that forever impede the person, who committed them, the service before the God’s altar.

And I do not know you, so I cannot decide such an important issue. But I know some priests who did not disclose their background to the bishop before the ordination and, being ordained, began to fall into such states that they understood that they can not serve.

So solve your issue with the confessor, but first – with your conscience.

This article in Russian

A Secretive Monk, Who Conceals Thoughts and Sins, May Go as Far as to Schizophrenia

Archimandrite Ephraim of Vatopedi

From the book "Conversations with Archimandrite Ephraim, the hegumen of Vatopedi monastery on Mount Athos".

Secretiveness is another thing you should pay attention to. This is the greatest weapon of the devil. A secretive monk, who has secret thoughts and sins, may go as far as to schizophrenia. Do not conceal anything! It is especially important for naturally shy people to remember it. The monk has to overcome himself and this very shyness. This would mean that he completely gave all his heart to God. And if the person does not disembosom himself, even due to his shyness, the devil will beat him like an octopus.

This article in Russian

70-years Old Ascetic Fell into Fornication and was not Able to Confess it

Schema-archimandrite Abraham (Reidman). "The good part." From the conversation about self-pity and overconfidence.

Schema-archimandrite Abraham (Reidman)

Once I read the book of Archbishop Anthony (Golynsky-Mihailovsky) about the Jesus prayer. This interesting book is supplemented with short memories about the author. He suffered a great hardship, for many years he was in jail, he had several sentences in prison camps, but at the same time he was an ascetic: first, he prayed a lot with Jesus prayer; secondly, every day he read daily liturgical round, no matter what the circumstances were, even on the road. And he forced his spiritual children to do the same, and that is besides praying by beads. He died very hard, and he explained the cause of it. One day, a woman came to him and confessed her sin and the sin of her confessor. She sinned with her spiritual father, who was then nearly seventy years old! And before that, he was known as a famous ascetic and faster. He did not dare to confess this, and already dying, asked her to repent for him. This woman begged Bishop Anthony so much, that he could not resist and took this sin over him, and that’s why he died so hard. Just imagine, if a seventy-year-old person after the ascetic life fell into fornication, why thirty-year-old guys think that they are safe?! It is not known how the rest of the life will come about and what will happen next, what temptations and trials he will meet. Today, the devil does not touch you, because, may be, you do not touch him, but tomorrow you pray a little, and this may cause battle – you will want to do the same as Pygmalion. So you should not go into premature excessive calm and think that everything is in order. Overconfidence makes man think that if he lives in security and relatively quiet for some time, by the grace of God, so it always will be like this. In fact, this conclusion is totally groundless.

This article in Russian

In His Youth, the Elder Concealed a Temptation and Could Not Receive Communion

Elder Simeon (Zhelnin) (1869 - 18.1.1960)

From the memoirs about the venerable Elder Simeon (Zhelnin).

The Father told: "When I was a deacon, I had a great temptation in a dream, and I was so embarrassed that I could not tell this to my confessor. So all the clergy started to partake of the Holy Mysteries during the Liturgy and I walked away and could not receive Communion. All were taking Communion and asking: "Where is Vassian, why did not he take Communion?" Then, Archimandrite Methodius began to call me before the whole altar: "Why do you cover up the enemy?! Repent, or he will do you more the next time". And I had to repent publicly, instead of repenting to one confessor. I felt better after Communion".

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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.

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The Joy of the Evil Spirits Is That We Conceal Our Thoughts

Sts. Barsanuphious and John the Prophet. "Guidance Toward Spiritual Life".

A certain brother is appointed the abbot. He asks the Elder how to manage the monastery.

Letter 577

When he heard this, he glorified God and said to the Old Man: "Father, since I am a beginner and know nothing, what do you command me to say to the brothers?"

Response.

Tell them the following: "The Lord Jesus Christ, who cares for you, said: 'I shall not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you'. Pay attention to yourselves with all humility and love toward God, and he shall bless you and become your protection and direction."

Also tell them the following: "Let no one conceal any thought, because the joy of the [evil] spirits is that we conceal our thoughts in order that they might destroy our soul".

If any of the brothers reveals his thoughts to you, say the following within yourself: "Lord, everything that you have for the salvation of the soul, grant it to me in order that I may speak to the brother, and in order that I may speak your word rather than my own." Then say whatever comes to you, believing within yourself that this is not your own word; for it is written: "Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God."

Bible About Concealment of Sins

Isaiah 29:15

Woe to those who deeply hide their plans from the LORD, And whose deeds are done in a dark place, And they say, "Who sees us?" or "Who knows us?"

Proverbs 28:13

He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.

Hebrews 4:13

And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

The Ones Who Conceal Sins Fall in Delusion

Elder Ephraim of Philotheou

Elder Ephraim of Philotheou. "My life with elder Joseph".

(translated from Russian)

The Elder [Joseph the Hesychast] told us: "Have you seen the monk, who fell into sin, who became a deserter? It happened to him because he concealed his thoughts. He did not disclose them - and they killed him, like the snakes kill. Newly hatched little snakes are small, but if you do not drive them away, they will grow and become poisonous. One of them will bite you, and you will die. Have you seen a man in delusion? It happened to him because of the thoughts."

The Elder told us about some people who concealed their thoughts and suffered from that, fell into delusion. Such people quite often committed suicide because they believed that an Angel appeared to them, whereas it was a demon. The delusion was in the thought: "Do not tell that to the Elder".

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A Monk Took Communion without Reconciliation

Blessed John Moschus. "The Spiritual Meadow".

The life of abbot Isaac, and how a demon also appeared to him in the shape of a young man.

There is a mountain about six miles distant from Lycos, a city of the Thebaid, where some of the monks live in caves, others in cells. We went there and met abba Isaac, a Theban, who told us the following:

Fifty years ago I was making a mosquito net when I made a mistake in my work and I could not find out where it was, let alone repair it. I spent the whole day utterly defeated, unable to discover what I had done wrong. I was almost in despair, when I saw a young man come in through the window.

"You've made a mistake," he said, "but give me your work and I will put it right."
"Get out," I said. "You'll not get me to do that."
"But you will be damned if you do your work badly"
"No call for you to worry about that."
"But I am just sorry for you because your work is lost."
"Both you and he who sent you have come here with evil intent."
"No, it is you have drawn me here, and you are mine."
"What do you mean?
"For the last three Sundays you have communicated while harbouring uncharitable thoughts towards your neighbour."
"You're lying"
"I'm not lying. You are angry with him because he is so slow (propter lenticulam). And I am the one in charge of anger and the memory of insults. So, therefore, you are mine."

At this, I left my cell immediately, went to my brother, prostrated myself before him and begged his forgiveness, whereupon we were reconciled. When I returned to my cell I found that the demon had destroyed the mosquito net completely and also the rush mat on which I prayed, so envious of our charity had he become.

http://www.vitae-patrum.org.uk/page154.html

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Temptation Because of Concealment of Thoughts

From the living of St. Ambrose of Optina.

Shortly before his death the elder Ambrose said to another monastery monk Paulinus: "For you have not disclosed some of your thoughts to me, God will allow you to suffer a temptation". That's what has happened. The monk Paulinus, having caught a cold during the procurement of firewood, all but died, and his miraculous cure attributed to the prayerful intercession of the elder Ambrose, who has already fallen asleep in the Lord by that time.

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Noetic Prayer Is Incompatible with Concealment of Thoughts

Elder Joseph the Hesychast. "Monastic Wisdom". From Letter 55.

Elder Joseph the Hesychast (1897 - 1959)

Heart prayer is not susceptible to delusion, unless one is passionate and already deluded.  With heart prayer, as soon as the nous enters the heart, immediately its darkness is cleared and straightaway it becomes peaceful and calm.  It rejoices, is sweetened, rests, and is cleansed.  It rejoices and becomes like a small child free from passions.  Bodily members which used to tempt him become peaceful and humble, just like the hand, the nose, and the rest of the members of the body.

Therefore, whoever wants to, let him taste this honey, and it will become a fountain of joy and happiness within him, unless one is cunning, hypocritical, envious, miserly, sensual, vainglorious, or in general passionate; if one wants to say the prayer while voluntarily remaining with his passions, unrepentant, incorrigible.  Such a person obviously disdains the action of the prayer and the mercy of the Lord.  The prayer helps everyone, but each person must struggle in accordance with his own strength.  God gives His grace according to one’s intention.  If anyone says the prayer without repenting, either the prayer will cease, or he will fall into delusion.

Women in particular make progress in the prayer more easily because of the self-denial and obedience they have to their spiritual guide.  However, the faster they make progress, the more easily they fall into delusion, if they proceed thoughtlessly without caution.

It is not just a matter of saying the prayer, but it is also a matter of being attentive.  You must be vigilant with your thoughts, masterfully controlling them.  Otherwise, they will take control of you and in the end you will become the laughing-stock of the demons.  I have never seen a soul make progress in the prayer without frankly confessing secret thoughts.

My child, do you want to crush the head of the serpent?  Openly reveal your thoughts in confession.  The strength of the Devil lies in cunning thoughts.  Do you hold on to them?  He remains hidden.  Do you bring them to the light?  He disappears.  And then Christ rejoices, the prayer progresses, and the light of grace heals and brings peace to your nous and heart.

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Angel Did not Write down the Names of Those Who Took Communion with Unconfessed Sins

Rufinus the Presbyter. "Living of Desert Fathers."

(translated from Russian)

We cannot pass over in silence the inhabitants of the desert adjoining the Porfenian sea and bordering the area of the city Diolk. There we saw one wonderful priest, named Piammon, who was notable for the absolute humility and meek indulgence. He was given the grace of revelation. Once bringing the Bloodless Sacrifice to the Lord, he saw an Angel of the Lord near the Altar: he was holding a book in which he wrote down the names of the monks who approached to the Holy Altar. The elder carefully noticed whose names the Angel missed. After the end of the liturgy, he summoned separately each one of the missed by the Angel and asked him whether he had some secretly committed sin in the conscience. At this confession, he revealed that each of them was guilty of a mortal sin ... Then he persuaded them to bring repentance, and casting himself down before the Lord along with them, prayed with tears day and night, as if he was involved in their sins. And he was in repentance and tears until he saw the Angel again, standing before the Altar and writing down the names of those who were taking the Holy Mysteries. Having written down the names of everyone, the Angel even started to call each one by name, inviting to come to the Altar for reconciliation with God. And the elder, seeing this, understood that their repentance was accepted and happily admitted everyone to the Altar.

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An Icon Painter Could not Paint an Icon until He Confessed All Sins

From the Living of Saint Matrona of Moscow.

The icon was painted about 1915 and Matrona kept it with her throughout her life. It is now enshrined in Moscow at the Monastery of the Protection of the Mother of God.

Around this same time, Matrona, who was already known throughout the region and whose requests were taken as blessings, asked that a certain icon of the Mother of God be painted for the village Church of the Dormition. This came about one day when the blind girl asked her mother to tell the priest that on a certain shelf in his library lay a book with a picture of the icon, “In Search of the Lost.” The surprised priest found the picture of the icon just as she had described it. When she heard this, Matrona exclaimed, “Mama, I will have such an icon painted.” Her mother was pensive. How could they ever pay for this? Some time later, Matrona again said to her mother, “Mama, I’m dreaming and dreaming about this icon ‘In Search of the Lost.’ The Mother of God is asking to come to our church.” At Matrona’s request local village women began collecting money. Among those who contributed was one man who gave a ruble reluctantly and his brother who gave one small kopeck in fun. When they brought the money to Matrona, she spilled it out and, picking out the very same ruble and kopeck, told her mother, “Mama, give it back, it’s spoiling all the money for me…”

When the necessary amount had been collected, they ordered the icon from an artist from the village of Epiphania. Matrona asked if he was able to paint such an icon, and he replied that for him it was an ordinary commission. She then asked him to go to confession and receive Holy Communion. Later she asked again, “Do you know for sure that you will paint this icon?” The artist answered affirmatively and began his work. After some time, he told Matrona that nothing was coming of the painting. She replied: “Repent of your sins.” With her spiritual vision, she saw that there was one sin that he had not yet confessed. Astounded that she knew this, he returned to the priest, confessed, communed, and asked Matrona’s forgiveness. She replied, “Go. Now you will paint the icon of the Heavenly Queen.” The icon was painted about 1915 and, after the revolution, Matrona kept it with her throughout her life. It is now enshrined in Moscow at the Monastery of the Protection of the Mother of God in Taganskaya, near Matrona’s relics.

http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2012/05/saint-matrona-blind-of-moscow-1952.html

Nothing So Harms a Monk As Hiding His Thoughts from His Spiritual Father

Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos. "Orthodox psychotherapy."

Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos

An effective method of getting rid of thoughts is to confess them to an experienced spiritual father. St. John Cassian says that "just as a snake which is brought from its dark hole into the light makes every effort to escape and hide itself, so the malicious thoughts that a person brings out into the open by sincere confession seek to depart from him" (487). Nothing so harms a monk and brings such joy to the demons as hiding his thoughts from his spiritual father (488). In this way his whole spiritual life is twisted and he becomes a plaything in the hands of the devil, who can do what he likes with him. Therefore St. John Cassian teaches that nothing leads so surely to salvation as confessing our private thoughts to the most discriminating of the fathers and being guided by them rather than by our own thoughts and judgement (489). "He who conceals his thoughts remains unhealed" (490). Therefore we must confess the persistent thought, bring it to our spiritual father who has responsibility for our salvation. "Any thought that tarries in you and engages you in warfare, reveal to your Abba, and he, with God's help, will heal you" (491). When we speak of a persistent thought we mean one that does not go away in spite of our objection, scorn, and prayer, but continues to wage war against us, like the impassioned thought which is united with the passion.

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The Elder Reveals Concealed Sins

Episode from the life of Saint Barsanuphius of Optina.

Saint Barsanuphius of Optina

Here are the astounding memoirs about confession to the elder left by his spiritual daughter:
- We reached the skete, the Devil in every way distracted me and suggested to leave, but having crossed myself, I firmly entered the hut ... I made a sign of the cross before the icon of the Queen of Heaven and froze.
The Father entered, I was standing in the middle of his cell ... The Father came up to the Tikhvin icon of God’s Mother and sat ...
- Come closer.
I timidly approached him.
- Kneel down, my child ... It is accepted here that we sit and confessants stand on the knees near us because of humility.
I dropped down, not just kneeled... The Father took me by both shoulders, looked at me infinitely kindly, as no one has ever looked, and said:
- My dear child, my sweet child, my precious child! Are you twenty-six?
- Yes, Father.
- You are twenty-six, how many years were you fourteen years ago?
I thought a moment and answered:
- Twelve.
- True, and since that year you have begun concealing sins at the confession.

What Happens if a Priest Has a Mortal Sin and Serves Liturgy

Bishop Palladius. "The Lausiac History".

Chapter XVIII.  Macarius of Alexandria

Once I visited this holy Macarius and found a village priest lying just outside his cell, whose head was all eaten away by the disease called cancer, and the actual bone appeared on the crown of his head. He had come to be healed and Macarius would not grant him an interview. So I besought him: "I pray you, pity him and give him his answer." And he said to me: "He does not deserve to be healed, for it has been sent him as a punishment. But if you want him to be healed, persuade him to give up taking services. For he was taking services, though living in fornication, and for this reason he is being punished and God is healing his soul." So when I said this to the afflicted man he consented, and swore that he would no longer exercise his priesthood. Then he received him and said: "Do you believe that God is?" He said to him: "Yes." "Were you able to mock God?" "No," he answered. He said: "If you recognize your sin and the chastening of God, on account of which you suffered this, reform yourself henceforward." So he confessed his fault and gave a promise that he would sin no more nor take the service, but embrace the position of a layman. Then he laid his hands on him and in a few days he was cured and the hair grew and he went away healed.

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Fight with Sensual Thoughts Because of Unconfessed Sins

The Letters of Saint Ambrose of Optina.

Saint Ambrose of Optina (1812-1891)

You are bothered with inappropriate fleshly lusts. When you should have a spiritual benefit, the Devil tries to tempt you. Despise it, because such suggestion from the enemy is an absurdity of absurdities. You write that it seems to you that someone is standing beside you during this struggle. Such things happen when a person either forgot some important sin at the confession, or did not manage to confess something as it should.

Pray to the Heavenly Queen and Guardian Angel asking their help to recall and confess sins. Then, the present dream will pass. Also you should be humble before God and men, considering yourself the worst of people.

I find it inappropriate for you to go to Moscow for the medical treatment because of the fleshly lusts. It will intensify the struggle ... It is better to suffer pain from the disease to cleanse your sins. It is more correct. 

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Blasphemous Thoughts Disappeared Only after Confession

Hegumen Mark (Lozinski). "Patericon of the preacher".

A novice got rid of the thoughts of blasphemy and disbelief only after a confession to the elder.

The former abbot of the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra, archimandrite Kronid, has told about himself the following: "In the Lavra, I was taken under the spiritual guidance of the elder, father Nicodemus, a man simple in heart but wise in his soul, very kind, and I made friends with him spiritually. Such a life, apparently, was not much liked by the enemy of our salvation. He attacked me with such a terrible rage, he confused me with thoughts of blasphemy against God and unbelief that my mind was almost clouded. Then the Lent of 1878 began. In the Clean Monday I went to matins in the refectory church, rejoicing that the Lord has vouchsafed me to live on till these great days and to fast in repentance. Here I fixed my gaze on the local icon of the Savior in the prayer to Him for help in the salvation. Suddenly, a thought of unbelief and blasphemy against Christ the Savior as a lightning flashed in my mind. That made me so scared that I was like deadened. At the same time I felt like a spark of the hellfire ran all over my body, and my heart was filled with deadly boredom. Then, fearing and trembling, I turned my gaze to the icon of the Mother of God, praying to protect me from the terrible and pernicious thoughts. But to my horror, I noticed that the thoughts of blasphemy against God and against the Mother of God rose in me even stronger. Then I turned to Saint Sergius in the prayer. But a bad mental abuse with terrible power fell upon him too. Then the words of abuse, unbelief and blasphemy poured out in my mind in an irresistible flow on all holy and, terrible to say, even on the Holy of Holies, that is, the Holy Mysteries. Because of excruciating anguish I deadened and went out of my mind with worry. My emotional torment was so great that my face changed completely in five days. Archimandrite Leonid once drew attention to me and asked, "Constantine! What’s wrong with you? I do not recognize you!” I answered him that I was feeling unwell. Friday came, but the thoughts still continued. I was going to confess to my spiritual father, and the thoughts told me: "Will you really tell your confessor all harmful, blasphemous thoughts?" I took the mental advice and said nothing about the thoughts at the confession. But coming out from the cell of the confessor I felt such heavy anguish that I could not restrain my sobs because of the terrible inner commotion and crying like a child I fell on the sofa which stood near the door. The confessor was confused and asked me: "Kostya, what's wrong?" I told him: "Father! I am ruined! "-" How can you be ruined? "Then I told him my mental thoughts tormenting me all week from the Clean Monday. Listening to me, the spiritual father asked, "Do you console yourself with these thoughts?" I told him: "I do not console myself, farther, but I suffer indescribably." Then the confessor led me to the cross and the Gospel again, read the prayer of absolution anew and dismissed me. After that, my heart was so easy that I did not go from the confessor but flew on wings of joy. All scary thoughts vanished, and I, a sinner, could proceed calmly to the Holy Chalice. " (Trinity monastery letters from the spiritual meadow. P. 43.)

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The Bodies of Sinners May Remain Non-decomposed Because of Unrepentant Sins

The Letters of Saint Ambrose of Optina.

Saint Ambrose of Optina (1812-1891)

In one letter you mentioned that you had a discussion with NN about relics and some bodies of the sinners, not having rotten after death. Indeed, now at Athos, there are no relics, as they say, by the following circumstance.

One pious elder lived there in stillness and solitude and always taught his disciple to keep still and solitary life. Upon the death of the elder in a year, according to the custom of Athos, monks dug up the grave and found the head of the elder, exuding fragrant and healing myrrh. Many people came to worship this head and anointed themselves with the healing myrrh, and so disturbed the solitude of the disciple. Therefore he said reproachfully to the deceased elder: "Father, in your lifetime you always schooled me to stillness and solitude, but after your death you break it."

After these words, fragrant and healing myrrh dried up, and there was only plain bone, and people stopped coming to worship it. And they said that thereafter monks found in the graves just bones, yellow, or white, or black ones, which helped them to distinguish states of the deceased souls; or they found bodies, non-decomposed and dark.

All brethren prayed about such souls for three years, each year digging up the grave and asking local bishops to read the prayer of absolution. Some of the bodies remain non-decomposed after three years.  So they are left as they are.

On Concealment of Sins

Metropolitan Anthony (Krapovitsky). "Confession".

8. Fear of Admitting a Sin.

Metropolitan Anthony (Krapovitsky)

Several spiritual fathers in monasteries have disclosed to me that God has helped them obtain from penitents the admission of sins which they could not bring themselves to confess at previous confessions over the course of ten or twenty years. This had tormented them for their whole lives and they already considered themselves doomed for eternity, knowing that the Church says, “If thou hidest anything from me, thou hast a greater sin; take heed therefore, lest, having come to a physician, thou depart unhealed.” These sins may be very shameful and impure, unnatural sins against the seventh commandment, such as incest, bestiality or corruption of children; all these happen extremely often, and sometimes with people who are respected by those around them. On the other hand, they may be criminal offences: murder, infanticide, theft, robbery, attempted poisoning, malicious slander out of jealousy or envy, inspiring hatred against one’s neighbor, incitement of others against the Church and faith, and so on. If the priest directly poses a question about such a sin, the penitent will probably not deny it, but he cannot bring himself to tell of his offence voluntarily.

However, it is impossible to question each person about such abominable sins. After finishing the usual questions, you should ask in a quiet, gentle voice, “Perhaps there is some sin which you are ashamed to confess? Perhaps there is something which you could not resolve to say about your sins at earlier confessions, or forgot, and then remembered and did not dare to tell the priest?” It is extremely possible that the parishioner will answer affirmatively, but will still hesitate to say what exactly it was.

Falling into Fornication Happens to a Monk for Disobedience and Unconfessed Sins

Archimandrite Raphael (Karelin)

Archimandrite Raphael. "From time to eternity. Sayings of the Fathers".

Hieromonk Vasily (Pirtskhalava) said: “The worst sin for a monk is fornication. Other sins, compared to it, are dust that can be easily blown away.”

He said: “I heard from an elder who lived for many years on Mount Athos that a priest who commits fornication and at the same time serves Liturgies is in hell even before death. When he proclaims: "Peace to all" and "The blessing of the Lord is upon you," the Angel of the altar says: "Blessing from God to the people, and to you - a curse." When he takes communion, his soul turns black, like burnt coal. When he finishes serving the Liturgy, the devil comes up to him and kisses him on the lips as his friend.”

He said: “Two monk brothers lived not far from each other. One went to the city on some business and fell there. And the other saw in a dream: a seething sea, his brother-monk was walking on a slippery rock and suddenly fell into the abyss. He began to scream in his sleep: “Help!”, but the sea drowned out his voice.”

I asked Hieromonk Vasily: “Is there a sin worse than this sin?”—“Despair and suicide,” he answered.—But most often it is fornication that leads a monk to despair.” “And why is a monk allowed to fall into fornication, because he prays to God and wants to be saved?” — “For disobedience and unconfessed sins.” I asked again: “Can this sin be forgiven for the priest?” “Let the bishop decide this,” he replied.

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