Saint Tikhon’s Explanation of the Mystery Sacrament of Penance

My beloved brothers and sisters in Our Risen Lord, God andSavior Jesus Christ,

CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!

SAINT TIKHON’S EXPLANATION OF THE
MYSTERY (SACRAMENT) OF PENANCE.

A noticeable feature of Saint Tikhon’s explanation of the Mystery (Sacrament) of Penance is that it goes into more detail and indicates three categories of sin not usually mentioned in subsequent Orthodox textbooks. His definition of CAPITAL SIN followed Moghila. In accordance with Holy Tradition, he mentions PRIDE, CUPIDITY, FORNICATION, ENVY, ANGER, AND LAZINESS (AKEDIA) OR DESPONDENT NEGLIGENCE OF SALVATION.

He enumerates SIX SINS against the Holy Spirit:

DESPAIR, which means having no hope in the mercy of God;
PRESUMPTION–too presumption reliance on His mercy;
opposition to revealed Truth, of the Holy Scripture, and of the
dogmas of faith confirmed by the Apostles and the Holy Fathers;
ENVY of the spiritual graces received from God by one’s neighbor;
OBDURACY in heresies and hardening in malice; NEGLIGENCE
with regard to the salvation of the soul, till the end of one’s life.

Finally, he defines as "FOUR SINS WHICH CRY TO GOD FOR VENGEANCE": DELIBERATE MURDER; THE VICE OF SODOMY; EMBITTERING OF THE POOR, OF WIDOWS, AND OF ORPHANS BY OFFENCE AND OPPRESSION; WITHHOLDING OR NON-PAYMENT OF WAGES TO HIRED SERVANTS AND WORKERS. This attitude towards certain forms of social evil corresponds to the program for life outlined in Saint Jame’s Epistle.

In subsequent years Saint Tikhon concentrated upon THE THREE MOST FREQUENT MYSTERIES (SACRAMENTS): THE EUCHARIST, PENANCE, AND BAPTISM WITH CHRISMATION, CONDUCTED BY THE BAPTIZING PRIEST WHO USES THE OIL CONSECRATED BY A BISHOP…

"The most striking feature of his teaching is his conception of Baptism as A VITAL FORCE. Through Baptism of infants is in the Holy Tradition of the Church, he repeatedly spoke to adults about the profound meaning and implications of this Mystery (Sacrament), and he continually enjoined them to the remembrance "OF THEIR BAPTISMAL VOWS."

In Baptism, the soul receives the cleansing from sin or the token of cleansing from ancestral sin.
It receives the seed of faith. Through Baptism, man rejects evil and enters, regenerated and renewed,
into the realm of grace which leads to eternity; that is why he is called "A CHRISTIAN" –A PARTICIPANT
OF THE LIFE OF CHRIST WITH WHOM, IN BAPTISM, HE DIED AND OF WHOSE RISEN LIFE HE NOW
PARTAKES. THAT IS WHY THE POWER TO LIVE IS GIVEN TO HIM WHICH MAKES HIM CAPABLE OF A
SUPREME LOVE TOWARDS HIS BRETHREN AND TOWARDS HIS ENEMIES.

The Baptismal vow is like the vow of marriage.

United to Christ in Baptism, man becomes a partaker of the Divine Life–an image in human life of the TWO NATURES
OF CHRIST. In Baptism the Angels are given to us to minister to us. They keep us and guide us to the Divine Fatherland.
It is ingratitude not to think of Baptism as A SPIRITUAL BENEFACTION. A Christian should remember Baptism as the
decisive step by which he has entered the Church and promised to lead a certain type of life.
They are NOT friends of Christ, they are his foes who, having been washed in Baptism,
FALL AGAIN INTO SIN.

Christ IS NO LONGER IN THE SOUL WHICH DELIBERATELY CHOOSES SIN, though it has been REGENERATED THROUGH WATER AND THE Spirit. The spiritual life of such people is dulled, and baptismal grace is lost to them even though they visit or erect and adorn churches and make a semblance of devotion. Aware of the shortcomings of Christians, Saint Tikhon said: "The Church is a ship to which as to Noah’s ark are brought both ferocious and gentle animals, so are we brought into it through baptism." To someone suffering from temptation, Saint Tikhon said: "Renounce the whispering slanderer, the devil, as you renounced him in your baptism." The vivid images of the Spiritual Treasure, again and again, refer to baptism. A simple expression such as "Come with Me" becomes a subject for meditation–and we are begged, "to follow Christ in Truth and Righteousness as we promised in baptism."

Saint Tikhon’s symbolism is in itself highly suggestive. Thus the thought OF THE NETS MENTIONED IN THE GOSPELS REMINDS HIM THAT THROUGH BAPTISM A CHRISTIAN IS SET FREE FROM THE DEVIL, THE WORDS, "Whose are you?" cause him to answer that he is Christ’s through baptism; an oath recalls to him the sacrament’s promise to a believer; the washing of the feet suggests our humble purification through baptism; renewal, washing, all these are so many images OF THE NEW CREATION. A girl betrothed to a bridegroom is "as we all are in Christ." One cannot over-emphasize the value which Saint Tikhon attached to baptism, and this metaphor of bridal union clearly reveals his mystical conception of the Mystery (Sacrament).

Saint Tikhon had much to say concerning REPENTANCE IN ITS TREATMENT FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF THE SPIRITUAL COMBAT and in connection with the established practice of Sacramental Confession and a priest’s part in it.

There are, according to Saint Tikhon, TWO WAYS OF APPEALING TO A SOU: THE EXPOSITORY PUBLIC SERMON ABOUT SIN GENERALLY OR SOME PARTICULAR CASE OF INJUSTICE, AND THE PRIVATE INSTRUCTION OF ONE WHO COMES WILLINGLY TO REPENT. "When a man confesses his sin to you, you can say anything to him, so long as you speak affectionately, with compassion AND NOT WITH ANGER; for he must realize that you speak FROM LOVE (AGAPE) AND SINCERELY DESIRE HIS SALVATION. Saint Tikhon stressed the priest’s duty to keep the secret of confession.

When giving instruction on the Mystery (Sacrament) of Penance (Metanoia), speak to the penitent in this manner…
My child, you are confessing to God, Who is displeased at any sin, and I, his servant, am the unworthy witness of
your repentance. Do not conceal anything; do not be ashamed, not afraid, for there are only the three of us here, you
and I and God, before Whom you have sinned, Who knows all your sins and how they were committed. God is every-
where, and wherever you said, thought, or did anything evil, HE WAS THERE AND KNEW ALL ABOUT IT, AND HE IS
NOW HERE WITH US, AND IS WAITING FOR YOUR WORDS OF REPENTANCE AND CONFESSION. YOU TOO KNOW
ALL YOUR SINS; DO NOT BE ASHAMED TO SPEAK OF ALL THAT YOU HAVE COMMITTED. AND I WHO AM HERE,
AM JUST LIKE YOU, A SINNER, AND THEREFORE BE NOT ASHAMED TO CONFESS YOUR SINS IN MY PRESENCE.
[Source: Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk]

_______________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +

With sinicere agape in His Holy Resurrection,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George

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