On Pseudo-Confessors and Those Who Follow Them

St. Nektarios of Aegina 1846-1920

[C]onfession…demands the discovery of a proficient and experienced physician… Therefore, we must be careful to search for experienced physicians who are capable of healing the wounds of the heart that has been injured by sins. This is an urgent matter due to the sharp character of the wounds and the various passions. It is a pressing concern due to the impending danger. Just as the unskillful physician sends many people to the gates of Hades, similarly, the incompetent and imprudent spiritual father sends many souls to Hades. Oh, what a terrible evil it is for someone to find death while seeking treatment. Who can calculate the magnitude of this great misfortune? Who is capable of mourning this type of loss? It is necessary for one’s eyes to be transformed into faucets of tears in order to weep for this misfortune worthily. Woe! Woe to them who claim to be spiritual fathers and who assasinate the souls of those whom they confess. Woe unto them who demand money for the forgiveness of sins, instead of contrition, humility, and the propitiation of God through a true and virtuous lifestyle. Woe to them who seek to sell the forgiveness of evil deeds in return for recompense. Woe to the hypocrites who feign piety in order to decieve others and profit, they who preach piety in order to make money. Woe to them who promise prayers and suplications on behalf of those who sinned in order to receive silver. Woe to the soul merchants who sell the souls of Christians to the demons in return for a few coins! Woe to them who teach the lie! Their portion will be with their father the devil, the father of lies.

Have you sinned? Do you feel the burden of sin? Does your conscience reproach you? See to it that you extinguish the reproach of your conscience. The spiritual father is the only physician. Request the medication rather than prayers and supplications. But even if you ask for these, still, do not overlook the medication. Just as when we fall ill, as the Apostle James teaches, we ask for the prayers but we are also anointed with the oil (cf. Jas. 5:14). Similarly in this case, seek the medication, and if you are wealthy, then give to holy men to pray on your behalf, while also praying with them. The prayers of them who pray with you should be an expression of your fervent desire to propitiate God. However, the payment and the prayers of others will be of no benefit to you if you are negligent, because you have in no way improved yourself morally.

Beloved, we are speaking about ethical rebirth. We are speaking about Christian conduct. We are speaking about a virtuous and modest way of life. This is about intimacy with God. We are talking about perfection and holiness. Because having become such persons, we become participants of eternal life. Therefore, if we do not struggle, we have accomplished nothing. Then, the prayers of spiritual fathers are useless, the supplicatory canons of the salaried are useless, the forty-day Liturgies are also useless, when they are performed on behalf of an unrepentant person who has not propitiated God and who still lives in sin. We are saved through contrition of heart and true confession. (Repentance and Confession, pp. 31-33)