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Sorrow over sin
Priest Alexander Elchaninov
Priest
Alexander Elchaninov

When examining our spiritual make-up, we must try to distinguish basic sins from derivatives, distinguish symptoms from deeply-hidden causes. For example, these are important sins: distraction of the mind during prayer, dozing off and inattentiveness in church, lack of interest in reading the Holy Scriptures; but do not these sins derive from lack of faith and weakness of love for God? It is good to note within oneself the presence of willfulness, insubordination, self-justification, rejection of criticism, intolerance, stubbornness, etc., but it is even more important to discover their connection with egoism and pride. It we notice within ourselves a desire for socialization, loquaciousness, inordinate laughter, intense concern over appearance, both our own and that of family members, and over the furnishing of our homes, then we must carefully ponder whether this is not a form of multi-faceted vanity? If we become too upset over lifes misfortunes, if we are unable to bear parting, if we sorrow excessively over the departure of our loved ones, then besides the intensity and depth of our feelings does this not also bear witness to our lack of faith in Gods Providence?

There is an additional measure which leads us to an awareness of our sins to remember of what other people accuse us, not only our enemies, but primarily those who live beside us. Almost always their accusations and criticism have some foundation.

However, during such an examination of our hearts we must also make sure not to fall into excessive recrimination and mistrust of every emotion of the heart: having stepped onto this path, we may lose the feeling of what is important and what is not, we may become enmeshed in trivial details. In such a case we must temporarily leave off the examination of our hearts, and we must try to purify and simplify our souls by means of prayer and charity. The point is not in trying to remember and even write down our sins as fully as possible, but in reaching such a state of concentration, earnestness and prayer, whereby our sins are revealed to us with absolute clarity. However, to know ones sins does not yet mean to repent of them. A contrite heart and sorrow over our sins are the most important thing we can bring to confession.

Priest Alexander Elchaninov
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