During the week that I was preparing for my confession, I thought about making as detailed a confession as possible.Â I began to reflect on youth and to remember all my sins in detail, so as not to forget anything. I wrote down everything I remembered, down to the smallest details, and ended with a long list. I had heard that about four and a half miles from Kiev, in the Kitayev Hermitage, there was a spiritual father who lived an ascetic life and was extremely wise and prudent.Â Whoever went to see him was always deeply moved, and they returned with spiritual guidance for their salvation and a spiritually enlightened soul.
I was overjoyed by this and immediately went to see him. After speaking and consulting with him, I gave him my list to look at. He read it, and then he said to me, “You, kind brother, have written many empty words. Listen to me:
1. You should not confess again those sins of which you have already repented and have been absolved, and which you have not repeated since. Otherwise, this shows a lack of trust in the power of the sacrament of Confession;
2. You should not mention others who are connected with your sins, but accuse only yourself;
3. The Holy Fathers forbid confessing sins in too much detail and with insinuations, they should be confessed in general, lest too much personal scrutiny lead both you and the confessor into temptation;
4. You have come to repent, but you are not repentant for not knowing how to repent – that is, you offer repentance in a cold and careless manner;
5.Â You did list all the trivial things, but you overlooked that which is most important – you did not admit to the most grievous sins. You did not acknowledge or write down the fact that you do not love God, that you despise your neighbour, that you do not believe in the words of God in Scripture, and that you are filled with pride and ambition The entire abyss of evil and all our spiritual corruption reside in these four sins. They are the main roots from which spring all the shoots of our sinful acts.
I was surprised to hear this, and I ventured to say, “Forgive me, Father, but how is it possible not to love God, our Creator and Benefactor?Â What else is there to believe in except God?Â As for my neighbour, I wish good for each and every one. For that matter, why should I despise them? As for pride, there is nothing I can be proud of – except for my countless sins. There is nothing in me that is praiseworthy. And what can I possibly lust after and covet, what with my poverty and my disability?Â Â Of course, if I were educated or rich, then undoubtedly I could be guilty of what you have just saidâ€
â€œIt is unfortunate, kind one, that you understood so little of what I explained to you. Here, to teach you more quickly, I will give you a list that I also follow whenever I go to confession. Read it and you will find clear and precise proof of all that I just told you.”
The confessor gave me the list, and I began to read it.