I am a sinner. Quite easily, I fall into the sin of fornication and greatly enjoy it. I feel as though it is the most pleasurable feeling ever.
I met a holy hieromonk who encouraged me to repent and confess my sins. Initially, I thought the meeting was a coincidence, but now, I realize it was by the grace of God.
When he encouraged me to confess, I looked at him with derision and mockingly responded, “What will confession do? Will it give me the same sensual pleasure I get from sex? Father, you have not experienced this pleasure, so you don’t understand and are now asking me to confess. Sorry, but no thanks.”
The priest calmly answered, “Come, repent and confess, and I promise that I will not force you away from your pleasures. Just as long as you come and confess every week.”
“Hmm,” I thought, “this priest seems friendly and kind. Why not? I’ll just go and chat with him as long as he keeps his promise not to deprive me from my greatest pleasure.” I found myself going to see him every week at church, albeit somewhat reluctantly.
Whenever he saw me, he smiled and said, “Bravo, my son, you have actually come!” Immediately, I would say, “I have committed fornication.” With kindness, he gazed upon me and said, “God will forgive you every time you come to confess your sins.”
Without fail, these visits continued weekly without my realizing what was going on. After every visit, it seemed harder for me to fall into this sin, even though I was entirely willing. What used to be easy became complicated and I found myself quite frustrated as a result.
One week, during my visit with the holy father, I even complained that I wasn’t able to commit the sins I had in mind. He looked at me with kindness and said, “I will pray that things might improve for you.” I was shocked. Did he really love me so much that he would pray for such a thing? What a strange, yet wonderful, father!
I again tried to sin, but my plans were utterly confused. Nothing worked. I felt humiliated and depressed.
When I visited the holy father the next week, I angrily reproached him, because either his prayers were not working or he had simply tricked me into believing he was going to pray for such a thing. With calmness, he asked, “What happened?” I complained to him freely about my woes and how I could not even sleep because of my frustration in not being able to commit the sins that gave me such pleasure. He smiled and invited me to do exactly as he did.
We stood before the Holy Altar as he began to prostrate himself and rise, offering a metanoia, while repeatedly praying “Lord have mercy” for 30 minutes. I could only stand there and watch with surprise. When he was finished, he sincerely said to me, “May God forgive us both” before he prayed the Absolution over me.
That night, I slept peacefully with no cares whatsoever. Suddenly, in a dream, I saw an old man surrounded by ineffable light who said to me, “Today, you witnessed the holy father prostrate himself in prayer repeatedly for your sake. Until now, he has not taken even a moment of rest on behalf of your sins, but rather, he weeps for you continually throughout the night. Enough! Repent!”
All at once, I arose, but it was not just waking up from sleep, it was waking up from my sin. This was the end of my sensual living. I resolved, with God’s help, never to return to this sin again, and immediately, I felt my heart to be once again pure. My genuine repentance came through the suffering of that beloved holy father who loved me so much that he offered himself for me.
“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13).
As Fr. Matthew the Poor wrote,
Prayer reaches its true purity when we comprehensively and purposefully forget ourselves, in our willingness to be concerned for others, their problems and their salvation. The degree of perfection in pure prayer is in proportion to its perfection of love. In the ultimate state of perfection love ‘seeks not her own’ (1 Cor 13:5).
Here I am, dear Lord, sinful and sorrowful, asking for your forgiveness, through the prayers of my pious and loving father, who suffered a great deal for my sake. Have mercy upon me!
Adapted from The Significance of Repentance by Fr. Youssef Asaad