Just as for the treatment of physical diseases we resort to the specialized doctor, so also for the wounds of the soul our loving Mother Church ordained that we resort to Spiritual Doctors, of whom the first one is the Bishop. But because it is not possible for him to receive all the Christians of his Diocese, the Bishop selects suitable Priests and grants them his permission and blessing to confess the faithful. The simple communication of believers with the Spiritual Father can be done at any time to receive advice or whatever else. But when the believer wants to confess, in order to receive forgiveness of sins, then the Mystery of Repentance-Confession is conducted. Through this mystery, the believer opens the secrets of his soul with sincerity and in a spirit of repentance and confesses to God, before the Spiritual Father, all his sins. At the end the Spiritual Father will give the appropriate instructions and since the confession was complete, he reads the Prayer of Absolution and the one who has confessed is cleansed of his sins and his life is renewed.
We all know that after His Resurrection the Lord also recommended this Mystery of Repentance to be celebrated as He gave His Disciples the power to forgive sins. "Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained." (John 20:22-23). This authority fis transferred through the Mystery of Priesthood to the successors of the Holy Apostles, that is the Bishops and priests.
During his confession, the believer does not hide from the Spiritual any sin he committed. He doesn't try to justify himself. He does not place the blame for what ever bad happened on other people, but only on himself. He does not mention names associated with his sins. He generally tries to be brief, without detailed descriptions. And it is limited to the redemption of sins only. Advice on matters of a different nature, professional occupations, sorrows, etc., have nothing to do with confession, and moreover prolong the time, while others may also wait to confess.
Some ask: How often should I go to confession? Just as we go to the doctor when we are afflicted with some disease, so we go to the Spiritual Father to confess when we commit some serious sin that prevents us from receiving communion. The Spiritual Father will give us special instructions on this matter. However, we should know that according to the Orthodox Tradition, not all Christians are obliged, every time they prepare to receive communion, to confess, as long as, of course, they have not committed any grave sin since their last confession. For smaller sins, which we all commit every day, many times without realizing it, we ask God, with the Prayers of the Holy Congregation before the Divine Assumption, to forgive us. The Spiritual Father will advise us in more detail on this matter as well.
If possible, it is good to maintain communication with the Spiritual Father that we have chosen. Thus, he knows our spiritual condition better and helps us more effectively.
A sad phenomenon that can be observed in the relationship between a Spiritual Father and the penitant, is an unhealthy attachment of the penitant to the Spiritual Father. It is natural for the confessor to feel profound respect and gratitude to his Spiritual Father, who as a loving father strives, with the illumination of the Holy Spirit, to help the penitant, until he reaches his final goal, that is his sanctification. But in some cases, the penitants admiration for the person of the Spiritual Father reaches to the point of exaggeration, so that he forgets Christ and attributes everything to the person of his charismatic Spiritual Father. We must not forget that: "every good and every perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights" (James 1:17). God, through the gift of priesthood that has been give to the Spiritual Father, answers the prayers of the Spiritual Father in favor of the penitant, enlightens him each time to act according to the will of God for the benefit of the penitant. Thus, here too, it is God who forgives, heals spiritually and regenerates the penitant. The Bishop or the Priest are simply the instruments through which the Lord provides His redemptive grace and works our salvation. So we ought to respect and be grateful to our Spiritual Father and obey his advice, but even more we ought to be grateful to the Lord, Who, through our Spiritual Father provides us with His redeeming grace and all His blessings.
A second unfortunate consequence of the penitants unhealthy attachment to his Spiritual Father is that he himself stops taking responsibility for solving the problems of his daily life (professional, financial, family, educational, etc.) and waits for the decisions for everything of his Spiritual Father. As we understand the Spiritual Father is not a magician, to whom we may asks questions and receive the answer and then just leave. It is not possible for the Spirituali Father to give solutions to all kinds of issues that concern each penitant. After all, God did not send him to this reason. His mission is the performance of the Mystery of Repentance-Confession, and the edification of the faithful according to Christ.
My dear brothers and sisters, the Mystery of Repentance-Confession has been characterized as the philanthropic Mystery of the Church, and as a second Baptism, since with it we are cleansed from all sin and we regain the purity that we acquired with Holy Baptism. Let us not delay to come with repentance and humility to the Spiritual Father whenever our conscience checks us for transgressions of God's will. This is how our salvation is secured. Amen.