The fifth degree of humility is that he hide from his Abbot none of the evil thoughts that enter his heart or the sins committed in secret, but that he humbly confess them. The Scripture urges us to this when it says, “Reveal your way to the Lord and hope in Him” (Ps. 36:5) and again, “Confess to the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endures forever” (Ps. 105:1). And the Prophet likewise says, “My offense I have made known to You, and my iniquities I have not covered up. I said: ‘I will declare against myself my iniquities to the Lord;’ and ‘You forgave the wickedness of my heart'” (Ps. 31:5).
This step is not one of the easiest for me.
We all have that special friend in whom we can confide, tell them our darkest sins. Sometimes we even keep several; each one for a specific kind of sin. Why do we tell them? Is it to unburden ourselves of the sin? Or do we sometimes take a secret delight in telling the other about them, relishing the thought of what we did as we present it to the other with feigned regret? We reveal these bits and pieces to others – others who cannot give us any guidance – but we keep them from our spiritual father. “No, I can’t tell him that; that’s too shocking. What will he think of me?” To our father, to him who would guide us on the path to heal our infirmities, suddenly we are ashamed. It is easy to confess your sins when the priest is not your spiritual father, or he is just a random priest that happened to be there when you needed recourse to him: you do not have to go into detail; you do not have to expose yourself, to show him how deep the rot reaches. He will absolve you, give you some penance (and sometimes some advice given the fleeting details you mentioned) and that is it. Why is it that difficult to disclose ourselves fully to our spiritual father? Is it self-love that keeps us from it? Do we forget that he is a man as well, and that he might well have heard all this before from someone else (after all, we are dully unoriginal in our sins).
It is good to speak with our spiritual father, to confess to him (not necessarily in the sacramental sense) that which goes on in the recesses of our soul. Just that fact that one airs whatever is rotting there will many times help to clear the miasma (sin carries the stench of death), and a particular temptation might go away. Our father, qua spiritual physician, knowing the symptoms will be able to apply the proper balm.
Today’s feast of the Presentation goes well with this step of humility. On this day we commemorate the fact that Jesus was redeemed in the Temple on the 40th day after His birth, as the Law required of the firstborn. It is from St. Luke’s Gospel account that we get the Canticle of Simeon – the Nunc dimittis – where Simeon calls the Babe “lumen ad revelationem“. On this day of Candlemas the Church prays that Christ’s light illumine our soul. Which areas of my innermost being are in need of the lumen Christi? Which ones need to be brought to light, especially with my spiritual father, so that I my may not love the darkness?