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Author Topic: Confession in the Armenian Church  (Read 3872 times) Average Rating: 0
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Severian
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« on: July 05, 2011, 02:58:29 PM »

I know this has been discussed a bit before, I know the Armenian Church's form of confession is a general absolution before the liturgy, but could someone answer these questions for me:

1. Do you publically confess your sons, is it a "group confession", or does the Priest just perform the absolution?

2. In theory, if I were to go to up to an Armenian priest and asked for a one-on-one confession, would I be refused or would he allow me to privately confess my sins?

Thank you for answering.

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« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2011, 03:22:13 PM »

1.  Are you asking if we kneel and publicly announce our personal sins?  If so, the answer is no.  Armenian tradition calls for the public recitation of the Confession, which if read in its entirety takes about ten minutes.  The priest responds at the appropriate times in between stanzas, then offers the absolution.  In the United States, this confession has been somewhat truncated, and has been moved in some places to directly before the administration of Holy Communion, but in Armenia and elsewhere it is read in its entirety before the Divine Liturgy begins.

2.  Yes.  To my knowledge, this is available, but is not general practice.  And is not common in the least.  You would not be turned away, but do know that it is unusual.
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« Reply #2 on: July 05, 2011, 03:25:56 PM »

2.  Yes.  To my knowledge, this is available, but is not general practice.  And is not common in the least.  You would not be turned away, but do know that it is unusual.

Private confession isn't the norm in the Armenian Church? Very stange. Does anyone know the origin of this practice?
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« Reply #3 on: July 05, 2011, 03:27:59 PM »

Thank you for your response.  Smiley

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Severian
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« Reply #4 on: July 05, 2011, 03:32:16 PM »

[Private confession isn't the norm in the Armenian Church? Very stange. Does anyone know the origin of this practice?
It isn't the norm in the Greek orthodox Church either.
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« Reply #5 on: July 05, 2011, 03:46:56 PM »

2.  Yes.  To my knowledge, this is available, but is not general practice.  And is not common in the least.  You would not be turned away, but do know that it is unusual.

Private confession isn't the norm in the Armenian Church? Very stange. Does anyone know the origin of this practice?
I don't find it strange, nor do centuries of Armenian Christians.  It's just not a part of our tradition.
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« Reply #6 on: July 05, 2011, 04:16:31 PM »

2.  Yes.  To my knowledge, this is available, but is not general practice.  And is not common in the least.  You would not be turned away, but do know that it is unusual.

Private confession isn't the norm in the Armenian Church? Very stange. Does anyone know the origin of this practice?

Yes it isn't. I never found this odd as I grew up with it this way, but now having come into contact with other Orthodox and Catholic practices I find that I wish we did have one on one confession. You will hear that this is only practiced in the Diaspora, but that's not true either as in Armenia they do not have one on one confession either.

There is a  arch-deacon (diratsoo) at our church who regularly makes booklets on such topics as Confession and the importance of coming to Church, etc. In one of his booklets he says that individual confession is important for the salvation of our souls and that the type of confession we do is not enough...I wish we as a church had more motivation to really step up the religious life of our church, and not simply view it as an ethnic club.
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« Reply #7 on: July 05, 2011, 04:20:48 PM »

[Null] I screwed this post up.
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« Reply #8 on: July 05, 2011, 08:35:48 PM »

[Private confession isn't the norm in the Armenian Church? Very stange. Does anyone know the origin of this practice?
It isn't the norm in the Greek orthodox Church either.

Are you commenting on the fact that the Greeks are lazy about confessing or saying that when the Greeks confess they do not do so privately?

The first is probably true and the second is not in my experience.
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« Reply #9 on: July 05, 2011, 08:58:26 PM »

[Private confession isn't the norm in the Armenian Church? Very stange. Does anyone know the origin of this practice?
It isn't the norm in the Greek orthodox Church either.

It's supposed to be the norm. General confession is not a substitute for private confession and absolution in the EO.

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« Reply #10 on: July 05, 2011, 09:45:47 PM »

[Private confession isn't the norm in the Armenian Church? Very stange. Does anyone know the origin of this practice?
It isn't the norm in the Greek orthodox Church either.

Are you commenting on the fact that the Greeks are lazy about confessing or saying that when the Greeks confess they do not do so privately?

The first is probably true and the second is not in my experience.


This is my experience, as well.


2.  Yes.  To my knowledge, this is available, but is not general practice.  And is not common in the least.  You would not be turned away, but do know that it is unusual.

Private confession isn't the norm in the Armenian Church? Very stange. Does anyone know the origin of this practice?
I don't find it strange, nor do centuries of Armenian Christians.  It's just not a part of our tradition.

Really? I was under the impression that the confession of individual sins is a universal practice of the Church. Originally before the whole community, and then later to the priest. It seems strange to me that neither would be utilized in the Armenian tradition. Could you provide me with more information and sources about this? Thanks. Grin
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« Reply #11 on: July 05, 2011, 11:26:22 PM »


Really? I was under the impression that the confession of individual sins is a universal practice of the Church. Originally before the whole community, and then later to the priest. It seems strange to me that neither would be utilized in the Armenian tradition. Could you provide me with more information and sources about this? Thanks. Grin
It's not in the Armenian tradition.  I don't know what else to tell you.  Nor do I know of any tradition in the modern church that asks for an individual to confess their personal sins before the entire community.  I will look for a definitive source to explain this, but in the meantime, I don't think it's necessarily fair to approach and criticize the Armenian tradition of general confession because it is unknown in the Chalcedonian Churches.  This is our practice, and has been for hundreds of years.

I would also point out that the Armenian form of general confession is surprisingly comprehensive.  I will search for a translation of the entire text and post it.  I dare say it leaves few stones unturned, and I'm not sure how it would not be considered sufficient for the confession of individual sins. 
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« Reply #12 on: July 06, 2011, 12:51:08 PM »

I don't think the intent was to criticize. I thought all the OO practiced one-on-one confession.  Do you know if the general confession was always practiced in the Armenian Orthodox Church? I just wondered if things might have changed after the genocide.

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« Reply #13 on: July 06, 2011, 01:58:11 PM »


Really? I was under the impression that the confession of individual sins is a universal practice of the Church. Originally before the whole community, and then later to the priest. It seems strange to me that neither would be utilized in the Armenian tradition. Could you provide me with more information and sources about this? Thanks. Grin
It's not in the Armenian tradition.  I don't know what else to tell you.  Nor do I know of any tradition in the modern church that asks for an individual to confess their personal sins before the entire community.  I will look for a definitive source to explain this, but in the meantime, I don't think it's necessarily fair to approach and criticize the Armenian tradition of general confession because it is unknown in the Chalcedonian Churches.  This is our practice, and has been for hundreds of years.

I would also point out that the Armenian form of general confession is surprisingly comprehensive.  I will search for a translation of the entire text and post it.  I dare say it leaves few stones unturned, and I'm not sure how it would not be considered sufficient for the confession of individual sins. 

As was said, I don't mean to criticize unnecessarily. I know what the norm is in my communion, and thought I knew for the OOs as well. Do any other OOs practice general confession instead of private confession? And, as I was under the impression that the confess of one's personal sins was a universal practice, I will be doing more research into this to make sure I'm understanding the Tradition correctly.

My apologies if anything I said came off as judgmental. I don't yet know enough to understand the practice of confession in the Armenian Church, and even if I did know enough (whatever "enough" is) I'm still not the one to be making that decision. Anything you know or find out would be appreciated!
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« Reply #14 on: July 06, 2011, 08:10:11 PM »

My priest said that in the old days the practice was for a vartabed to travel from village to village and he would hear confessions individually.  He would have a book with him in which the various penances were found and he would give penances, which often included abstaining from communion for a while, depending on how serious the sins were.

I think that group confession became the norm after the Genocide.  The Turks wiped out well over 90% of the clergy and this was one of the things the Church did to survive afterwards.  I've heard some priests say they would like a revival of individual confession, but that is hard to do once you have done group confession for so long.
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« Reply #15 on: July 06, 2011, 09:15:38 PM »

And, as I was under the impression that the confess of one's personal sins was a universal practice, I will be doing more research into this to make sure I'm understanding the Tradition correctly.

The Assyrians do not have regular individual confession either.    Orginally confession was public and only required for a specific sins for which there were detailed penances.  Private confession in which every sin must be confessed and penance is left to the priest to assign is a latter practice imported from monasticism.
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« Reply #16 on: July 07, 2011, 12:57:46 AM »


I think that group confession became the norm after the Genocide.  The Turks wiped out well over 90% of the clergy and this was one of the things the Church did to survive afterwards.  I've heard some priests say they would like a revival of individual confession, but that is hard to do once you have done group confession for so long.
Nope.  The general form of confession is in the first five pages of the Jamakirk, and has been since well before the Genocide.  While individual confession may have been available, Armenian tradition has long been general form.
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« Reply #17 on: July 07, 2011, 01:06:56 AM »

The confession is ancient, but the impression I got from my priest is that the way it is used today is not.
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« Reply #18 on: July 07, 2011, 01:11:51 AM »

I just noticed that this is my first "hot topic" post. Awesomeness!!!  Grin
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« Reply #19 on: July 07, 2011, 01:16:41 AM »

The confession is ancient, but the impression I got from my priest is that the way it is used today is not.
Yeah, I'm not sure about that.  It's always been my understanding that private confession, as it is understood in Catholic and Eastern Orthodox (predominantly Slavic) traditions has not been usual practice in the Armenian Church.  That's what's at issue here.
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« Reply #20 on: July 07, 2011, 01:28:29 AM »

From "The Sacraments:  The Symbols of Our Faith" by Fr. Garabed Kochakian:

Quote
Confession in the Armenian Church

The present form of public confession in the Armenian Church was written in the earliest centuries of the church by St. Ephraim, the Syrian.  The original form consists of 10 distinct statements indicating the plight of our moral decay.  The present form however has been shortened while retaining the true nature of penance [Aram's note:  This is a reference to the general practice in America since the 1960's, which has shortened the form of confession to four stanzas.  Elsewhere, the original form has been retained.]

It was introduced into the Armenian Church during the time of St. Gregory the Illuminator and later translated from Syriac to Armenian by Saints Sahag and Mesrob in the fifth century.

Abp. Malachia Ormanian's "The Armenian Church," first published in 1910, also reiterates the practice of general confession:

Quote
The sacrament of penitence or confession takes place according to a general formula, by a declaration of the chief sins; and the confessor refrains from entering into details, and especially from broaching an examination.  Ordinarily, it is usual to allow to a delay of a few days between the confession and the absolution, as to permit of a suitable preparation for the communion, which follows immediately after the absolution.

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« Reply #21 on: July 08, 2011, 02:15:18 AM »

I wonder if the Armenian church's Confession says anything about the early Church's Confession: perhaps that individuals addressing specific sins in the public Confession was uncommon enough that the Armenian practice did not clearly appear to be inconsistent?
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« Reply #22 on: July 08, 2011, 08:49:22 AM »


I think that group confession became the norm after the Genocide.  The Turks wiped out well over 90% of the clergy and this was one of the things the Church did to survive afterwards.  I've heard some priests say they would like a revival of individual confession, but that is hard to do once you have done group confession for so long.
Nope.  The general form of confession is in the first five pages of the Jamakirk, and has been since well before the Genocide.  While individual confession may have been available, Armenian tradition has long been general form.
Thanks for clearing that up.  Every book I have consulted on the Aremnian orthodox Church agrees with what you have said.

I think we make too many assumptions about church history.
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« Reply #23 on: July 08, 2011, 10:58:50 AM »


Abp. Malachia Ormanian's "The Armenian Church," first published in 1910, also reiterates the practice of general confession:

Quote
The sacrament of penitence or confession takes place according to a general formula, by a declaration of the chief sins; and the confessor refrains from entering into details, and especially from broaching an examination.  Ordinarily, it is usual to allow to a delay of a few days between the confession and the absolution, as to permit of a suitable preparation for the communion, which follows immediately after the absolution.


This in itself shows a difference from present practice in which confession takes place literally a few minutes before communion.  Again, it is my understanding that things changed after the Genocide.  Abp. Malachia Ormanian, if I'm not mistaken, wrote at the turn of the last century, so evidently general confession was common practice by then; But it seems to have been done differently than it is now.

Before the Eucharistic part of our liturgy, the deacon calls out that those who are catechumens, or of little faith, or penitent should not draw near to the divine mystery.  In the old days, those who were doing penance would actually exit the church at that time.  I've been told that a lot of the ancient church buildings in Armenia have large narthexes, and that there is even one church where the narthex is actually bigger than the nave.  I've been told that this is because in the old days penance was given to persons by a vartabed after they confessed individually, and the penance often involved not taking communion for a while.  

Undoubtedly, St. Ephrem's general confession was also used.  Perhaps it was used when there was no vartabed around, so that people did not take communion without any sort of confession.  However, I've been told that the practice of confessing individually to a vartabed did at one time exist, and that the modern practice of general confession as the exclusive form of confession is not ancient.
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« Reply #24 on: July 08, 2011, 06:44:40 PM »


This in itself shows a difference from present practice in which confession takes place literally a few minutes before communion.  Again, it is my understanding that things changed after the Genocide.  Abp. Malachia Ormanian, if I'm not mistaken, wrote at the turn of the last century, so evidently general confession was common practice by then; But it seems to have been done differently than it is now.
Only in America has confession been moved to the middle of the Badarak.  In Armenia and elsewhere in that part of the world, confession occurs before Badarak begins, and is taken seriously.  I was once denied communion in Armenia because the priest was uncertain if I had been there for confession before Badarak (which I was). 

Quote
Before the Eucharistic part of our liturgy, the deacon calls out that those who are catechumens, or of little faith, or penitent should not draw near to the divine mystery.  In the old days, those who were doing penance would actually exit the church at that time.  I've been told that a lot of the ancient church buildings in Armenia have large narthexes, and that there is even one church where the narthex is actually bigger than the nave.  I've been told that this is because in the old days penance was given to persons by a vartabed after they confessed individually, and the penance often involved not taking communion for a while.
Not sure.  At the end of the day, general form is the standard in the Armenian Church, private, one-on-one confession is rare. 

Quote
Undoubtedly, St. Ephrem's general confession was also used.  Perhaps it was used when there was no vartabed around, so that people did not take communion without any sort of confession.  However, I've been told that the practice of confessing individually to a vartabed did at one time exist, and that the modern practice of general confession as the exclusive form of confession is not ancient.
Again, I am not sure this is correct.
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« Reply #25 on: July 09, 2011, 12:59:42 PM »

A senior Armenian clergyman tells me...

I am not an authority in the confession formulae, but as far as I know the Armenians had the practice of private confession. The word "khsdovanahayr" which means father confessor is used in our literature. The public confession formula, which has been at the beginning of our traditional Book of Prayers (Jhamakirk) is in the first person singular "I have sinned" and not "we have sinned." As late as the 70s of the 20th century, even during Badarak, confession was done semi-privately. A second priest would escort those who wished to confess their sins to the side vestry where the confession formula will be read. This public use of this formula, which is attributed to St. Ephraem, started in the middle of the 20th century in the USA and on festive days around the world. It is only in the previous several years that it has become the norm in almost every Armenian Church around the world. I hoep this was helpful.
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« Reply #26 on: July 09, 2011, 02:44:44 PM »

I was unable to read all the posts of this thread entirely but in whatever I read I found so much misinformation that I cannot keep silent on this.

The forms of both private and general confessions have existed and still exist in the Armenian Church since ancient times.

Today the practice of private confession in our Church mostly depends on the parish and the clergy. I live in Armenia and many believers here, including me, have their confessor fathers to whom they confess privately. But to take Communion one needs to take part also in the general confession. St Gregory of Tathev (14-15th centuries) has numerous sermons on private confession, and he mentions also the general form of confession which was read both after the private confession, and separately. He says there are minor sins that do not necessarily need to be confessed privately (like a bad word, thought, inappropriate laugh etc), and such sins can be forgiven also only through the general confession. However, for other, more serious sins, one MUST confess to the priest privately. There are sermons on confession (private) also by other Armenian Fathers. And not only written in those ancient times but also, for example, in the beginning of the 20th century. One of the sermons of Fr Emanuel Nazareants, published in the beginning of the 20th century and republished in Armenia some years ago, speaks on PRIVATE confession. The most extensive catechism of the Armenian Church written by Arshak Ter-Mikelyan and published first in the 19th century and republished twice in recent times, also speaks about PRIVATE confession in the Armenian Church.

This shows that both forms of confession in the Armenian Church have been used since old times and at least until the beginning of the 20th century. And if today the practice of private confession is not spread widely, it is never a rule in the Armenian Church and private confession is always welcomed today, especially in some parishes of Armenia. If this is not so in the diaspora and some parishes of Armenia, it's the fault of the clergy and NOT a RULE.

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« Reply #27 on: July 09, 2011, 02:56:36 PM »

So it seems both forms of confession have been in use since ancient times.  And here I had thought that the frequent use of general confession was a modern innovation.  

Thank you for the information.

What about what my priest said about the vartabed who would travel from place to place, hearing confessions?  Is that historically correct, or did people confess to their own parish priest?
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« Reply #28 on: July 09, 2011, 03:00:57 PM »

What about what my priest said about the vartabed who would travel from place to place, hearing confessions?  Is that historically correct, or did people confess to their own parish priest?

I'm sorry, I don't know about such a thing. Maybe in a life of a vardapet it was written that he did so, and your priest guessed it was a rule. But the rule is like that of the other traditional Churches. No difference.
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