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Author Topic: Confession vs. Private Repentance  (Read 1463 times) Average Rating: 0
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HelloIAmNate
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« on: December 10, 2008, 07:15:53 PM »

To start this off I will say that I am a catechumen and I am reading a book by Archimandrite Seraphim Aleksiev titled The Forgotten Medicine: The Mystery of Repentance . In it he asserts that there is only grace and forgivness of sins in the Mystery of Confession and that neither are present in the private repentance of sin by onesself.  Is this a majority opinion?

While I am a fairly new Christian, as I am converting from Taoism, I don't have the strongest background to question this but it strikes me as being askew.  I certainly would accept that the two are ,in someway I can't describe, different in terms of grace but to say that forgiveness isn't present in private repentance strikes me as being off.

I plan on discussing this of course with my priest but I'd like some help on framing the issue for myself a bit better.

Thanks for any answers. I come to this site often just to read, it's a big help to me and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone.
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serb1389
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« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2008, 09:14:51 PM »

I'm sorry, for me your question was a little confusing.  IS your question:  what is the sacramental nature of confession?  Or is it: Why can I not have a personal confession, without the "sacramental" part of it?  Or both?  Sorry for the confusion! 
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ytterbiumanalyst
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« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2008, 09:25:07 PM »

Welcome, Nate.

Having been a Protestant, I can vouch for the ineffectiveness of private repentance. I can remember for years trying to straighten out my life. I would ask God to forgive me of this or that, then do it again the next day, to my great frustration. Now, though, I do find myself avoiding sins on the grounds that I will have to confess to God before my priest. It's not a magical thing to confess before a priest, but there is something in the concreteness of it that helps us realize what goes into confession.

I hope that helps.
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HelloIAmNate
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« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2008, 09:28:38 PM »

Thanks for the answer - I would readily admit that Confession is superior - but is there no forgiveness in personal repentance, ie. in my prayers at the end of the day or I've sinned and on the spot I repent. The book clearly states the answer is that I am not forgiven until I confess.  This line in the book could be a problem with translation but as it stands that what the book states.
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ytterbiumanalyst
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« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2008, 09:31:58 PM »

Thanks for the answer - I would readily admit that Confession is superior - but is there no forgiveness in personal repentance, ie. in my prayers at the end of the day or I've sinned and on the spot I repent. The book clearly states the answer is that I am not forgiven until I confess.  This line in the book could be a problem with translation but as it stands that what the book states.
I don't think we can say definitively. We do know that true repentance is the requisite for forgiveness. I doubt that true repentance can only come through public confession, but I can say from experience that it certainly is easier.
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HelloIAmNate
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« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2008, 09:38:52 PM »

And to further clarify. I have no issue with Confession as a practise as some Protestants would. I look forward to Confessing - I'm just trying to understand the Orthodox position better.
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serb1389
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« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2008, 09:40:24 PM »

Thanks for the answer - I would readily admit that Confession is superior - but is there no forgiveness in personal repentance, ie. in my prayers at the end of the day or I've sinned and on the spot I repent. The book clearly states the answer is that I am not forgiven until I confess.  This line in the book could be a problem with translation but as it stands that what the book states.

Could you give a direct citation...it could have to do with the wording...?

Usually what the "normal" understanding is that you can of course always confess to the Lord, to a spiritual brother, sister, etc. But none of it offers you the remission of sins of God through the sacrament of confession (and forgiveness of the community you live in, through your priest).  

Here are some notes from my Sacramental Theology class that may be helpful...

Quote
Presbyters were supposed to be as close to a bishop as strings to a lute.  They had jobs like governing the people of God, leadership and helping the bishop.  They were teachers, etc. but the bishop was the liturgics par excellence.  There was a sort of council formed around the bishop called a synedrion, which now means conference.  There was a court which led the people back into communion if they left.  This is the first example of confession.  

After the 3rd century there is a change from this system.  

Forgive me...I need to check on some things before I post more...

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« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2008, 09:47:29 PM »

I gave the book back to my priest, it was his, I'll skim through it after Liturgy and write it down.
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serb1389
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« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2008, 10:14:33 PM »

I gave the book back to my priest, it was his, I'll skim through it after Liturgy and write it down.

that would be awesome, I think it would help greatly with answering your questions.  I am still working on a more expanded response. 
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« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2008, 10:35:04 PM »

Welcome to the forum, Nate. Smiley I would say that if private repentance was of no use, then about 50% or more of the prayers in our Orthodox prayer books are bunk. In our private prayers we continually ask for forgiveness of sins, and apologize for our sins, sometimes quite specifically. I would agree that sacramental confession is far superior to private repentance, yet I think private repentance also has it's place in our day to day lives. This is especially true if we are part of a Local Church that does not require frequent confession, and we only go to confession a few times a year.
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« Reply #10 on: December 11, 2008, 10:53:56 AM »

I would think that if we don't have a good routine of asking for forgiveness frequently, both publicly and privately, then it will be difficult to make your Confession effective or long-lasting.  One must be in the habit of asking God's forgiveness and (thus) striving to better oneself for the sacramental act to have long-lasting and desired effects.
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« Reply #11 on: December 11, 2008, 11:01:40 AM »

The way I understand it: yes, God forgives me that same instant I repent, whether this instant comes during my sacramental confession in the presence of a priest, or elsewhere.

However, Holy Confession is important because it is a "sacrament" (a Latin term; in the Orthodox language, we say "Holy Mystery"). I don't think we really "understand" rationally, just what is going on during the Holy Confession, excatly because it *is* a Mystery, like Baptism or Eucharist. But we believe that something very important, very essential does happen. It's a part of our "theosis," or "deification," our lifelong path from being a "natural" (or "old") human individual to being a New Creation, a "god by Grace."
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« Reply #12 on: December 11, 2008, 11:29:02 AM »

It's touched on in this explanatory video: http://stmaryscopticorthodox.ca/content/video/03.mov from http://stmaryscopticorthodox.ca/media/video/video.html

In the OT the people brought a sacrifice to the Temp, confessed their sins, and the priest slaughtered the lamb.  When they confessed, they put their hand on the lamb.  It's like the sin was transferred to the lamb who was slaughtered (accepted death) instead.

In the NT we go to confession.  When he puts his hand on the Lamb (in the offertory) the sins we confessed are transferred to the Lamb, which of course becomes the Body of Christ.  In this way our sins are put on Christ who took on the sins of the world, and they are defeated on the cross.

When we sin we must repent immediately.  We must ignore the demon who tells us to put off repentance.  When we fall we must get up.  God accepts that repentance, but we must then go to the Mysteries, confess, and receive Communion.  We can't leave it at that, because we can't be righteous by our own means.  The two steps in repentance are complementary.  If we do not repent before going to confession, we will be saying vain words, just going through the motions, and God does not accept that.  If we just repent on our own and don't go to confession, we cannot be healed from the sickness of sin because we need the medicine of the Sacraments.  We can't do it on our own, but we have to do our part. 

Here is a good book that talks more about this: http://stmaryscopticorthodox.ca/content/books/spirituality.pdf from: http://stmaryscopticorthodox.ca/publications/books/books.html
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