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Author Topic: Confession, Orthodox vs Catholic  (Read 3315 times) Average Rating: 0
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choy
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« on: October 24, 2012, 12:48:08 AM »

What are the differences?  How does a priest conduct a confession in Orthodoxy?  Aside from the obvious "you stand in front of an icon of Christ".  What is said, what is said after, what do you usually do?  Do you pray 5 Our Fathers and 1000 Jesus Prayers after?
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« Reply #1 on: October 24, 2012, 02:29:10 AM »

While I've confessed to four Orthodox priests in my time, I've only confessed to one regularly, and this info will mostly be based on that one relationship.

The first thing is, some parishes/jurisdiction have confession more often, for instance requiring it before every time you take communion. Other parishes/jurisdictions might only ask that you confess a few times a year. This and other factors can impact how confessions are done. After all, if a priest is doing dozens of confessions every weekend he won't be able to spend as much time with each person as he would if he was only do a couple confessions each weekend. And there are other factors as well (such as some priests not hearing confessions).

As for what I have experienced, it has generally gone like this: the priest says a few words and asks what I need to confess, and I try to say everything that I can remember. After I am done the priest will deal with the sins I have said, with the focus generally being on how I can avoid the sins in the future, both giving practical advice and also trying to get at the root of the problem. Sometimes the priest will ask for clarification, but generally he does most of the speaking. I would say that the average confession lasts about an hour, with him talking 50+ minutes of that. However, based on the few confessions I have had elsewhere this seems like an abnormally lengthy amount of time. But then the priest does have the "gift of gab"  Grin

I have rarely been given penances. Usually it is more advice and suggestions about what I can do to modify my behavior and actions and thinking. I was once given the penance of praying a certain thing, and once given a penance of memorizing a bible verse that was applicable to a problem I was having. I've also been given a penance of not taking communion for a set amount of time. After the priest has finished he says a prayer of absolution, forgiving both the sins that have been confessed and also sins innocently forgotten. There is some dispute over some of the wording and it changes from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but it's generally the same idea.

EDIT--Forgot to say, I generally stand during the actual confession, since they last so long, and then kneel for the absolution.
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« Reply #2 on: October 24, 2012, 07:39:24 AM »

First of all, it depends on the fact if you have a spiritual father or not. It has a big influence on the length of the confession  and how the talk is conducted, because if the priest knows you, he also knows your problems with particular things, so he may ask about it and hew can notice a progress or a regress.

In my case, after making a bow and kissing the Gospel and the cross, the priest firstly says “Glory be to Jesus Christ” or “With the feast” or another greeting (I know that’s rather Polish thing) and covers by head by epitrachelion (all the time I stand; in Poland we rather not kneel even for absolution). I response and start saying my sins. Sometimes he stops me to ask more about the particular sin. After it I say that’s all I remember in this moment, so the priest starts talking about one or a few of my sins, we think together about the roots of them, how to solve the problems etc. During confession the priest gives me also the rules of prayer, fasting, reading of the Bible, psalms and so on. He asks how the particular services have affected on my life. He gives me also other advices (how to solve the problems not so strictly connected with the sins or Church life). After the talk he asks me if I had forgotten about something. If I had, I say it. If not, he asks me if I regret my sins and then he gives the absolution, takes the epitrachelion, I kiss again the Gospel and the cross, and then he gives the blessing for participating in the Eucharist. Because my confessor is also my spiritual father, sometimes he asks me how I am or I ask him about something. I’ve never been given any penance – only some rules and advice what spiritual book or article that describes my problem I should read.

As Asteriktos wrote, it varies a bit from jurisdiction to jurisdiction; what I’ve noticed, in Orthodox confession there are less formulas than in Catholic Church. It’s there is also a difference when it’s done: during All-Night Vigil/Vespers/Matins (preferable, as generally priests have more time then and it’s easier to be focused on the confession) or Liturgy (priests have less time and it’s difficult to focus on the Liturgy).
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« Reply #3 on: October 24, 2012, 10:45:00 AM »

Pretty much the same as above. Some kneeling and some standing during confession. I think it depends on the sins confessed if there is any (i hate to use the word as it implies I can do something to remit the sin) penance.  I have been given reading of psalm 50  as a prayer rule for a given period of time.
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« Reply #4 on: October 24, 2012, 11:41:28 AM »

It is necessary to confess minor sins in Orthodox Confession?
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« Reply #5 on: October 24, 2012, 11:47:36 AM »

It is necessary to confess minor sins in Orthodox Confession?

As far as I'm aware we're supposed to strive to confess all sins (which would include 'minor' ones) - certainly that's what I've always been told. We don't really seem to make distinctions between serious and minor sins, though. Sin is sin.

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« Reply #6 on: October 24, 2012, 12:11:14 PM »

At my church, you walk up and stand before the icon of Christ on the iconostasis, and the priest immediately puts his stole on your head. He then says something along the lines of, "Behold, my child, Christ stands here invisibly and receives your confession. Therefore be not ashamed nor afraid; conceal nothing from me, but tell me without hesitation everything that you have done, and so you shall have pardon from Our Lord Jesus Christ."

At that point, I feel like I should have something formulaic to say in return, but saying, "Forgive me Father, for I have sinned," feels too much like an opening announcement, and the priest has already given the opening. So I just dive right in with confessing my sins. I asked my priest if I should state how long it's been since my last confession, and he said only if it's been so long that it's a matter for which I need to confess.

When I'm finished, I still say, "For these, and all my sins, I am sorry," so the priest knows that I am finished. He gives some advice and encouragement (I haven't had any penance yet), and then he says the prayer of absolution. I bow my head for this prayer. Some people kneel, which seems appropriate to me, but by the time I think to do it, the priest is already halfway through the prayer! Afterward, I kiss the icon of Christ, and I kiss the priest's hand. That ends the confession.

I have the Antiochian Pocket Prayer Book, which instructs you to say the Prayer of Repentance and Psalm 50 after you examine your conscience. The Prayer of Repentance will look a little familiar:
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O Lord our God, good and merciful, I acknowledge all my sins which I have committed every day of my life, in thought, word of deed; in body and soul alike. I am heartily sorry that I have ever offended thee, and I sincerely repent; with tears I humbly pray thee, O Lord; of thy mercy forgive me all my past transgressions and absolve me from them. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy Grace, to amend my way of life and to sin no more; that I may walk in the way of the righteous and offer praise and glory to the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This prayer book also lists some prayers to be said after Confession.
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« Reply #7 on: October 24, 2012, 02:07:35 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

While I feel that aspects of Latin Confession have become too impersonal, too mechanical, I do appreciate the idea of the Confessionary, we could use that for real Smiley

Having a Father Confessor is crucial in Orthodox, you need this long-term relationship for your spiritual father to better help you sort out what is what, to understand the gravity of which offenses, to reflect on our individual neurotic thoughts, and to have a more trusting and therapeutic relationship.  The frequency, degree, or format of Confession is not what is important, neither receiving an Absolution prayer, but rather that folks find the inwards spiritual-psychological healing from the wounds of sin, from the fears of shortcomings, from the pains of guilt, that we can find Grace sanctified help towards true penitential recovery.

stay blessed,
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« Reply #8 on: October 24, 2012, 02:12:59 PM »

Do you pray 5 Our Fathers and 1000 Jesus Prayers after?

I could never understand why do Catholics do such things.

nice scene from a Polish movie with such a practise (lasts about 1.5 min)
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« Reply #9 on: October 24, 2012, 02:20:42 PM »

The above is more or less my experience as well.

The major "practical" differences from Latin Christianity is the use of confessionals. You won't see them in our churches. No anonymity. And the actual use of the priest's stole, laid over the head of the penitent, usually just at the absolution...but some will wrap the stole around your head for the whole time. I've never experienced this, and don't think I'd care for it.
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« Reply #10 on: October 24, 2012, 02:44:11 PM »

Do you pray 5 Our Fathers and 1000 Jesus Prayers after?

I could never understand why do Catholics do such things.

nice scene from a Polish movie with such a practise (lasts about 1.5 min)

29 years as a Catholic going to confession, I don't understand it either.
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« Reply #11 on: October 24, 2012, 02:52:06 PM »

Do you pray 5 Our Fathers and 1000 Jesus Prayers after?

I could never understand why do Catholics do such things.

nice scene from a Polish movie with such a practise (lasts about 1.5 min)

29 years as a Catholic going to confession, I don't understand it either.
Just a simple and humble act of expressing our sorrow for our sins. I'm not sure why that is difficult to understand.
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« Reply #12 on: October 24, 2012, 03:01:34 PM »

Do you pray 5 Our Fathers and 1000 Jesus Prayers after?

I could never understand why do Catholics do such things.

nice scene from a Polish movie with such a practise (lasts about 1.5 min)

29 years as a Catholic going to confession, I don't understand it either.
Just a simple and humble act of expressing our sorrow for our sins. I'm not sure why that is difficult to understand.

Maybe no one ever explained it to him.  And I'm not joking, either--stuff like that happens.  But you're right, it really isn't that difficult to understand.

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« Reply #13 on: October 24, 2012, 03:13:57 PM »

I don't think that's the part that's being misunderstood. Everyone understands repentance and contrition, but the form it takes can seem strange if you're not given to the particular mindset that would subscribe to a "say X number of Y" approach in the first place, which in my experience is not really how confession is approached in Orthodoxy (I've never been told to do anything like that, anyway, and we're huge on repetitions in our private devotions, e.g., the 41 Kyrie eleisons in every hour of the Agpeya).
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« Reply #14 on: October 24, 2012, 03:22:27 PM »

I don't think that's the part that's being misunderstood. Everyone understands repentance and contrition, but the form it takes can seem strange if you're not given to the particular mindset that would subscribe to a "say X number of Y" approach in the first place, which in my experience is not really how confession is approached in Orthodoxy (I've never been told to do anything like that, anyway, and we're huge on repetitions in our private devotions, e.g., the 41 Kyrie eleisons in every hour of the Agpeya).
Hmmm, well I've never understood it as a particular sin merits a particular number of prayers. I've always understood it as the priest trying to subjectively give us a way to perform a very humble and simple act which expresses our contrition.
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« Reply #15 on: October 24, 2012, 03:24:41 PM »

Yeah, that's fine. I didn't mean to challenge the existence of or reasoning for the practice, only to say that not everyone understands why it is as it is.
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« Reply #16 on: October 24, 2012, 03:38:29 PM »

I don't think that's the part that's being misunderstood. Everyone understands repentance and contrition, but the form it takes can seem strange if you're not given to the particular mindset that would subscribe to a "say X number of Y" approach in the first place, which in my experience is not really how confession is approached in Orthodoxy (I've never been told to do anything like that, anyway, and we're huge on repetitions in our private devotions, e.g., the 41 Kyrie eleisons in every hour of the Agpeya).

My experience of "penance" in the Orthodox Church was never formulaic, as is often stereotyped in the Latin Catholic Church.  My experience in the Latin Catholic Church is only very occasionally formulaic.  Usually the "penance" consists of performing, with prayerful attentiveness, some action to counterbalance (for lack of a better word at the moment) a sin or a pattern of sin that I've revealed in confession.  For instance, if I've been angry with someone, the priest may suggest that I humbly make amends if I haven't already, or he may suggest that I perform an act of kindness for someone, anyone--that kind of thing.  Every once in a while, depending on the priest, he will ask me to say 5 Hail Mary's or 5 Our Father's, or some such thing, almost always in addition to the above.  So far, no one has *ever* suggested 1,000 Jesus Prayers! Wink
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« Reply #17 on: October 24, 2012, 03:42:07 PM »

Do you pray 5 Our Fathers and 1000 Jesus Prayers after?

I could never understand why do Catholics do such things.

Orthodox used to do this as well...
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« Reply #18 on: October 24, 2012, 03:43:11 PM »

Just a simple and humble act of expressing our sorrow for our sins. I'm not sure why that is difficult to understand.

Doesn't that happen with the fact you sought Confession?
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« Reply #19 on: October 24, 2012, 03:45:39 PM »

Hmm. Just as a general comment, I understand the "counterbalance" idea, but that in itself is odd if you look at sin as sickness to be healed, rather than an "imbalance" that needs to be returned to equilibrium. That's not to say that there's nothing that can or should be done to correct a particular situation like your example of anger at a person, but rather that the problem of the anger is deeper than however it should manifest itself in any given situation.
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« Reply #20 on: October 24, 2012, 04:07:49 PM »

Hmm. Just as a general comment, I understand the "counterbalance" idea, but that in itself is odd if you look at sin as sickness to be healed, rather than an "imbalance" that needs to be returned to equilibrium. That's not to say that there's nothing that can or should be done to correct a particular situation like your example of anger at a person, but rather that the problem of the anger is deeper than however it should manifest itself in any given situation.

The "counterbalance" idea, or rather the phraseology, was mine, not a priest's or the Church's.  I get and agree with where you're coming from.  Bad wording on my part.  If you think about it though (and as someone involved in health care for the last 30+ years or so, this is how I tend to view it) sickness itself is an imbalance or the result of imbalance in the organism's homeostatic mechanisms.  The problem, whether of anger or whatever, may or may not be deeper than however it might manifest itself--depends on the person and the situation.

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« Reply #21 on: October 24, 2012, 04:10:11 PM »

Just a simple and humble act of expressing our sorrow for our sins. I'm not sure why that is difficult to understand.

A simple and humble act of expressing our sorrow for our sins is called "confession".
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« Reply #22 on: October 24, 2012, 04:21:12 PM »

The problem, whether of anger or whatever, may or may not be deeper than however it might manifest itself--depends on the person and the situation.

I'm going to have to disagree with that (mainly as a protection against Pelagianism, not because I think that's where you're going, but because that's where some people end up when they start with the idea that sin is or can be situational rather than endemic: "Father, I did commit this sin, but it's because blahblahblahblah" -- yes, fine, but blahblahblah doesn't make sin anything other than what it is).
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« Reply #23 on: October 24, 2012, 04:28:56 PM »

Just a simple and humble act of expressing our sorrow for our sins. I'm not sure why that is difficult to understand.

A simple and humble act of expressing our sorrow for our sins is called "confession".

It's also called an act of contrition.  Doing some form of penance is yet another way to manifest and express that sorrow.  It doesn't need to be limited solely to the precise act of reciting one's sins either in a confessional or under the priest's epitrachelion.
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« Reply #24 on: October 24, 2012, 04:30:20 PM »

The problem, whether of anger or whatever, may or may not be deeper than however it might manifest itself--depends on the person and the situation.

I'm going to have to disagree with that (mainly as a protection against Pelagianism, not because I think that's where you're going, but because that's where some people end up when they start with the idea that sin is or can be situational rather than endemic: "Father, I did commit this sin, but it's because blahblahblahblah" -- yes, fine, but blahblahblah doesn't make sin anything other than what it is).

I have no problem whatsoever with that  Wink
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« Reply #25 on: October 24, 2012, 05:12:36 PM »

It's also called an act of contrition.  Doing some form of penance is yet another way to manifest and express that sorrow.  It doesn't need to be limited solely to the precise act of reciting one's sins either in a confessional or under the priest's epitrachelion.

But your guilt and your sins that nearly killed you are your penance.

I'm not arguing with both of you, and I know that this is where we two (three?) differ. I'm just trying to see where exactly do we differ.
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« Reply #26 on: October 24, 2012, 05:21:04 PM »

I wonder how some Orthodox today would react if we returned to things like giving penances of only having bread and water for a week.  Cool
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« Reply #27 on: October 24, 2012, 05:59:32 PM »

I wonder how some Orthodox today would react if we returned to things like giving penances of only having bread and water for a week.  Cool

I personally would like that better.  Not to say that praying the "Our Father" is a small thing, but it just doesn't get the message across as much especially if one praying is merely giving lip service as prayer.
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« Reply #28 on: October 24, 2012, 06:04:17 PM »

Just a simple and humble act of expressing our sorrow for our sins. I'm not sure why that is difficult to understand.

Doesn't that happen with the fact you sought Confession?
Yes, and?
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« Reply #29 on: October 24, 2012, 06:04:57 PM »

Just a simple and humble act of expressing our sorrow for our sins. I'm not sure why that is difficult to understand.

A simple and humble act of expressing our sorrow for our sins is called "confession".
Yup. We do that, and we do penance. We do both.  Smiley
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« Reply #30 on: October 24, 2012, 06:05:55 PM »

I wonder how some Orthodox today would react if we returned to things like giving penances of only having bread and water for a week.  Cool

I personally would like that better.  Not to say that praying the "Our Father" is a small thing, but it just doesn't get the message across as much especially if one praying is merely giving lip service as prayer.
You were just criticizing penance, and now you want more of it? <Papist's head explodes>
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« Reply #31 on: October 24, 2012, 06:10:28 PM »

I wonder how some Orthodox today would react if we returned to things like giving penances of only having bread and water for a week.  Cool

I personally would like that better.  Not to say that praying the "Our Father" is a small thing, but it just doesn't get the message across as much especially if one praying is merely giving lip service as prayer.
You were just criticizing penance, and now you want more of it? <Papist's head explodes>

I was criticizing how it was done, not that there are penances per se.  I just felt how it was done didn't really address the need of the faithful.  I think that the problem isn't in the Rite of the Sacrament itself in the RC Church, but rather the detachment of personalism aspect of the Sacrament in the RC Church.  Often the priest don't know you (and people do go to other parishes to have their confessions heard) and you don't even see each other.  They just say something profound, tell you to pray 3 Our Fathers and 3 Hail Marys, and you are on your way.
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« Reply #32 on: October 24, 2012, 06:12:40 PM »

I wonder how some Orthodox today would react if we returned to things like giving penances of only having bread and water for a week.  Cool

I personally would like that better.  Not to say that praying the "Our Father" is a small thing, but it just doesn't get the message across as much especially if one praying is merely giving lip service as prayer.
You were just criticizing penance, and now you want more of it? <Papist's head explodes>

I was criticizing how it was done, not that there are penances per se.  I just felt how it was done didn't really address the need of the faithful.  I think that the problem isn't in the Rite of the Sacrament itself in the RC Church, but rather the detachment of personalism aspect of the Sacrament in the RC Church.  Often the priest don't know you (and people do go to other parishes to have their confessions heard) and you don't even see each other.  They just say something profound, tell you to pray 3 Our Fathers and 3 Hail Marys, and you are on your way.
They are profound if you pray them with a penitent heart. Smiley
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« Reply #33 on: October 24, 2012, 06:20:22 PM »

Yup. We do that, and we do penance. We do both.  Smiley

There's nothing wrong in that, too, I guess so at least Smiley. Just different. I believe it's because you emphasize strongly on redeeming nature of Crucifiction, am I right?
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« Reply #34 on: October 24, 2012, 06:50:05 PM »

Yup. We do that, and we do penance. We do both.  Smiley

There's nothing wrong in that, too, I guess so at least Smiley. Just different. I believe it's because you emphasize strongly on redeeming nature of Crucifiction, am I right?
Could be. I've always tried to stay away from over analyzing confession because of I could easily fall into scrupulosity. Instead, I just remember that I am putting my sins before the font of Christ's Mercy, and when it's over, I get to show God I'm sorry through my own pathetic attempts at penance. It's really a beautiful experience for me.
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« Reply #35 on: October 24, 2012, 06:53:08 PM »

Could be. I've always tried to stay away from over analyzing confession because of I could easily fall into scrupulosity. Instead, I just remember that I am putting my sins before the font of Christ's Mercy, and when it's over, I get to show God I'm sorry through my own pathetic attempts at penance. It's really a beautiful experience for me.

That's spiritual in it's own way, thank you for sharing it, as much as written words are able to show it.
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« Reply #36 on: October 24, 2012, 07:17:46 PM »

I don't see the problem with penance prayers. When I was a Catholic, after my confession, I would say the Act of Contrition and whatever else my priest would tell me to pray. Now, I say Psalm 50 and an Act of Contrition look-alike before my confession, and prayers from my prayer book that are meant for the occasion afterward. Either way, the prayers are meant to help you build your relationship with God, right? And praying right after Confession, you feel a lot more hopeful.
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« Reply #37 on: October 24, 2012, 07:38:02 PM »

They are profound if you pray them with a penitent heart. Smiley

Which is true.  But most people aren't there yet.  And the priest often doesn't recognize that.
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« Reply #38 on: October 24, 2012, 07:40:47 PM »

They are profound if you pray them with a penitent heart. Smiley

Which is true.  But most people aren't there yet.  And the priest often doesn't recognize that.
How do you know what is in the hearts of these people?
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« Reply #39 on: October 24, 2012, 08:01:09 PM »

Hmm. Just as a general comment, I understand the "counterbalance" idea, but that in itself is odd if you look at sin as sickness to be healed, rather than an "imbalance" that needs to be returned to equilibrium.

If you trust in oriental medicine, these two are the same thing.
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« Reply #40 on: October 24, 2012, 08:08:58 PM »

Hmm. Just as a general comment, I understand the "counterbalance" idea, but that in itself is odd if you look at sin as sickness to be healed, rather than an "imbalance" that needs to be returned to equilibrium.

If you trust in oriental medicine, these two are the same thing.

Yes, and you might also believe that banana attracts phlegm.
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« Reply #41 on: October 25, 2012, 12:24:50 AM »

I wonder how some Orthodox today would react if we returned to things like giving penances of only having bread and water for a week.  Cool

return?

(Yes, I do realize that would be highly unusual, particularly in a parish context, but it's by no means unheard of even today)
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« Reply #42 on: October 25, 2012, 12:45:53 AM »

How do you know what is in the hearts of these people?

The light of God will shine through.
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« Reply #43 on: October 25, 2012, 12:49:09 AM »

Hmm. Just as a general comment, I understand the "counterbalance" idea, but that in itself is odd if you look at sin as sickness to be healed, rather than an "imbalance" that needs to be returned to equilibrium.

If you trust in oriental medicine, these two are the same thing.

Which system?
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« Reply #44 on: October 25, 2012, 10:35:01 AM »

Hmm. Just as a general comment, I understand the "counterbalance" idea, but that in itself is odd if you look at sin as sickness to be healed, rather than an "imbalance" that needs to be returned to equilibrium.

If you trust in oriental medicine, these two are the same thing.

Yes, and you might also believe that banana attracts phlegm.

It doesn't?  (Just asking--my "expertise" lies in classical homeopathy, less so in western herbal medicine.)
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