I couldn't think of a better subject title for this topic, but basically I've been wondering about the link between "the Sacrament of Penance" and the Divine Liturgy in the Oriental traditions and thought to reach out to the learned members of this forum.
In my limited experience worshiping in the various Oriental rites, there seems to be some kind of "penitential rite" built into the Liturgy. In the Indian Church, for example, it is fairly common now, despite the continued practice of private confession to a spiritual father, for the Liturgy to be preceded by a sort of "general absolution", where those otherwise prepared to receive the Eucharist line up, presumably with contrition and repentance, and approach the priest, who silently reads over them the prayer of absolution from the rite of Confession. This is functionally the equivalent of a sacramental confession, though it's not by any means officially considered the equivalent (most probably it is a concession for those who want to commune every week without having to confess every week). At the discretion of the priest, sometimes the people may be led in a "general confession" before this absolution, but this is by no means common in my experience. I'm not aware of the practice in the Syriac Church, but some books in my possession indicate they may have a similar practice. Armenians also have something like this, definitely including a publicly recited "general confession", and in my experience, this is referred to as "the Sacrament of Confession", with no tradition of private confession.
The Coptic tradition seems to emphasize private, sacramental confession much more (I would guess the Ethiopians follow suit), and so I'd never detected anything similar. And yet, the Coptic Liturgy has the priest reciting an inaudible prayer "Absolution to the Son" and an audible "Absolution of the Ministers" which are definitely penitential in focus, asking for the forgiveness of sins.
How are these prayers viewed in the Coptic tradition? Are they simply prayers of penitential preparation, or do they have the "sacramental value/power/efficacy" of the actual rite of Confession (i.e., absolving sins)? Certainly the sense of the prayers makes it seem like this is a sacramental absolution, but I'm not sure if this is how Copts understand those prayers.
It's not my intention to start a conversation about the relative merits of "general confession" or other such things. I wanted to see how the Copts view this part of their Liturgy because I find it interesting that every other Oriental tradition has incorporated some sort of "penitential rite" into the Liturgy, and most of the ones I'm familiar with view it as equivalent to sacramental confession; I don't know about the Coptic perspective, so I want to round out my understanding.
I'm unaware of any parallel in the Byzantine Liturgy, but such a rite is definitely there in the Roman Mass, although it is not considered equal to sacramental confession. It's interesting how widespread this sort of penitential practice is in the various types of Eucharistic Liturgies.
Apologies for being too wordy. :-)