The Sacrament of Repentance In Syriac Orthodox Church
Repentance and remission of sins is one of the seven sacraments of the New Law ordained by our Lord when He breathed on His disciples, saying: "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive a man his sins, they shall be forgiven to him; and if you withhold forgiveness of a man's sins, they are kept. (John 20:22-23)"
This sacrament was ordained of our Lord in the form of a law, giving power and authority to His ministers to declare and pronounce absolution to the faithful who confess and repent of sins willingly committed after baptism.
The faithful repenter should consider the many sins which he or she committed and must truly and earnestly repent of them. One should then confess them to the priest without concealing or hiding them and, consequently, accept the canonical penalty.
1. The priest should be well acquainted with the divine as well as the ecclesiastical laws that he may be able to determine whether or not this repenter is worthy of absolution. Consequently, the priest, in the likeness of a spiritual physician, should treat the faithful penitent and take great care for his or her soul's health.
2. The priest should take great heed never to reveal anything of the penitent's confession, but rather keep it secret even until death.
3. Whenever the priest is called to make confession to some faithful repenters, he must show himself always ready to respond to the call and to earnestly beseech the Lord that he may be assisted to fulfill his service fittingly and piously.
4. The confession ought to be made only in church. The priest wears a stole around his neck and sits on a chair which must be put in a special place so as to be seen by the congregation. However, on account of sickness, or for any other compelling reason, the priest is allowed to go to the sick person's home who wishes to make confession, but is unable to go to church. While the penitent is making confession, the priest must be sitting in a special place where he may be seen by those who are present.
5. If the priest finds out that the penitent is not acquainted with the fundamental truths of the Church, then he must try to enlighten and instruct the person with such truths at the time of confession, but if it would be impossible, then he must do so at a more convenient opportunity.
6. If it may happen that, by reason of extremity of sickness or by any other impediment, one of the faithful is deprived of the power of speech and is unable to make confession except by making gestures to indicate his or her sins, the priest should grant the individual absolution.
7. The priest lays his right hand on the head of the penitent and says:
May God have mercy upon you, and may He guide you to everlasting life through the authority of priesthood which was entrusted by our Lord Jesus Christ to His disciples who, in turn, entrusted it to their successors until it was given me; I who am weak and sinful, absolve you, brother (sister) of all the sins that you have confessed and are repentant of them, as wellas of all the transgressions which have escaped your memory in the Name of the Father +, amen, and of the Son +, amen and of the Holy Spirit + for everlasting life. Amen.