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Author Topic: Orthodox sacrament of Penance...required?  (Read 2230 times) Average Rating: 0
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Zusia
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« on: May 20, 2005, 11:49:05 PM »

Hello,

Here's my question:

I suffer from serious mental illness [though my intellect and sense of humor are thankfully intact Smiley]

I cannot seem to "go to confession" as required in Roman Catholicism, due to the toll it takes, psychologically.
 

Does the Orthodox Church require confession of sin?

Thanks,
Zusia
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Donna Rose
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« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2005, 12:47:31 AM »

Dear Zusia,

The short answer is, yes, the Orthodox Church requires confession of sin (it is one of the seven major sacraments, and so to fully participate in the sacramental life of the Church, confession is a part of this).

I too come from a Roman Catholic background, and had some psychological issues with confession - I would get unhealthily (not sure if that's a word) scared and anxious before confession or even contemplating it, and this would cause physical illness at times for me. What I learned when I came to the Orthodox Church (which the RCC teaches as well, but was lost on me in Sunday school growing up) is confession's sacramental purpose and function - to heal us from our spiritual sickness of sin, a sickness which we catch regularly, and make us prepared to receive Christ in the Holy Eucharist. Another thing that is very important to me is the fact that in the Orthodox Church a person generally has a single confessor (i.e. spiritual father - SF) who knows you well and can minister to you accordingly. The trust that is built between a person and his SF is huge and extremely comforting once it has been established. Furthermore, for me, what has helped me with my fear is realizing that it is misplaced - what is beautiful about the sacrament of confession is that THERE IS NOTHING TO FEAR. We are promised that if we repent to the best of our ability (however we know how), before Christ and His witness (i.e. the priest), and we know we have done all we can to make a good confession, that we are forgiven. There is no anger, no embarrassment, no shame, nothing - simply forgiveness. It is astonishing to think about, and I still can't get my mind around it. Finally, another reason I could not fathom or understand confession when I was still RC was because I suffered from scrupulousness (how on earth can I remember and confess EVERY sin I commit?), which can drive a person mad if she is plagued with it. What I have found in the Orthodox Church is, because the priest knows you very well through frequent confession, he can then act accordingly if he sees that scrupulousness is something a person suffers from - I have heard of priests limiting the frequency a person goes to confession along these lines, since this is a sin that is just as bad as laziness or the like and needs to be remedied, and a priest knows how to do this.

I do not presume that any of these issues are the reasons confession takes a psychological toll on you - this has just been my own personal experience, which I am still working through. Feel free to PM me if you want to talk more. Smiley

In Christ,
Donna Mary
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Zusia
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« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2005, 01:46:05 AM »

Hi, Donna Mary,

Thank you for your kindness in replying to my post.

Yes, scrupulosity is at the heart of it.  Additionally,
the illness itself makes me feel totally worthless,
depressed...I'm talking substantial illness here...
schizotypal, dissociative identity disorder, not
otherwise specified [DDNOS], traumatic stress...
the list is endless.

Since the Orthodox insist on the sacrament
of penance as well, I guess my only recourse is
with the Sola Christians. [sola fides, sola gratia, sola scriptura.]

I can't defend this choice, but it will constitute a choice
that will keep me intact, psychologically.

I'm pleased that you have found a spiritual home
in Orthodoxy.

God bless you, Donna Mary,

Zusia

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ozgeorge
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« Reply #3 on: May 21, 2005, 09:59:14 AM »

I can't defend this choice, but it will constitute a choice
that will keep me intact, psychologically.

Dear in Christ, Zusia,
I cannot see how this choice can keep you psychologically intact if the choice you are making is what psychologists would call an "egodystonic" one.
The word "psychology" comes from "Psyche" (soul). Normally I don't recommend books for people, but one which you may find helpful is "The Illness and Cure of the Soul in the Orthodox Tradition." by Archimandrite Hierotheos S. Vlachos. Some of the chapters are available online at: http://www.pelagia.org/htm/b05.en.the_illness_and_cure_of_the_soul.00.htm .

There is no such thing as an incurable illness in the Orthodox Church.

George
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Zusia
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« Reply #4 on: May 21, 2005, 10:21:49 AM »

Dear ozgeorge,

Thank you for taking the time to reply to my post.

I am aware of the egodystonic nature of choosing the sola position,
having read over 15,000 pages on psychology. [Which should
indicate the serious nature of my search for an answer here.]

I am trained in philosophy, and have had 40 years, since youth,
to study both theology and scripture. [As I said, my intellect
has not been impacted by illness.]

Additionally, I agree with you that adopting the sola position
would cause pressure tending toward psychological disintegration,
in my case.

[I've already had that grim experience...12 days hospitalized.]
But I've found that there is pressure and then there is
PRESSURE. Pressure with capitals is the reality for me
in terms of the sacrament of penance.

It's difficult for me to accept the thought that the
Orthodox Church holds that there is no such thing
as incurable illness. But, then, I'll read the online
chapters that you recommended.

Kindest regards,
Zusia
« Last Edit: May 21, 2005, 10:22:21 AM by Zusia » Logged

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Pravoslavbob
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« Reply #5 on: May 21, 2005, 12:52:31 PM »

Dear Zusia,

I imagine that few of us have had to endure the kind of pain that is an everyday occurrence for you.  I sincerely hope that you find your path and I thank you for your courage.

Bob
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Zusia
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« Reply #6 on: May 21, 2005, 01:59:41 PM »

Dear Pravoslavbob,

Thank you for understanding.  Please say a prayer for me and I will
most surely say a prayer that Christ reward you for your compassion.

Zusia
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« Reply #7 on: May 23, 2005, 03:36:31 AM »

Zusia,

I can't imagine how difficult it must be to live with your problems - not viscerally anyway. I have some intellectual understanding as I used to work in a psychiatric hospital, but that really is not the same at all. I wish you well and will pray for you.

I would say, though, that if you are drawn to the Orthodox Church, as you seem to be, and recognise the problems in the Protestant position, you should consider talking to a priest. I assure you that most if not all (and it certainly should be all) will be only too happy to help even if you don't go so far at this stage as to become a catechumen. If you discuss your problems, fears and worries face to face with a good priest you may find that he can help you overcome them. It's certainly worth trying and I hope you will do so. Somebody here ought to be able to make a suggestion as to who to go to if you let us know roughly where you are geographically.

In Christ,

James
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Zusia
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« Reply #8 on: May 23, 2005, 07:39:39 PM »

Many thanks, James.  The thing that's so difficult to deal with is that I look fine,
am articulate [even funny!], and except for a slightly dissociated look in the eyes,
[from post-traumatic shock] and moments of spontaneous regression, only a
professional would recognize substantial illness.

I have to think that God has allowed this dilema in my life for some reason.
It's like a perpetual Good Friday.  The only thing I ever read that I could
identify with, spiritually, is St. Silouan.

Thank you for your prayer, James, and I will give serious thought to your
suggestion of speaking with an Orthodox priest.
Zusia
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« Reply #9 on: May 24, 2005, 03:50:08 AM »

Zusia,

I'm glad to be of any help that I can, even if all I can do is pray. I am actually familiar with PTSD. Not only was the psychiatric hospital I worked at famous for treating the disorder (they treated Terry Waite after he was held hostage in Beirut) but I also worked with a nurse who suffered from it. He seemed perfectly fine all the time and I don't think anyone even knew he'd had the disorder. Then one day he received call up papers to go to Kosovo and he just fell apart. It turned out that in his days as an army medic he'd been on the Galahad when it was destroyed during the Falklands War - that was a horrific incident. I can't imagine what it's like to live with, though. It must be terrible. I wish you well and hope that you do decide to talk to a priest. I'm sure you'll find there is nothing to fear and that he won't be pushy about getting you to convert - they work on 'Orthodox time', which is only slightly quicker than geological time!

James
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