Author Topic: How does Confession work in Orthodoxy  (Read 3938 times)

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Offline SeanMc

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How does Confession work in Orthodoxy
« on: May 24, 2006, 03:34:30 PM »
In Catholicism, you have to confess all mortal sins, specifying number and any circumstances that may increase or decrease the seriousness of the mortal sins (as the priest judges the penitent in Catholic theology). I find this kind of confessing very stressful.

Is this how it works in Orthodoxy?

Offline pensateomnia

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Re: How does Confession work in Orthodoxy
« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2006, 03:49:33 PM »
In Catholicism, you have to confess all mortal sins, specifying number and any circumstances that may increase or decrease the seriousness of the mortal sins (as the priest judges the penitent in Catholic theology). I find this kind of confessing very stressful.

Is this how it works in Orthodoxy?

In short, no.

Having said that, one must note that there are a variety of Orthodox confessional practices and styles that are as diverse as the individuals involved. Why? Because, above all else, confession in Orthodox praxis is relational. Ideally, one would confess to a given priest for years at a time, thereby developing a relationship founded upon prayer, honesty and sacramental grace. Some spiritual fathers may require more detail; others may want to talk about trends and specific problems, based on long knowledge of the person's strengths and weaknesses. The ultimate purpose of the confessional is not juridical, but therapeutic -- although there are some who tend to bring it more toward the former, e.g. by insisting that all unconfessed sins will be held against one's soul by demons in the Tollhouses (but that's ANOTHER story!!).

Anyway, St. John Chrysostom says that one should confess one's sins to God every night. Having done so, one can then begin to identify patterns and passions from daily self-examination. These patterns and passions, he says, are the stuff that one should discuss with one's spiritual father in confession.

On the other hand, some Orthodox sources, especially those coming out of the more Latinizing eras in Russia and the Ukraine speak in detail about mortal and venial sins, but, in general, such are not especially developed categories in Orthodox ascetic literature. Nevertheless, it seems to make good common sense to readily confess any major sin, no?
« Last Edit: May 24, 2006, 03:52:48 PM by pensateomnia »
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Offline zebu

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Re: How does Confession work in Orthodoxy
« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2006, 04:18:38 PM »
I am still new at it, but I have to confess all the sins I can think of.  However, the priest doesn't make me specify the number of times I did it, which would be quite hard since many of them are attitudes or thoughts.  Well, once he asked me how many times I did something, but normally I don't tell him how many times.  Also, to echo was pensateomnia said, you focus more on the things that you really struggle with, and go into more detail on those things.  However, it is best to keep .  confessions brief and if the priest wants to know more, then he asks and you tell him, but otherwsie, we don't go into a lot of detail.  Also some things I have to confess aren't so much sins in the western sense of the word as spiritual failures, like failing to pray the entire prayer rule or failing to keep the fast entirely on a wednesday or something like that.  Overall, I agree that Orthodox confession is best described as theraputic and very much not legalistic or condemning. 

Different priests are different though.  Mine doesn't ask many questions, and he gives lots of advice.  My priest has me keep a list of sins that I should "update" at the end of every day, I have heard of other priests who have had people come with a list, and then told them to throw it away and just tell them which sins are bothering them.   I have heard of other priests that are very prying or who give penance(like prostrations and such). My priest gives me a hug afterwards! :)
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Offline Tzimis

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Re: How does Confession work in Orthodoxy
« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2006, 04:51:45 PM »
Excellence of character, then, is a state concerned with choice, lying in a mean relative to us, this being determined by reason and in the way in which the man of practical wisdom would determine it. Now it is a mean between two vices, that which depends on excess and that which depends on defect.

Offline Timos

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Re: How does Confession work in Orthodoxy
« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2006, 08:58:47 PM »
The priest at my parish sort of asks how often a certain sin was done, so he knows which sin is (could be) most affecting the person. I think that is the basis of the catholic confession also but that it might'e later grew into something else.

Offline isaakios

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Re: How does Confession work in Orthodoxy
« Reply #5 on: May 27, 2006, 10:08:11 AM »

Having never been a Roman Catholic, I would really be unable to compare the two.  I do know that in Orthodoxy, just as a previous poster has written, it is not simply about God's forgiveness (though it is about that too) it is also about the healing of the soul. 

In an excellent little volume entitled The Forgotten Medicine: The Mystery of Repentance by Archimandrite Seraphim Aleksiev, it mentions that, "When we go to Confession, we enter Christ's infirmary.(emphasis is in the book)  Here God Himself is the Doctor, because only He can give and take away life, judge and acquit, punish and forgive.  The priest is only a witness and a representative of God.... The priest examines our soul, but God will heal it."

I always rack my brain, trying to remember the vast multitude of my sins.  In the Russian tradition, we generally pray the Confession prayer of St. Dimitri of Rostov, including our own particular sins, which concludes with something to the effect of, "I also repent and ask forgivness for all those sins which I do not remember because of their multitude and my own negligence."

I think when it comes to all the mysteries, we must always remember that which seems forgotten in the West: that we are dealing with a Person.  God, who knows our intentions and remembers that we are dust, is merciful. 

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy Name.

Offline FrChris

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Re: How does Confession work in Orthodoxy
« Reply #6 on: May 27, 2006, 12:35:16 PM »

I think when it comes to all the mysteries, we must always remember that which seems forgotten in the West: that we are dealing with a Person.ÂÂ  God, who knows our intentions and remembers that we are dust, is merciful.ÂÂ  



Yes! The Lord knows when we are trying, and when we have given up on ourselves. It is in humility that we are strong, because then we acknowledge that we need to try to grow in our relationship with Him.

Pride places us as gods, declaring that our relationship is fine as we are, and we do not bother to try any longer. Then we stop being repentant, and confession is no longer used to repair our broken relationship with God.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2006, 12:36:41 PM by chris »
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