Discussion in 'Sacraments, Sacred Rites, and Holy Orders' started by Weston Letson, Apr 10, 2013.
That is fascinating. Which is the normative Orthodox praxis, then?
I have never attended a Russian parish, my experience in Orthodoxy having been limited to Antiochian and Serbian parishes, but they follow the Greek example as far as I can tell. In the hundreds of times I went to confession, there was never a penance attached. Penances do exist (epitimion), but they are largely used by monastics. The Russians often require confession each and every communion, but the Greeks, Antiochians, and Serbs normally do not. My previous Serbian priest only asked me to come to confession once a month if I was going to receive weekly. And there are no confessional booths; confession is before an icon of Christ in the front of the church, usually to the right of the iconostasis. Everyone can see you, but they can't hear what is being said to the priest.
In the West we would say these differences are astounding, and convey not just a difference in praxis but something very serious and doctrinal. Do the Orthodox see these massive (to us) gulfs between themselves in the same way?
I don't think most Orthodox do; they seem content in whichever jurisdiction they belong to and don't concern themselves with such differences. They are much more aware of the differences between the Orthodox and the West in matters of doctrine and practice, sometimes to an extent that is unhealthy.
The Russian and Ukrainian Churches were influenced by the Roman Church to a much greater degree than the other Orthodox Churches (the Uniate Churches were right next door, and most of the other Orthodox Churches were under Islamic rule and therefore had less contact with the West), and this can even be seen in some of their iconography, which has a "Western" look. Of all the Orthodox Churches, only the Russian Church has formally accepted Roman Sacraments as valid; the others take the stand "we don't know."
It seems to me then that these churchly units are grouped by ethnic and tribal ties, rather than real doctrinal unity. I know that many in the West would be bothered if someone claiming full identity with them used wholly different understandings of Confession, and even of the holy Communion, for some groups mandate absolution before Communication, and others dont. In the Anglican tradition we have a mandatory General Confession without which it is impossible to consume the sacrament.
I agree, the greatest weakness of Orthodoxy is its phyletism, the identification of the Church with the nation or ethnic group. When I had converted to Orthodoxy, I always felt out of place, but of course, if there were an American Orthodox Church, that wouldn't be as much of an issue. I remember a Bulgarian man who attended my Serbian parish; he often complained about the Greeks here.
I also knew a Bulgarian woman in San Diego who, rather than attend the Serbian, OCA, Russian, Greek, etc. parishes, was trying to get a Bulgarian parish started. I can understand the desire to be with one's own kind, especially if one is a recent immigrant, but it is still problematic.
Still, the Orthodox do agree with each other on the vast majority of issues, and they gloss over what they consider to be national variations in praxis. While there are differences regarding confession, their understanding of the Eucharist is the same.
Without a Pope or Magisterium to rule on every detail, it is actually a miracle that these Churches "four ancient patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, eleven autocephalous churches, Cyprus, Sinai, Russia, Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania, Georgia, Poland,Albania and Czech Republic and Slovakia, and three autonomous churches, Finland, Japan and China" Wikipedia), are so close in doctrine and practice, and in full communion with each other after all these centuries, especially considering how many were ruled by Muslims for so long (and many still are under Muslim rule).
If any Patriarch or Metropolitan were to introduce a major doctrinal innovation (such as women's ordination), the other Churches would immediately break communion with him.
In my experience people as fallible creatures attach much more importance to visible things, than invisible ones. There are flourishing Nestorian Orthodox churches, and because they have the same vestments and ethnic attachments they are not immediately repulsed like the heresies they are. Because the divisions in Greek theology have existed for centuries it seems the people just ignore them as unimportant. But in the sixteenth centuries men fought and died for a difference in views on Confession. These were seen non-negotiable.
We shouldn't isolate one error simply because it is visible and pretend like we are in happy family with those who have no coherent view of Confession, or whether a Communion without one is a sacrilege or not. That last would seem like a big deal to me! This is why it Makes me glad that our teaching is clear in having a mandatory General Confession. Just because in the East men have decided not to consider one aspect of theology as important doesn't mean it isn't, or that they're fully 100% right with God. Don't you agree?
Yes, I do agree. I feel the Russian version, adopted from the Roman Church is wrong, and should be corrected. Perhaps in some parishes it has been.
As an aside, while I do believe nothing is more important than having the correct doctrine, many of the doctrinal disputations of the past were not sufficient reason to break communion, e.g., the miaphysite and dyophysite controversy which has separated the Orthodox and Catholics from the Oriental Churches.
Mysteries such as how the Lord's human and divine natures coexist can hardly be put into human words, and the Orientals and the Assyrians (in my view) are fully Orthodox, despite the refusal of the Orientals to accept Chalcedon and the Assyrians refusal to condemn Nestorius. The Roman Church and the Assyrians reached an agreement regarding their Christological differences recently: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/p...chrstuni_doc_11111994_assyrian-church_en.html
There was so much going on in these debates, and the political aspects were a problem as well, with the Emperors pushing their agendas. The Assyrians, incidentally, always use a general confession; personal confession is reserved for sins that effectively excommunicate a person from the Church, and such confession is publicly made and the penitent is reconciled to the Church.
I assumed that Anglicans (at least High-Church Anglicans) were required to confess their sins to a priest at least once per year. Perhaps this is a Catholic carry-over, but not "binding" on Anglicans.
It seems to me that private confession (to a priest) is required in order for someone, in a state of grave sin, to receive the Eucharist. Or, if the person is sincere in repentance, he/she can approach the Lord's Table after asking for forgiveness during the confession/absolution during Mass?
The Anglican opinion on confession has historically been: All may, some should, none must. However, confession and absolution is a part of the liturgy in almost every service including the Lord's Supper and Morning/Evening Prayer.
No one should receive the Blessed Sacrament unless they are in a state of grace. By going to confession and receiving absolution one receives grace
So aren't you in a state of grace after the confession/absolution during Mass? Lowly Layman seems to have a different opinion.
I do. There is no biblical requirement for a private, one-on-one form of confession. Furthermore, nowhere in the bible does it say that one must be in a "state of grace" to receive communion. In fact, nowhere in the bible does "state of grace" appear.
Here is St. Paul's thoughts on right reception of the sacrament:
1 Corinthians 11:26-32 (KJV)
26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.
27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.
30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.
From this we learn that self-examination is required, indeed, self-condemnation. We must acknowledge that we are sinners. Hopeless sinners...Except for our one hope we have in Christ and Him crucified. We are deplorable, degenerate and destined for death and we are in desperate need for what Our Lord died to give us and the whole world...Life. And He teaches us this very thing. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you."
Also, we must descern the Lord's body in the sacrament. Our Lord spoke "This is my body/This is my blood" and so it is--so it must be--for Christ is no liar. He is Truth incarnate. He can neither deceive or be deceived. Those who do not believe the sacrament is what He says it is and yet participate anyway make a mockery of Him and of the promise he holds out to us in His Supper.
So in sum, what is required to receive the sacrament is what is required to live fruitfully as a Christian in all things: Repentence and Faith.
It seems to me that if one were to commit adultery, rob a bank or renounce his/her faith, then this person should go to confession with a priest because of the gravity of the sin. However, if one is slothful, or committed lustful acts, or is gluttonous or missed Mass on Sunday - these sins do not necessarily require confession with a priest.
Lowly Layman, are there no sins that require confession with a priest?
Required? I know of nowhere in scripture where one is "required" to confess his sins to a priest...except maybe Leviticus but I don't think that applies here. Do you know of any such biblical requirement?
Psalm 32 tells us that if we confess our sins to God, he will forgive us. 1 John 1:9 tells us "if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." That doesn't clearly identify to whom we are to confess, though I think it is strongly implied that we are to confess our sins to God. James 5:16 says to"confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." Therefore, I would conclude that we should confess to the church, and the priest is the church's representative, so clearly a good candidate for hearing our confessions, but also clearly not the only one. Baruch 1:14 counsels to make your confession in the house of the Lord, on feasts and solemn days. Ecclesiasticus says not to be ashamed to confess your sins beacuse you will be preserved from hurt.
Clearly, confession is a requirement. But confession to a priest is not.
However, to say that confession to a priest is not required in no way means it's not beneficial. It is! Ministers of the chuch have power of keys. And a priestly declaration of absolution can bring great solace to a soul burdened by sin.
Confession leads to receiving the sacrament of penance
I'm relieved to see this topic here. I've thought about going to confession and have felt a strong pull to do so, but I'm not sure I could go to confession and still be able to speak with my priest later and not be embarrassed. I know that many priests have "heard it all before", but I'm more concerned with my reaction, not theirs. Could I confess to a priest at a different parish? I confess my sins to God, but want my heart to be free to try and receive his grace. I feel cut off from God and I don't know if that would help.
Yes, I believe that you can confess to a priest in another parish.
The necessity of sacramental confession (i.e. to a priest) is a matter of much debate. Confessing in some way is clearly essential (most of us are probably familiar with the BCP's Third Exhortation for instance). If anyone does want to confess to a priest, from my own experience it is a little awkward at first but gets easier with time. It is often recommended that you ordinarily go to the same priest and at regular intervals to get the most benefit from the sacrament. Essential or not there would seem to be advantages, but going too often can come with the risk of becoming over sensitive to sin.
It seems to me that confession in the Anglican Church is primarily about spiritual direction since all sins, either venial or mortal, are forgiven during the liturgy...if truly repentant. In the Catholic Church, "mortal" sins can only be forgiven in the confessional. In other words, in the RC one must go to confession to a priest whereas in the Anglican Church one doesn't necessarily have to go, although it may be beneficial at times to do so.