This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann
Confession and Communion
Report to the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America by Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann Accepted and Approved by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America February 17, 1972
Statement of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America
Excerpt of the Minutes of the Meeting of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America ² February 16-17th, 1972 The Dean of St. Vladimir¶s Theological Seminary and professor of liturgical theology, Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann presented a report on Confession and Communion. The report is attached. Resolved: 1) That the report of Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann is received with gratitude and approbation. 2) That the idea of a renewal in the Eucharistic life in the Church is not only desirable but indispensable. Therefore, practice of more frequent Communion is encouraged in all parishes of our Church. In this connection, and for the purpose of deepening the spirit of repentance among the laity, in addition to individual Confession, practice of General Confessions is also blessed based on the following principles: a. As a rule, General Confession takes place in the evening following the evening service. The person wishing to receive Holy Communion must be in Church at least on the eve of Communion. The common practice of Confession just prior to Liturgy is harmful and should be permitted only in very special
cases. b. General Confession begins with the reading of the "Prayers Before Confession" which in current practice are generally omitted but which, nevertheless, form an organic part of the Sacrament of Confession. c. Following the prayers, the priest invites the penitents to pray for a spirit of repentance in order that they might see their own sins without which the formal Confession cannot produce spiritual benefit. d. Then follows Confession proper in which the priest enumerates those sins by which in thought and desire we offend God, our neighbor, and ourselves. Since the priest, as all men standing before God, knows sin, and sees his own sinfulness, his enumeration of sins, therefore, is not formal but sincere coming from a humble and contrite spirit. Rather than being a confession of "you" his enumeration of sins comes from "us," everyone realizing the sin as his own and all are able to repent. The more the priest is able to examine his own conscience the more full will be the confession and the spirit of repentance for all participants. e. The priest invites the penitents to direct their spiritual gaze toward the Lord¶s banquet which awaits us and which is given to us in spite of our unworthiness. f. The priest then invites those who find need for further expression of their sins to stand aside while the remainder approach for the Prayer of Absolution and adoration of the Crucifix. g. Finally, after the Prayer of Absolution has been read over each penitent, the prayers in preparation for Holy
Communion are read while those wishing to add to their confession approach the Confessional. Practice reveals that those who participate in this type of General Confession learn to make better private confession. The General Confession is not a replacement of private confession, but is rather for those who commune frequently and who regularly make their private confessions, who realize the need in our times for a regular examination and cleansing of conscience and repentance. This decision of the Holy Synod is intended as a norm and regulation for the performance of General Confession and not simply as a suggestion, recommendation, or advice. Those clergy who ignore this norm and regulation are subject to Canonical Sanctions. Resolved: To remind the clergy of the instructions previously prepared by the Liturgical Commission and confirmed by the Holy Synod that serving the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom during Great Lent with the exception of Saturdays and Palm Sunday and the serving of Requiem Liturgies on Holy Thursday and Saturday are forbidden. Resolved: That the report prepared by Fr. Schmemann be reproduced in both Russian and English and be distributed.
Confession and Communion
Report to the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America
The questions and the controversies about a more frequent communion, about the link between the sacrament of communion and that of penance, about the essence and form of confession, are, in our Church today, a sign not of weakness or decay, but of life and awakening. That there is among the Orthodox people, among the members of our Church, a growing interest in that which is essential, that there appears a thirst for that which is spiritually genuine can no longer be denied and for this alone we ought to render thanks to God. It would be extremely wrong therefore to try to solve these questions and controversies by merely µadministrative¶ measures, with decrees and interdicts. For what we face is, indeed, a crucial spiritual question which is related literally to all aspects of our Church life. Only a spiritually blind and insensitive man would deny that in spite of all her relative success, external and material, our Church is threatened with a danger from within: the danger of secularization, of a deep spiritual decay. The tragic symptoms of this decay have appeared long ago. The endless debates ² and they have been lasting for decades! ² on the parish statutes, the widespread concentration of our parishes on the defense of their "interests," "rights" and "property" from the hierarchy and clergy, the incredible easiness with which even old and renown parishes, for the sake of these famous "rights," simply leave the Church, the centering of virtually all ecclesiastical agencies and councils, national, diocesan, and parochial, on the external, the material and the "legal" ² all this reveals such a deep secularization of the mind and
are at the same time the most "unchurched" ones ² leaders of all kinds of oppositions and rebellions. which does not seem to realize the true scope and depth of this crisis. what it means to be her member. the clergy themselves instead of aiming all their efforts at the spiritual growth of their flocks are condemned. to a status quo. the spiritual and the religious. proclaimed to be the very norm of the Church. denied to so many of our brothers in the ancient centers of Orthodoxy. is given to us to grow "from strength to strength. to achieve all that which cannot be achieved by our brothers living in the dreadful conditions of atheistic and totalitarian states. to fill the Church life with spiritual content. in fact." to be free not in words alone. especially the young ones. And all this appears at a time when we begin a new life. where no one reveals to them what her real essence is. to a dead formalism.consciousness that one truly becomes apprehensive about the future of our Church. finally. and where. . when the possibility. Yet it is precisely this secularization of the Church herself that forces so many people. Is it not tragic therefore that so often those who appear as the most active and efficient members of the Church. and that. jubilees. that the very structure of our parishes seems to make it virtually impossible to deepen and sustain truly religious life. by these very structures. simply to leave the Church. the spiritual is reduced to a minimum at the benefit of banquets. but in reality. financial campaigns and entertainment. where one hardly hears the appeal to deepen the inner life.
" In view of all this. all that which was truly alive and creative in Russian theology denounced the surrender of that theology to Western scholasticism and legalism. the Russian Bishops. Metropolitan Antony (Khrapovitsky) called for a radical transformation of Russian seminaries and academies. Orthodox and correct. for example. Poland. This tendency. the observations made by the entire Russian episcopate in 1905-1912 at the time of preparation by the Russian Church of her long-overdue national Sobor. to what was done and considered normal in Russia. For far from everything in that "past. to be deeply defective and requiring urgent reforms. i. a dangerous one. Beginning with Khomiakov. it is enough to read. To realize this. etc.e. but. however. mere references and appeals to the past are not acceptable since that past itself needs to be re-evaluated in the light of the genuine Orthodox Tradition. in fact. then the best educated in the whole Orthodox Church and unquestionably conservative and tradition-minded. by simple references to the past. Greece. i." be it Russian. The only criterion is always and everywhere that Tradition itself and the pastoral concern .e. And the saintly Father John of Cronstadt emphatically condemned the lukewarm and formal piety of Russian society which reduced communion to a "once-a-year obligation" and lowered the theandric life of the Church to the level of "customs. educational. Greek or Polish. declared the Church¶s situation. including the one we face here. was right. etc. liturgical. is not only a wrong one. the question of lay participation in the Divine Mysteries. spiritual. all the burning and difficult issues. Virtually without exception.There exists a tendency to solve all these problems.
ultimately depends. to her "holy of holies" ² the Divine Mysteries. And it is this crisis that now begins to affect the Church herself. The essence of this crisis ² secularism ² is the divorce from God of the whole of human life. I am convinced indeed that in the parishes where the eucharistic revival has begun. To think that this process of the Church¶s secularization can be stopped by decrees and administrative instructions is nearsighted and dangerous. This situation is determined above everything else by a deep spiritual crisis of society.about how to apply it in our own situation which is so radically different from that of the past. it is upon the solution of this question that the future of our Church. Secularization and the Sacraments If I began this report on the sacraments with general considerations concerning the situation in the world as well as in the Church. her renewal or her decay. none of that which has recently happened in one of our largest New England parishes could ever happen. culture and man himself. that this tragic and hopeless . it is because of my deep conviction that the new interest in sacramental practice and discipline stems from this very crisis and is directly related to it. This applies in the first place to the greatest of all the Church¶s treasures. I am convinced that the question of lay participation in the Divine Mysteries is indeed the key question of our entire Church life.
on a living and constant communion with Him and in Him in the sacrament of His presence. our parishes for a long time had. is not accidental. in addition to their religious function. This "natural. This. would have been impossible. the place in her of the hierarchy. material success. Indeed. something else will emerge and dominate: "property" and its "defense. sooner or later. to the statutes. national. the question is: what shall replace it? Is it not painfully clear that if it is not replaced with the . But then." the problems of the parish¶s relation to the Church and to the hierarchy.e. of course. i. above all. about her unity. on the Lord Jesus Christ ² and this means. this "immigrant" period in the history of our Church is rapidly moving towards its end. the Divine Eucharist ² there." There it is no longer Christ but something else which shall shape ² and also disintegrate ² the life of the parish." politics. Until quite recently. norms and financial obligations of the Church hardly exist." i. Now. Our parishes were the form and the means of uniting the immigrants. For where the parish life is not founded. foundation is quickly falling apart and disappearing. the collective "pride. however.inability simply to hear the voice of the Church. I am furthermore convinced that where the Eucharist and communion have once more become "the center of Christian life. a natural foundation: ethnic. ethnic. nationalism.e. but unavoidably. ethnic minorities in need of corporate identity and survival in American society which was at first alien and even enmical towards them. linguistic. not to acknowledge the urgency of this either²or. it may have been possible not to realize. her vocation.
the national or diocesan "centers. it is because of their need for a unifying principle. then. and not the negative. they continue actively to propagate this myth. Only in them can we find the positive. for a practical basis of their leadership. seeking that "basis" which would help the parish to recover its religious and ecclesiastical meaning and stop its rapid and sad "secularization. if not openly anti-religious." Let us not be mistaken. If this question has acquired a new urgency today. of necessity. then. the clergy. it is because more and more people are consciously and. which has long ago been cut off from the sources and the experience of the Church. Only in them is rooted the very possibility of a change and renewal in the layman¶s mind. seeking such a renewal. unconsciously. idea of the parish as primarily the owner and manager of its property. This is why the question of sacraments has such a key significance. of necessity. For it is indeed an old and well-proven fact that if the people are not united for something. the principle of unity will be the defense of that property and of the owner¶s "rights" against the "enemies" from outside: the hierarchy." . The leaders who are fomenting all kinds of lay "oppositions" and rebellions know perfectly well that in reality nothing is threatening their parish "property. not the "against" but the "for" which is obviously lacking in our Church life today. It is here that we find the tragic depth of our present situation.very idea and experience of the Church: as unity in Christ. more often. in spite of this knowledge. they will unite against something." And if. principle of unity. there shall appear an a-religious.
" "He mixed Himself with us. "and dissolved His body in us so that we may constitute a wholeness. John Chrysostom." The early Church simply knew no other sign or criterion of membership but the participation in the sacrament. What is essential can be summarized as follows. is that this corporate communion was understood not only as an act of personal piety and personal sanctification but. and there existed no other "condition" for that communion. first of all." the "sacrament of unity. The member of the Church is the one who is in communion with the Church in and through . What must be stressed." the "sacrament of the assembly. be a body united to the Head." writes St. The Eucharist was both defined and experienced as the "sacrament of the Church. of the entire ecclesia at each Liturgy was a self-evident norm.Eucharistic Decay and Renewal It is impossible. and even unnecessary that we present in this short report the question of lay communion in all its dogmatical and historical aspects. The excommunication from the Church was the excommunication from the eucharistic assembly in which the Church fulfilled and manifested herself as the Body of Christ. however. Communion to the Body and Blood of Christ was a direct consequence of Baptism: the sacrament of entrance into the Church. as an act stemming precisely from one¶s very membership in the Church. It is a well-known and undisputed fact that in the early Church the communion of all the faithful. as the fulfillment and actualization of that membership.
One must ask therefore not about this norm. so alien to the eucharistic prayer itself: "and all of us partaking of the same Bread and Chalice unite one to another for the communion of the one Spirit. however complex historically.. However obscured or complicated it became later.. It is a fear which is. did the understanding of communion become so deeply individualistic. can be termed ecclesiological. and especially clergy. of the desacralisation of holy things. it has never been discarded. This understanding of communion. raises a real fear? How could the doctrine of a once-a-year communion develop within the Church. and thus one early liturgical formula dismissed from the gathering. together with the catechumens and the penitents.. so detached from the Church. of . in other words. Why did we leave it so far behind us that a mere mention of it appears to some. but what happened to it. all those who are not to receive communion. whereas the desire to communicate more frequently. it remains forever the essential norm of Tradition. the fear of unworthy communion. on the contrary. an unheard-of novelty and shaking of the foundations? Why is it that for centuries nine out of ten Liturgies are being celebrated without communicants? ² and this provokes no amazement. the Body of Christ. is spiritually a simple one: it is the fear of profaning the Mystery."? The reason for all this.sacramental communion. a departure from which can be but an exception? How. as fulfilling membership in the Church. no trembling. as an accepted norm.
Emphasizing the holiness of communion and its "awful" nature. now." writes St. however. One must stress. lukewarm and minimalistic understanding of Christian life. the view of the Eucharist as the Sacrament of the Church. was still self-evident. one must not approach it too often. for "the one who eats and drinks unworthily drinks and eats his condemnation. spiritually justified. a state Church and a popular cult. it was around the sacrament that such controls developed. In the Fathers. nor do they even hint at such a practice. soon after the victory of the Church over the pagan Empire. superficial. fulfillment and growth. that line was abolished and there appeared a very real danger of a nominal. John Cassian. the very entrance into the Church was difficult.course. If during the era of persecution the very belonging to the Church compelled each of her members to follow a "narrow path" and set between him and "this world" a self-evident dividing line. with the entrance of the entire "world" into the Church. "We must not. that neither the Fathers nor the liturgical texts can supply us with any encouragement for non-partaking of the Mysteries. "avoid communion . a victory which transformed Christianity. into a mass religion. calling to a worthy preparation for it. If before. now. of her unity." This fear appeared early. in a relatively short time. with obligatory inclusion of virtually everyone into the Church. it became necessary to establish internal checks and controls. the Fathers never endorsed nor approved the wide-spread idea of today that since the Mystery is holy and awful.
the sacrament makes us pure and holy. . It is better to think that by giving us grace." With regard to an equally wide-spread theory. We are all equally given them. whereas the latter are discouraged from doing so. who more than anyone else. . . as certain people do . rather than. so that the former are to receive it at each Liturgy. It is much better if. in humility of heart. Otherwise it is impossible to receive communion once a year. . notably when one approaches the Holy Mysteries. Such people manifest more pride than humility . blinded by pride. ." . according to which there is a difference between the clergy and laity in approaching communion. it is fitting to quote St. "when a priest does not differ from a layman. but with such humility and faith that considering ourselves unworthy . insisted on worthy preparation for communion: "There are cases.because we deem ourselves to be sinful. John Chrysostom. We must approach it more often for the healing of the soul and the purification of the spirit. . ." writes the great pastor. for when they receive. think that after one year we become worthy of receiving them. considering the sanctification of heavenly Mysteries as available only to saints. they think of themselves as worthy. not as in the Old Testament. . when one food was for the priests and another for the people and when it was not permitted to the people to partake of that which was for the priest. Now it is not so: but to all is offered the same Body and the same Chalice . we would desire even more the medicine for our wounds. knowing that we are never worthy of the Holy Mysteries we would receive them every Sunday for the healing of our diseases.
is indeed incredible. the non-communicants would experience at least some sadness during the Liturgy. a frustration. one ought not to receive it at Easter. a feeling of lacking fullness. that communion is simply not for them. all those who seriously and responsibly have studied our Tradition.Let me repeat once more that it is simply impossible to find in Tradition a basis and justification of our present practice of an extremely infrequent. they fulfill their "obligation" and receive communion after a two-minute confession to a tired and exhausted priest. In reality. a protection of holiness. all the best Russian liturgiologists and theologians have seen in this practice a decay in Church life. thus obscuring its joy. more than that. For if it were so. a norm. however." were accused of deviation from Orthodoxy! I could quote parish bulletins explaining that since communion is for penitents. In some of our parishes those who expressed the desire to receive communion more frequently were subjected to a real persecution. if not yearly. communion of laity. were asked not to do it "for the sake of peace. this is simply not true. And the most tragic thing is that all this provokes no mystical horror. once a year. a deviation from Tradition and the genuine foundations of the Church. and not a downfall and a tragedy. that apparently the Church herself becomes an obstacle on man¶s path to Christ! Truly . And then. And the most dreadful aspect of this decay is that it is justified and explained in terms of respect for the holiness of the sacrament and those of piety and reverence. Generation after generation of Orthodox "attend" the Liturgy totally convinced that nothing more is required from them. To see in all this a triumph of reverence.
more regular. churchly has been born from a humble and joyful response to the words of the Lord: "he that eats my flesh and drinks my blood. Lebanon. unprecedented persecution of the Church and apostasy of millions of people." (Matthew 24:15) Finally. I am convinced that nothing would give a greater joy to the pastors and especially Bishops than this renewal. the return to a more genuine life within the Church. The movements of Orthodox youth in Greece. pulling us away from the spiritually dead controversies about "properties" and "rights.² "when you shall see the abomination of desolation stand in the holy place . has made its appearance in America. and thus." This happened in communist Russia. dwells in Me and I in him." In the twentieth century there began a great crisis of Orthodoxy. . France have all grown out of a renewal of liturgical life. there was a return to communion as the "focus of Christian life. And whenever this crisis was understood and perceived." (John 6:56) Now. as is attested by hundreds of witnesses. this eucharistic revival. it would not be difficult to show that whenever and wherever a genuine renewal of the life of the Church has taken place it has always originated with what has been termed "eucharistic hunger. . this happened in other centers of Orthodoxy and the diaspora. There began an unheard of. from youth organizations in which religious life and interests are kept at a bare . living. communion." from the idea of the Church as a social-ethnic club with picnics and entertainment. All that is genuine. by a great mercy of God. this thirst for a more frequent.
. For. as an act expressing their very participation in the Liturgy. and. ." I am confident. raises ² with a new acuteness and depth ² the question of the preparation for holy communion.minimum. first of all. national foundation is fading away. that mystical unity into which we are integrated through partaking "of the one Bread and Chalice in the communion of the same Spirit . and this essence is the Body of Christ. therefore. as I already said. to whom God has entrusted above all care for the spiritual essence of the Church. People are seeking the genuine. Penance and Holy Communion When the communion of the entire congregation at each Liturgy. an addition to life but not life itself is disappearing. that our Bishops. . Therefore. of the place in that preparation of the Sacrament of Penance. All this. only form. if we are to live and grow. All that which is only custom. will find the words proper to bless and to encourage this spiritual and sacramental renewal. the true and the living. however. usually once-a-year . proper to remind the Church of the immeasurably rich and immeasurably joyful content of her teaching about the Divine Mysteries. no other foundation exists for the regeneration of the Church as a whole. ceased to be a self-evident norm and was replaced by the practice of a very infrequent. The ethnic. . it is obviously only on the basis of the very essence of the Church . and none can exist.
communion. the very strict ecclesiastical discipline allowed for only one such reconciliation in one¶s lifetime. it became natural for the latter to be preceded by the Sacrament of Penance ² i. especially after the entrance into the Church of the entire population. a natural and selfevident one in the case of infrequent. In its essence. the essence of the Sacrament of Penance. in the consciousness and teaching of the Church. but that later. and I repeat once more. the sacrament of reconciliation with the Church of those excommunicated from her and this means of those excluded from the eucharistic assembly. that at first. of the Sacrament of Communion and of that of Penance. To be convinced of that. as the sacrament of reconciliation with the Church was for those only who were excommunicated from the Church for . one has to recall. led to the appearance in the Church of a theory according to which the communion of laity. different in this from the communion of clergy. I dare to affirm that this theory (which spread mainly in the Russian Church) not only has no foundation in Tradition. This practice. We know.e.communion. this discipline was somewhat relaxed. the Sacrament of Penance. once-a-year. but openly contradicts the Orthodox doctrine of the Church. confession and the reconciliation with the Church through the prayer of absolution. be it very briefly. so that confession is an obligatory condition ² always and in all cases ² for communion. From the very beginning this sacrament was. is impossible without the sacrament of penance.
unknown to the Eastern Orthodox Churches ² "I. so to speak.e. which no absolution can achieve. ." were considered by the Church to be sinless." The latter is.definite sins and acts clearly defined in the canonical tradition of the Church. on the one hand. we ask for forgiveness . the Church always considered Holy Communion itself as given "for the remission of sins. no human being is sinless. absolve . with the exception of the Most Holy Mother of God. is the prayer of absolution." ² is of Latin origin and was adopted in our liturgical books at the time of the domination of Orthodox theology by Western theology." (This. the "sinfulness" which is the inescapable fate of every man "living in the world and wearing flesh. Before the Holy Chalice itself. unworthy priest. however. . but the distinction always made by the Church between. does not mean that the "faithful." Therefore the issue here is not sinlessness. . "dissolved" in the Church¶s liturgy and it is this sinfulness that the Church confesses in the "prayers of the faithful" before the offering of the Holy Gifts. on the other hand. the "non-excommunicated. Finally. at the moment of receiving the Mysteries. In the second place. a prayer for forgiveness and remission of sins is an integral part of the Liturgy itself (cf. This is still clearly stated in the prayer of absolution: "reconcile him with Thy Holy Church in Christ Jesus Our Lord . the Prayer of the Trisagion and the two prayers "of the faithful"). incidentally. . the Theotokos.) All this. In the first place. the sins excommunicating a man from the Church¶s life of grace and. by the power given unto me." i. used universally. As to the second one. according to the Church¶s teaching.
" This. as established by the Church ("The Rule for Holy Communion") is not. repentance." and it implies. those in word and in deed. indeed. . .). open the gates . Master and Lord . It is therefore of paramount importance for us to understand that the transformation of the sacrament of penance into an obligatory condition for communion not only contradicts . we receive this forgiveness. on the contrary. . in boldness I come." and we believe that. . and Thou wilt come in love ." "for the healing of the soul and body. the awareness of our total unworthiness. dost wish to dwell in me. . in making man feel "worthy" but.of "sins voluntary and involuntary. and the understanding of communion as a heavenly gift which never can be "deserved" by an earthly being. that the only real condition for partaking of the Divine Mysteries is membership in the Church and conversely. that membership in the Church is fulfilled in the partaking of the sacrament of the Church. . in revealing to him the abyss of God¶s mercy and love ("I am not worthy. yet since Thou in Thy love . . . I believe that Thou wilt do this . Before the Lord¶s table the only "worthiness" of the communicant is that he has been and realized his bottomless "unworthiness. of course. is the beginning of salvation. in the measure of our repentance. and no one really denies it. and enlighten my darkened reasoning. committed knowingly or unknowingly. Communion is given "for the remission of sins. . . The whole meaning of preparation for communion. Thou commandest. All this means. of course. therefore.
which inspires all the prayers before communion. but obviously mutilates it. excommunicated from the Eucharist." But also mutilated is the doctrine of Communion. at first. But how then could such a practice have appeared and become a norm.Tradition. that genuine inner repentance. are always transformed into His Body. Transformed into a formal condition for communion. are "secularized" and their membership in the Church is measured and defined in terms of money ("dues") and "rights. the doctrine of the Church by creating in her two categories of members. as the very content and fulfillment of membership. it begins more and more obviously to replace the real preparation for communion. one of which is. which is understood then as the sacrament for a few "worthy ones" and no longer as the sacrament of the Church: of sinners who by the infinite mercy of Christ. in other terms. finally. It mutilates. equally mutilated is the doctrine of Penance. in fact. After a three-minute confession and absolution a man feels "entitled" to communion. that which is in fact the very opposite of true repentance. as its spiritual source. We have already mentioned one of them: that nominal and lukewarm approach to faith and piety of Christian society itself which led. But then it is no longer surprising that those whom the Apostle called "fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:19) become again "worldly" (kosmiki. defended today by many as truly Orthodox? To answer this question one must consider three factors. miriane). And finally. "worthy" and even "sinless. to an infrequent communion and." feels. in the first place. reduced it to a once-a-year .
The second factor is the influence on the Church of monasticism. without the permission of spiritual father. for "to exclude oneself from communion is to follow one¶s own will. We must stress." In women¶s monasteries the same power belongs to the Abbess. not every priest has the right to hear confessions but only those who are especially authorized by the Bishop. approaching the Divine Mysteries once a year must be really "reconciled" with the Church by means of an examination of his conscience and life in the Sacrament of Penance. even today. of course. In Greece."obligation. for this type of spiritual guidance is connected with spiritual experience and not priesthood. confession based upon spiritual experience and permanent guidance.D. that not every parish . The latter knew from the very beginning the practice of the "opening of thoughts. Thus we have here a confession of a non-sacramental type. which is." It is clear that a person. of his own will. however. 6th century A. But this type of confession had a strong impact on sacramental confession.) monasteries remained the centers of spiritual care and guidance for the laity. and this is essential. In the Byzantine monastic typika of the XII ± XIII centuries a monk is forbidden both to approach the Chalice and to abstain from it by himself. such a spiritual father or "elder" was not necessarily a priest. At a time of spiritual decadence (which can be seen in its true scope and meaning in the canons of the so-called Council in Trullo. But." of the spiritual guidance by an experienced monk of a less-experienced one. on the whole beneficial. Yet for the laity this spiritual counseling naturally led to sacramental confession.
the concept of its absolution. Much has been written about the "western captivity" of Orthodox theology but. Western Scholastic theology transposed into juridical categories the very concept of sin and. This is obvious in the sacrament of penance. for without that experience "counseling" may lead." understood juridically. Scholastic and juridical understanding of penance. but to be genuine. the influence of the Western. of course. the genuine nature of repentance. to genuine spiritual tragedies.priest is capable of such spiritual counseling. useful it must be disconnected from sacramental confession. and in fact often leads. The third and decisive factor was. which implies and presupposes a deep spiritual experience. accordingly. that few people realize the depth and real meaning of the distortions to which this Western influence led in the very life of the Church and. in the understanding of Sacraments. above all. deep. . of "mass" confessions concentrated during some evenings of Great Lent and reduced to a few minutes is hardly possible and does more harm than good. it seems to me. solution of "difficulties" and "problems. The deep distortion consists here in that the whole meaning of the sacrament was shifted from repentance and confession to the moment of "absolution. Spiritual guidance. although the latter is obviously its ultimate goal. What is important here is that the sacrament of penance became somehow connected with the idea of spiritual guidance. especially in our time of deep spiritual crisis." and that all this in the present conditions of our parish life. is necessary. The latter stems here not from the reality.
. It is ironic indeed that this most obvious of all Latin "infiltrations" is viewed by so many Orthodox as an Orthodox norm while a mere attempt to re-evaluate it in the light of the genuine Orthodox doctrine of Church and sacraments.but from the power of the priest. by depriving man of the "state of grace" require sacramental confession and absolution. The initial distinction between sins. of "absolutions" without confession. is denounced as "Roman Catholic. yet quite popular today. therefore. The first ones." Guidelines for Regular Confession and Communion It remains now to draw some practical conclusions from . Hence. . compulsory and juridical connection between confession and communion. the witness of the fulfilled "reconciliation with the Church in Christ Jesus . If in the initial Orthodox understanding of the sacrament of penance the priest is the witness of repentance and. totally alien to Orthodox doctrine. not leading to such excommunicating. excommunication from the Church (thereby requiring a sacramental reconciliation with the Church). In the Orthodox East. the others require only an inner repentance and contrition. however. ." the Latin legalism puts the emphasis on the power of the priest to absolve. the practice. and especially in Russia (under the influence of the Latinizing theology of Peter Moghila and his followers) this theory resulted in a simple. was rationalized by Western Scholasticism in the distinction between the so-called mortal sins and the so-called venial sins. and sinfulness.
the question of lay participation in the eucharistic life. until now.what has been said. which are so difficult and so radically different from the past. and. the practice of "non-communion"? The answer to this question can be reduced to three fundamental principles: 1. at the same time. Therefore. assure a proper preparation for this sacrament. in my opinion. regular communion is to be encouraged. This practice cannot and must not become either a "fad" or the result of any kind of pressure. the main question facing our Church. thus preventing communion from becoming as much a "custom" as was. growth truly depends. and not only external. a question on which her spiritual future. it is nevertheless obvious that it would be spiritually wrong and very harmful to impose it in any way. First of all. more regular participation by the laity in the Eucharistic sacrament. first of all. in my opinion. The question. as the "focus of Christian life. if the desire for and the practice of a more frequent and. therefore. her real. must be formulated as follows: how can we both encourage a more frequent. relate to one another with faithfulness to the genuine Tradition of the Church with pastoral care for its "fulfillment" in our own conditions of life. I have tried to explain why the question of sacraments and." as the sacrament of the Church and her unity. is. for those who receive communion seldom (even once a month) ² and such will no doubt remain for a long time the majority ² one must keep in all its strictness . ultimately. My conclusions must.
one needs the permission of the rector of the parish. In such a case. and this at best. or to a . For communion more often than once a month. General Confession What is general confession and why should it be recognized as proper and useful in the present conditions of our Church life? To answer this question. to a purely formal and general enumeration of usually secondary "defects. the relationship between the rhythm of confession and that of communion must be left to the decision of the priest. For a deeper understanding of the sacrament of communion as well as that of penance and for a more fruitful spiritual connection between them. It is reduced. Inasmuch as this practice raises misunderstandings and questions today. however. 2. 3. confession remaining regular. and heard not less than once a month. This permission will be given only to those persons who are well-known to the rector and after a thorough pastoral examination of the seriousness and rectitude of such person¶s attitude towards the Church and towards Christian life. the practice of general confession would be permitted. I will conclude this report with a few words of explanation about its nature and form." to laconic answers to questions.the obligation for confession before Communion. one must acknowledge first of all that today an overwhelming majority of the Church¶s members do not know either what is confession or how to approach it.
formal and juridical understanding of confession. in a large parish where I confessed a few dozens of people. with a long line waiting behind the back of the exhausted priest. on the other hand. not of "difficulties. that the responsibility lies with conditions of life of which the penitent is but an innocent victim." "problems" and "questions. Finally. on the one hand. . is simply impossible. each one began by presenting to me a receipt from the parish treasurer certifying that the man had paid his "dues. and this because by "sin" they meant "crimes" which indeed they have not committed. the desire to change one¶s life." from which it becomes evident. which dissolves almost completely the awareness. The opposite extreme is the concentration in confession on some particular "difficulty. In other parishes there exists the practice of simply reading. Thus. the "psychologism" proper to our time. in our present condition." We have here the results. from a book. How then.conversation about "problems. to be renewed and regenerated. is confession itself to be redeemed and restored? How can it be made again an act of genuine repentance and reconciliation with God? To achieve this with our present two-or-three minute confession. the "sadness for God. In all of these types of confession what one does not find is precisely repentance. Western. I witnessed on many occasions a simple denial by the penitents of any sin." Then he silently waited for absolution." but of sin. a short formula of confession translated from Latin. and. of a multi-secular." the despair from being separated from Him.
and in this enumeration 2.Therefore. first of all. These prayers are.e. this enumeration will not be a formal one. And inasmuch as the priest himself as any man standing before God knows all these sins and all that sinfulness to be also in himself." without which a formal enumeration will produce no spiritual fruit. the general confession is. will be done on behalf of us. 3. the enumeration by the priest of all acts. After the prayers. General confession begins with the priest reading aloud the prayers before confession. yet they are an integral part of the sacrament. To be spiritually profitable it must consist of the following: 1. simply omitted. the sanctity of our neighbor. but sincere. i. in today¶s practice. and the sanctity of our own soul. thoughts and desires with which we offend the holiness of God. to pray that God would grant the Spirit on confession. Anyone who desires to receive Holy Communion must come to church at least the evening before. the revealing of the very essence of confession. the gift "to see one¶s own sins. in a hurry. rather than aimed at you. Today¶s practice of confession taking place a few minutes before Liturgy. It has. and will be done in a "broken and humble" heart. general confession is to be held in the evening after the evening service. . As a rule. a certain school of repentance. Following this is the confession proper. 4. the priest calls the penitents to repentance. become a norm. is simply harmful and can be justified only in exceptions. unfortunately.
The others will approach him. Experience shows. for that spiritual concentration and attention. The more deeply the pastor examines his own conscience. the fuller the general confession. for repentance. Finally. the priest will call the penitents to direct their inner vision from their unworthiness to the Lord¶s table awaiting them. I can testify to the fact that where such general . It is only for those and those alone who. is not and must not be a substitute. covering their heads with the epitrahilion and giving them the Cross to kiss.each one will acknowledge himself and truly repent. Then the priest will ask all those who feel the need to add something. 6. will be. to God¶s mercy and love. one by one. For the whole point here is precisely that the general confession is under no circumstances meant simply to replace individual confession. which is so difficult to achieve in our modern life. the priest will confess individually those who have to complete the general confession and absolve them. 7. to move aside and to wait. because of a special burden on their conscience. In conclusion. while all those who have been reconciled listen to the prayers before Communion. and the priest will read the prayer of absolution. receiving communion often and regularly confessing their sins. 5. realize the self-evident need for purifying their conscience. and the spirit of repentance generated by it. that those who take part in such a general confession begin to have a much better individual confession. he will call them to desire with their whole being that communion of which we are never worthy which. however is always a gift to us.
and Professor of Liturgical Theology St. I wish to confess once more.confession is practiced. The decline and the misapprehension cannot be easily qualified. Meanwhile this general confession will give the priest the time necessary for a more attentive confession of those who really need personal confession. but has become deeper. the personal confession not only has not faded away. Vladimir¶s Orthodox Theological Seminary Sunday of the Prodigal Son 1972 Repentance and Confession Introduction Confession is in decline and repentance is misappre-hended. Humbly submitting this report to the judgment of my Hierarchs. The "traditional" way of thinking of sin and forgiveness has . has been filled with meaning and reality. Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann Dean. but they are unmistakable at least inasmuch as they are considered to be no more than incidental prac-tices in the life of the Church today. that all that I write in it has been dictated by an extremely acute awareness of the need for a renewal of the eucharistic life. for here and only here is the source of her growth in Christ. and will thus become a way to a common growth in the spirit of repentance.
Matthew 9. deriving from renewed choice and leading to restoration.a kind of deal. Repentance is indeed an act of reconciliation.collapsed among a growing number of Christians. Even those actively involved in church life suffer from for-malism caused by the established patterns of religious prac-tice. It is a continual enactment of freedom. and repentance defies mechanical definition. "When Jesus saw their faith he said.5). Nothing less than a theo-logical and pastoral renewal is necessary in order to redis-cover the living meaning of repentance and confession. The whole Church expresses a search for repentance in the repeated words of the Psalmist. "Therefore. The degeneration is often attributed to secularization. It is through the faith of the community that the individual is readmitted and forgiven. It acts from within the Church. There is a need to appeal to the deepening of repen-tance and confession as spiritual realities rather than their imposition as obligatory customs. all suffer together" (1 Corinthians 12. The aim of the Christian is not even justification but a re-entry by sinner and saint alike into communion in which God and man meet once again and . cf. your sins are forgiven' " (Luke 5. 'man. "Justification" in the New Testament does not mean a transaction . confess your sins to one another . a movement forward. as merely an external enemy.. of reintegra-tion into the Body of Christ.20.26). Yet secularization should not be seen. which has been torn asunder by sin.16). It is only in a realization of the nature of sacramental life that repentance acquires its significance as a way of renewal and reconciliation in Christ.. commonly known as the "miserere" (Psalms 50). in a scapegoat fashion. For "if one member suffers. that you may be healed" (James 5.2 and Mark 2.
The Shepherd of Hermas. It knows the mystery of obliterating or rather renewing memory. It is not a state but a stage. It involves. so also the greatest strength of man is to embrace his weakness: "for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Both prodigal and saint are "repenting sinners. Most gladly therefore will I render glory in my infirmities. it implies "great understanding. love is overcome by more abundant love. denotes a change of mind. Just as the strength of God is revealed in the extreme vulnerability of His Son on the Cross.personal experience of divine life becomes possible. that is. metanoia." the pious and the rebellious. but because human nature can change. or of realizing some abstract idea of goodness. a reorientation. eschewing the fixed division between the "good" and the "wicked. a fundamental transforma-tion of outlook. or of receiving a reward in some future life. Passions are conquered by stronger passions.9).not a means of justification for oneself. To be flawed is the illogical. and a new way of loving others and God. because what is impossible for man is possible for God. Rather. of forgiveness and regenera-tion. Christianity testifies that the past can be undone. it is an invitation to new life. with a self-regarding feeling of being sorry for a wrong done." the sin-ner can reach out to holiness. perhaps supernatural characteristic of humanity in which one en-counters God. The motive for repentance is at all times humility. the believers and the unbelievers. the gaining of a new vision."1 discernment." Repentance is not to be confused with mere remorse. that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Corinthians 12. "the last" can be "the first. of man's vision of the world and of himself. In the words of a secondcentury text. One repents not because one is virtuous. Indeed. a beginning. unself-sufficiency . not mere . an opening up of new horizons. The Greek term for repentance.
Yet the demons can work through virtue. in the lan-guage of the Church. This is why it is necessary to re-pent. but the demons divert the course by simulating ad-vance in the form of a fitful movement. lastingness is auspicious. in which sin. offensive ." says Basil the Great. auto-nomous existence. a state of mind."  It is clear that what is at stake here is not particular acts of contrition.regret of past evil but a recognition by man of a dar-kened vision of his own condition. In-constancy and inconsistency are a danger signal." means to tear asunder. "For this life. One can test the quality of repen-tance by ascertaining whether it is fleeting or fluttering. not merely for one or two days. By nature we are destined to advance and ascend spiri-tually." the root of the word "devil." THE TWO DIMENSIONS OF REPENTANCE Divine Initiative . working to produce a kind of spurious repentance. "Repentance. We cannot be deprived of true repentance or diverted from its path by the deception of demons. by sepa-rating him from God. attributed to the demons. has reduced him to a divided. but lack of understanding is the death of repentance. a wobbling from side to side." Any division within oneself or distinction between the "time to repent" and the "rest of one's time" is."diavallo. but throughout one's whole life. The role of these demons is extortionate. like crabs. "is in truth wholly devoted to repen-tance. "is salva-tion. and at other times to weep. penthos and wailing. but an attitude. One is being tempted by the demons when one is caused "at times to laugh." states John Chrysostom. depriving him of both his natural glory and freedom.
In repentance it is man's total limita-tion and insufficiency that is placed before God. inasmuch as thirst for God . The ini-tiative belongs to God. paradoxically." even while being a matter of the here and now." It is the awareness of God's beauty that makes one realize the chasm that separates one from His gratuitous grace.almost a preference . even while. it is the mark of man's presence before God in the abundance of His mercy and of God's presence before man in the abyss of his weakness: "Set Your compassion over against our iniquities. Here God calls man.Repentance is not a self-contained act: it is a passing over. To experience this reversal in repentance is to have tasted of the glory and beauty of God. Indeed the greater the fall. and man responds to God and in doing so gains salvation and life abundant: "sorrow working repentance to salvation not to be repented of" (2 Corinthians 7. repentance gives rise to restoration. a Pascha from death to life. The "dialectic" of beginning and end underlying repen-tance is important. and the abyss of Your lovingkindness against our transgression. of God being embodied within man. To repent is not merely to induce a restoration of lost innocence but to transcend the fallen condition. but presupposes man's active accep-tance. which is a way of perpetually receiving God within the heart. the deeper and more genuine the repentance and the more certain the resurrection. not sim-ply particular wrongdoings or transgressions. of divine in-carnation.10). which is the movement from life to death. It consists of a reversal of what has become the normal pat-tern of development. to a return to man's original state. The Fathers appear to express greater love . Everything tends towards and expects the "end. Every manifestation of life has an escha-tological dimension. Man is "enriched" by his experience even if it has been crippling and tormenting.for the more sinful person. a continual renewal of that life.
"the humility and humiliation of nature. more or less reluctantly. a hitherto "unrecognized" sin. But this is not the original mean-ing. ) does not bear the contemporary meaning peculiar to it. It blocks the way both inwards and outwards.increases in proportion to the experience debasement and abase-ment (Romans 5. or rather to com-mune with. that man seeks to regain. to one's fellowman. Sin has the opposite effect. but an acceptance of and sub-mission to the divine Logos (exomologesis) beyond and above the nature and condition of man. to respond from within to the calling of God. recognize or witness an event or fact.20). It is this Logos. It leads inwards. Created in the image and likeness of God. "to accept with joy. and to heaven. One is then able to comprehend more clearly . To confess is not so much to recognize and ex-pose a failure as to go forward and upward.the divine and the human other." in Isaak the Syrian's words. However. the Word of God. When we say "confess" we imply that we accept. Then. everyone and everything no longer exist for myself but for the glory of God. The point is not of admitting. but it also leads outwards by leading inwards. The world thereupon ceases to rotate around "me" and begins to gravitate towards the other. of one's The word for "confess" in Greek ( . To repent and to confess is to break out of this restriction." Metanoia is the gate-way to oneself. man bears before himself and in himself that image and likeness. repentance is also a way of self-discovery: "Open to me the gate of repentance. cen-tering on God." to transcend and to recover oneself. In repenting he does not so much look forward as reflects and reacts to what lies before and beyond him. in the joy of the Resurrection. The world ceases to rotate round the self and begins to gravitate towards the other .
God Himself is the Archetype of divine love.16).. love is seen as an established ontological category of both divinity and humanity in His likeness. and becomes the realization of human insufficiency and limitation.26). He creates.even "when the doors are shut" (John 20. not that we loved God but that He loved us (1 John 4. In fact. the devil and hell. Although God is constantly being chased away by humanity.." It is He who is "the fullness of erotic love. after all. but rather to know that "God so loved the world. yet He returns day after day in the Liturgy. does one not partake of Holy Communion after committing sin? Not for punishment. The response to this ineffable outpouring of love is none other than its acceptance. but surely because sin itself is a denial of communion. "As Lover. God Himself. Repentance then should not be accompanied by a paroxysm of guilt but by an awareness of one's estrange-ment from God and one's neighbor. however.10). the presence of the Lord in our midst . Nevertheless. death. Repentance thereby acquires a different dimension to mere dwelling on human sinfulness. that He gave His only begotten Son" (John 3. When John the Theologian says that "God is love" (1 John 4. the beauty and loving freedom of the human person is. Why. One is not. in the words of the Psalmist. who out of extreme erotic love moves outside Himself . "the crea-tor of all .. the love of God is implicit in His very nature." says Saint Nilos. burning with great goodness and love and eros. and as Loved. .19.16)." "As a mad Lover He desires His beloved human soul. suffering.. "Herein is love.the positive dimension of even sin. He attracts all towards Him. demanded to love God from the outset.8." And it is this supreme love that moved God to create human nature in His image and likeness. one discovers the depth of love crucified. Then. It is He. The paradox of God's love is that one is only saved again through communion. in the words of Nicholas Berdiaev.
in which man's heart and mind continuously receive illumina-tion by the Holy Spirit. if one only cries out with confidence.." Repentance. a perennial striving. Repentance is ultimately a gift of the Holy Spirit who transforms the heart of the human person. at the same time. and the voyage is an unceasing arrival as well as a never ending departure. . rather it is an attitude which colors one's whole life and for which. When one does fall. for His mercy endures forever" (Psalm 22. adding sorrow upon sorrow each day. for the Fathers of the Church there is an intimate link between repentance and tears. like a woman suffer-ing in childbirth. Whether related to this continuity and endurance or to the depth of moral sensitivity involved. but grief is para-mount."the mercy of God runs after us all the days of our lives . It is a continuous pathway. There are other criteria. is not a mere incident or stage through which one passes and then leaves behind. at least in this life.8). God is not only at the end of the journey of repentance but also at the beginning (Revelation 1. and its intensity is proportionate to the depth of repentance. Man in all his sinfulness is loved by God if he can just keep moving towards God. as has been noted. then. and Christ is the Way (John 14. Him whom one already possesses. One seeks. and as such a way of transfiguration.6. Human Response "Penthos" is the conditioned sorrow of a repentant soul. one must struggle continually. and 135). an all-embracing motion and not merely an occasional emotion. the fall is not into noth-ingness but into the arms of God stretched open once and for all on the Cross.6). It is a way of life. and not a fruit of individual effort or anguish..
There is suffering in compunction (katanyxis = pricking).a concomitant and a culmination of re-pentance ." Man is in a state of be-reavement. Tears demonstrate the frontier between the present and the future. Abba Arsenios. either voluntarily or when com-pelled through suffering. a pledge of return. He even identified repen-tance with tears." Gregory the Theologian be-lieved that everyone must weep. and a firstfruit of its joy."Truly you are blessed. and the Church Fathers and liturgical hymnology speak of Adam sitting opposite paradise in mourning over his bereavement and estrangement from God." A Christian speaks of worthy suffering. which also causes tears. whatever other ways of expressing it there may be: "All must shed tears. for you wept for yourself in this world! He who does not weep for himself here below will weep eternally hereafter. all must ascend. and without purification no one is saved. "Passion or suf-fering for God gives rise to tears." Symeon the Theologian is even more definite: "Remove tears and with them you remove purification.are also a turning point in homecoming." The tradition can be traced to the . The Makarian Homilies say that man must "weep his way back" to para-dise.' 'Joyful sorrow" trans-figures this suffering and pain through grace. But tears . just as passion and mourning are subsumed in God." The word penthos (mourning) has the same root as pathos (passion): both stem etymologically from the verb "to suf-fer. all must be purified. The longing for return from exile is also an anticipation of the glory to come. The tradition of the Christian East gives special promi-nence to the "gift of tears. it makes for sorrow at His absence and thirst for Him. of subsuming suffering in God. Penthos con-sists in mourning for the loss of God's presence. so it is impossible not to weep.
4). Tears are a way and a consequence of purification through repentance. "Blessed are they that mourn. for they shall be comforted" (Matthew 5. but the water always passes through the barrel. But there is a time to weep and a time to rejoice. in the Church. at any rate an Orthodox Christian. through to later times. We repent in the face of God." There is a thirteenth-century French tale "Le chevalier au Barizel" according to which the knight was supposed to fill up a barrel with water. of sins forgiven. he travels all over the world to do this. I have sinned against heaven and before You" (v. "a season and a time" (Ecclesiastes 3. It is not pining away in narcissistic selfreflection. he weeps. through which a . and this kairos is the time in which God acts.New Testament. 'Father.a break in the "IThou" relationship. calling us to participate in His action." and only derivatively "up to us. and they are also proof of hope fulfilled. Sin itself is a relational act .1) for each divine gift. There is a kairos. although the one flows into the other. and will say to him. Tears are primarily "up to God. 18). the ulti-mate goal is transcending light and delight. views re-pentance as a dynamic act of responsibility to God. When the prodigal son "came to himself" in the Gospel parable (Luke 15). he did so in relation to his father: "I will arise and go to my father. with Symeon the New Theo-logian standing out as one of its most important witnesses. It concerns my relationship with another person. THE SACRAMENT OF CONFESSION A Christian. and we repent in communion with others. to John Kli-makos. Seeing that his efforts achieve nothing. but also to other men. Repentance in the early Church was in fact a solemn public act of reconciliation. through the Desert Fathers. even while implying self-knowledge and selfexamination. and one teardrop is sufficient to fill the barrel. Tears bespeak a promise.
As such. Sin (and evil) divides. outside the Church repentance would settle into guilty gloom. takes place within the Church. confession affirms the conciliation. "is that in which one forgets that one is praying. It is not a private procedure. Confession. re-establishing a bond of union between God and man. repentance conciliates."the visible form of an invisible grace" (Saint Augustine). of liability for conduct contrary to norms and laws which render a person subject to punishment. even if the theology or ideology is different. It is related to what is deepest in man. to what constitutes his being and his relation with other human beings as well as with God. Outside the community. . It is a sacrament ." according to Saint Anthony. Even in Buddhism." and genuine re-pentance enables one to forget oneself and simply long for God. It is not based on an admis-sion of guilt and certainly cannot be reduced to a feeling of guilt. This is why confes-sion also takes place within prayer because it is there that a personal relationship in all its intensity is realized both with God and the entire world. confession and prayer are not merely technical terms but means and op-portunities offered by the Church for overcoming sin and death. dulling the spirit or even driving to despair: metanoia turning into paranoia. Repentance is indeed the cause and consequence of prayer. being the highest and fullest foundation for and form of prayer. the phenomenology is the same as in the Church. too. "True prayer. monks regularly confess their sins publicly before Buddha and the congregation. a treatment of some guilt-ridden indi-vidual on an analyst's couch. For it is 'before Him alone that one sins" (Psalm 50.3-4) . between man and man.sinner was readmitted into church membership. who is present in the very depth of repentance.this is the personal or relational aspect of both sin and repentance.
But even then penance did not have the legalistic and clericalistic character . the com-munal sharing of bread and wine. or else to the monastic offices of matins or compline.The supreme act of communion is the eucharist.5.18). Since forgiveness of sins involves reconciliation in and through the eucharist.6. Patriarch of Constantinople. Nevertheless. subsequently. In early Christian times the exhortation of James served as a foundation for the sacrament of repentance: 'Therefore con-fess your sins to one another.16). and pray for one another. the eucharistic prayer contains peni-tential elements as immediate preparation for communion. at first in the form of confession be-fore the entire Church and. The actual ritual aspect of repentance was a direct result of such apostolic testimony. the earliest order of confession is of rela-tively late origin (tenth century. that you may be healed' (5. Acts 19. Repentance and confession as sacrament seals man's change of direction from disruption to reconciliation. An examination of the early forms of con-fession shows that they are derived from community ser-vices and even liturgies. Origen explicitly stresses the signif-icance of the eucharist for the forgiveness of sins. symbolizing sacrament-ally the reconciliation to come and the reconciliation already achieved in the here and now. Confession was regarded as a form of re-pentance and regeneration (Matthew 3. Later services for confession developed undoubtedly from com-munity rites closely related to the eucharistic celebration. before a spiritual fa-ther. The communal. It was only after the fourth century that private confession was more widely practiced. and is ascribed to John the Faster. sacramental aspect of confession was more apparent in the early Church when penance constituted a public act rather than an individual episode. Mark 1. This text may well be the source of later Greek and Slavonic services of confession.
" the "ear" of the priest is dissolved in the sacramental mystery. absolution is the . In fact. turning it into a procedure of justification and exculpation in respect of particular pun-ishable offenses. It is a result of the sacrament being narrowly and juridically reduced to "abso-lution. The "eye." Such a concep-tion exteriorizes the function of the confessor and of con-fession which is an act of re-integration of the penitent and priest alike into the Body of Christ. repentance and forgiveness into a forensic idiom.. The declaration "I. not a recipient of secrets. the priest is seen as a witness of repentance. This con-tradicts the true nature of repentance. The idea served to bring confession into disrepute. by the power given unto me.. here one is not investigated but receives remission of sins." Unfortunately confession at times undermines and even replaces the genuine inner repentance of a Christian: peo-ple feel "entitled" to communion after confession. He is not a dispenser. a detective of speci-fic misdeeds. vindicating agent. very few Church Fathers refer even to absolution as a formal procedure.which it acquired later. Forgiveness. an unworthy priest. absolve you" is unknown in the Eastern Orthodox Church. It is of later Latin origin and was adopted in some Russian liturgical books at the time of the domination of Russian Orthodox theology by Latin thought and practice . an "authority. It is the reduction of sin to a punishable legal crime. not the judge. an act of law-breaking inviting a penalty that is almost wholly absent in patristic literature. a power-wielding." asks Saint John Chrysostom. and placed the emphasis on the power of the priest to absolve. "then enter the Church and repent of your sin . In the Orthodox Church. although such silence does not necessarily mean that absolution in some form or other did not exist." Scholarly theology tended to transpose the concept of sin. "Have you committed a sin?. For here is the Physician.
. in response to sincerely felt compunction.culmination of repentance. involving intimate self-exami-nation on the part of the penitent and possible guidance on the part of the confessor.. could be a living model of repentance as a communal act. in certain circumstances. Here. Altogether. General confession. "will testify to the importance of the priest's role. as always. He can withhold ab-solution . It is not "administered" by the priest. again. but it is important to remember that the priest pos-sesses this right . or anybody else. we should think primarily in therapeutic rather than juridical terms. This. Nor is his function simply to give advice. still less should it be viewed as a way of expiating an offense . is not very common in contemporary Orthodox practice. There is nothing automatic about the absolution which he pro-nounces. Not that the penitence should be re-garded as punishment. for in his relation to God man can never claim any merit of his own. He can bind as well as loose.. We do not acquire 'merit' by fulfill-ing a penance. It is a freely given grace of Christ and the Holy Spirit within the Church as the Body of Christ." The most significant effect of confession is indeed due neither to the penitent nor to the priest. the function of the priest should not be ignored or minimized." writes Bishop Kallistos Ware. involv-ing the whole body of the Church and as such manifesting the very essence of confession. as dis-tinct from a face-to-face confession between penitent and priest. "All who have experienced the blessing of having as their confessor one imbued with the grace of true spiritual fatherhood. But it is not strictly a sub-stitute for personal confession. A word must be said about "general" confession. forbidding the penitent to receive Com-munion for a time or requiring the fulfilment of some task.although this is very rare .or he can impose a penance (epitimion).. but to God who heals .
By contrast with this God is seen to declare His love for men at their most unac-ceptable. It is God's identification with man and His loving acceptance of the worst that men can do that makes repen-tance and confession a way of rediscovering God and one-self. For it is not we who offer it to Him.25. largely fostered by Western thinking. As such it is a gift from God which man must be open to receive. It originates in a hyper-trophied individualistic.1). Orthodoxy always re-sisted legalism.21): "I shall confess/give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart. Reference has already been made to the cloud of guilt which at times shrouds the sacrament of confession. which is the negative aspect of being centered on oneself and seeking for some means to propitiate God's wrath. guilt is a highly misleading concept. Matthew 11. and indeed of repentance with its attendant legalis-tically oriented penitential system. and tell of all His wonders" (Psalm 9.mental. of making the penitent whole.which afflict the world at large today and for which we all share the responsibility and the guilt. self-regarding view of sin and sal-vation. It is by no means a theoretical question. eschewing both undue confidence in man's achievement or merit and the overwhelming sense of guilt. a clearance. whether in their per-sonal lives or in the face of the appalling sufferings and misery . social . im-plies not only confession but also thanksgiving (cf. But in the specific context of repentance and confession. and thereby of being set on the road to full and loving . physical. but He who bestows it upon us. let us ac-cept from God the repentance that heals us. and learn to receive: "Let us apply to ourselves the saving medicine of repentance. exomologesis. whether in repentance or in confession. Luke 10. it has the force of healing. for guilt is part of the tragedy experienced by many people.our infirmities and wounds. It is not a matter of a let-off."  It is significant that the Greek for confession.
leading one to an awareness of other people..relationship with God and with other men. communal prayer to "our Father. 'No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9.26). loss. as distinct from be-ing ashamed in the face of God who inflicts retributive punishment. Even " " implies keeping fast within. or a rise in institutionalism. Its antidote is collective con-fession.. because he is in constant communion with God and man. repentance is also an eschatological act. There is no men-tion in Scripture of the word "guilt" ( ).. Through the forgiveness of sins in confession. cherishing.62). The Christian view of man is largely a social one. a break-up in relations.failure. not of despondency. although there is the adjective "guilty" ( ). the promises of the age to come. realizing in our very midst. God . sharing. result-ing in a kind of false consciousness. In this respect. Acknowledgment of one's limitations leads to personal communion with God who alone can erase sin: "I acknowledged my sin to You. But there is guilt born of a sense of responsibility for others as well as for oneself.5). here and now." A saint might con-fess daily without fear of neurosis. and confession becomes the way out of the impasse caused by sin. Where there is a breakdown in per-sonal love. Break in communication or communion can lead to path-ological forms of guilt. Then You did forgive the iniquity of my sin" (Psalm 32. and I did not hide my iniquity. one finds a thicken-ing of the atmosphere of guilt. Instead of "guilt" there is "sin" ( ) . Life acquires an attitude of expec-tation. Looking back-wards would seem to imply the fate of Lot's wife (Genesis 19. the past is no longer an intolerable burden but rather an encourage-ment for what lies ahead.
4.4. PG 91:1260. ix :408. 10 Dionysios. forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead" (Philippians 3. ibid. Comm. 2 De Perfectione spirituali 4 PG 31:636B. 2 PG 3:712AB and Maximus.Him-self is revealed before us and walks in front of us. ii. 8 Cf. 30 PG 88:1088C. Logos 29. John Klimakos Ladder 4:125 PG 88:725D and 5:19 PG 88:780B. "One thing I do. 11 Maximus. IV. 4. 7 Cf. 5 John Klimakos. Nom. 'Repentance and Con-fession' (in Greek: Ahropolis Newspaper.6. 2. NOTES 1 Mandatum. 6 First prayer of Kneeling Vespers at Pentecost. Athens 10-480). 17 PG 4:269CD. . Archbishop Stylianos Harkianakis. i PG 4. 9 Hymn of Great Lent. p. Nom.13). De Div. in Div. 12 PG 79:464.7:395 and I. and De Amb. 3 De Compunctione I. 4 Abba Isaias. Ladder 26:iii.
Wisdom from Mt Athos (London 1974). Cf. Philotheos Historia XXX.7 PG 35:1049D-1052A. Cf. Domnina 2 PG 87:1493AB. 'The Sacrament of Penance: Learning from the East. 7:25 and 48 PG 88:805C and 809D. Nikolasch. 18 Catechesis 29. 16 Apophth. Arsenios 41 PG 65:105CD. F. Gregory of Neocaesarea.John Klimakos Ladder. 23 De Oratione 28 PG 11:528-29. 25 Apostolic Constitutions 8. Kontakion and Oikos of Cheesefare Sunday in Trio-dion Katanyktikon (Rome 1879. 105. Sophrony.13 De Charitate 3. 7 (1971). 8-9. Conferences 9. 47-55. vol. also Evagrios. Ladder 7:60 PG 88:813D. probably on account of the greater emphasis on the heart as a vessel of the Holy Spirit. pp. 65-75. 17 Oration 19. De Oratione 120 PG 79:1193B. CanonXII. 2 in Philocalia. 22 In Cassian. 2. 14 John Klimakos. 19 Theodoret of Kyrrhos. For confession before a spiritual father. 20 15. p. 31. also the prose-poem by Staretz Silouan in Archim. cf. 17. 15 Cf. Cf. 21 The doctrine regarding the 'gift of tears' is by no means unknown in the West. 24 Cf. but it seems to have been accorded a higher place in the East. .' in Concilium 1.
1809) underlines the fact that it is God. Byzantine Theology: Historical and Doctrinal Themes (London 1974).html ============= http://www. 3 PG 49:327. see N. Sermon 4 on Lazarus PG 48:1012. 26 For a detailed description of this order.ecclesia.: New York 1985). Meyendorff. Venice 1885)..htm#7 . 20 ff. 77-78. 29 Cf. 19 and 7. Uspensky. 1964). 31Bishop Kallistos Ware. Ec-clesiastical History 5. 30 St Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain (d.Socrates. 27 Cf. 28 De Poenitentia 3.V. Evening Worship in the Orthodox Church (S. De Poenitentia 7. who forgives: Cf.com/oode/orthod/mystiria/b apt_efx1. pp. 32 John Chrysostom.oodegr. not the priest.gr/greek/holysynod/commit ees/pastoral/anagnostopoulos_exomologisi. 'The Orthodox Experience of Repen-tance. Confession and Communion: A Report (New York 1972). Eustratios Argenti: A Study of the Greek Church under Turkish Rule (Oxford. Exomologetarion (9th ed. 13-16. 1 PG 49:292. 33 Timothy Ware. 227f. 16. 195ff. John Chrysostom. p. J. Schmemann. p. pp.S. pp. http://www.' in Sobornost/Eastern Churches Review 2:1 (1980). A. 24-25.
. . . · . . . . . . . . . · . . (1). .¨ · . . . . . . . .======= . . . .
· . . . · . · ´ µ. . . . . . . · 10. ¨ . µ . · 19). . · 22-23). · ´ . . . ´ . . . . . . . ´ . µ . . . . µ( . . . ´ . µ( . . ( . . 11).
. . ( . . . . · . µ. . . . ·´ . ). . ( . . . µ. . . . . . ( « . . ) . :´ . . · . ) ¨ · ´ · µ. . . . . . . · · . . .
. . ¨ . . . . . . . . . µ. . · ´ . · 17. · 2. . . µ (2). . *** . . . . . · . µ· . . · . . ´ · µ. µ· ´ µ( . · 15. . . .´ (1) ´ 38). (2) . . . .¨ . ´ . .
. · . · . . .. . . . .
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.