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The sacrament of Confession/S.of penance.

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  • Very Rev. Dr. P. S. Samuel Cor-Episcopa
    Hi, this is Samuel Achen from N.Y. This is a continuation on our topic. the sacrament of Confession. The word Confession has several
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 28, 2003
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      Hi, this is Samuel Achen from N.Y. This is a continuation on our topic.
      the sacrament of Confession.

      The word 'Confession' has several connotations.1)Confessing Christ as son of
      God (Rom.10:9) 2) a denomination such as the Lutheren or the Anglican .
      3)The Sacrament of forgiveness of sins,whereby the repentant sinner
      confesses sins to CHRIST in the presence of the priest, who pronounces
      God's absolution of those sins. We are discussing the third topic. This
      sacrament is known by some other names also. Saramnet of penence, S.of
      reeconciliation, s. of tears/Second baptism. etc. depending upon the
      emphasis given. It is supposed to bring about reconciliation between God and
      the sinner and the sinner and the community. It is called "second baptism".
      We have baptism only once in our life as we declare in the N.Creed "one
      baptism(once) for the remission of sins).This is second baptism in the sense
      that the first one has washed away the sins up to the time of baptism
      including "original sin" The sins committed after are washed away by the
      tears shed in contrition or by repentance. This is repeatable as often as
      one becomes conscious of sins committed.

      What is sin? It has been already described as "broken relationship" leading
      to alienation and discord. It has another meaning from its Gk word
      "hamartia" "missing the mark" It is a word taken from archery "one who
      fails to hit the target" All humans are sinners who miss the mark of
      perfection that God has set for them. This results in our alienation or
      estrangement from God which results in death, because God is the source of
      life. Remember Adam and Eve.

      What is absolution ? Absolution is the prayer offered by a priest or bishop
      for the forgiveness of sins The gift or authority to offer this prayer is
      based on the promise made by the risen Christ to his desciples(Apostles) as
      recorded in St.John's gospel .20:22-23. "Receive the Holy Spirit, if you
      forgive the sins of any,they are forgiven, and if you retain the sins of
      any, they are retained." This authority or gift remains for ever in the
      Church. It is exercised in the sacraments of baptism, ( "once, for the
      remission of sins"), in the Holy Qurbana( "From God may we receive parden of
      oursins and remission of our debts") and in the sacrament of penance
      bringing about reconciliation of the sinner who has repented and
      demonstrated contrition to the Church.(christian brothern)

      Penance is the sacrament of reconciliation by which the penetant is
      reconciled with God and the Church through the forgiveness of sins It is a
      part of the Church's healing ministry as commanded by our Lord.It begins
      with penance, contrition, conversion and confession. History of the
      development and evolution of this sacrament from the time of the Apostles to
      the modern times is quite elaborate. we don't attempt a full and detailed
      study. here we are attempting only a short review.

      During the Apostolic period we see references about confession. According to
      St.PauL (1 Cor.8:12-)- "But when you thus sin against the brothern, and
      wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ"
      Sin has thus serious and evil consequence. The prodigal son says "I have
      sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no loonger worthy to be
      called you son."(Lk.11:21) He had sinned against God and his father and the
      household.So the sin of one person affects every one in some way. So the
      promise was "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, to forgive our
      sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness".(1John 1:9) The Christians
      are to bring their sins to God in repentance and receive cleansing and
      forgiveness. So, early Christians would stand and confess their sins to God
      in the presence of the whole congregation. (in public). In St. Mathew's
      gospel, a disciplinary problem is discussed in dealing with someone who sins
      against his brother. How was it to be resolved? Please read Mt.18:15-20.
      There are three stages described in this passage. In verse 18, the Church is
      given the authority " to bind and to loose" Think how far away we have gone
      from these words of our Lord. Verses 21-25 the forgiveness is unlimited
      .This is the way reconciliation is to be brought about leading to true
      healing in the Church by God's grace.

      We are so hypocritical, we are not willing to forgive (fore-give:.give
      before asking)and so the sin continues and the Church of God suffers. St.
      James writes in his epistle (5:16) "Confess your sins to one another." But
      as time went on and the Church grew in membership (from a close knit family
      to a large group of strangers)public confession became difficult and
      scandelous. Private confession became common and naturally those who have
      been entrusted with the curing of the souls (pastors,the healers)
      became the ones who began to witness private confession on behalf of the
      Church. This is a historic development. This is how the presbyter(priest)
      began to play a role in confession. Now, What is the priest's role? St.
      Chrysostome (Mar. Ivanios of Constantinople) says that the Church is the
      hospital(the INN in the story of the good samaritan,Lk.15)and the
      priests/bishops are the healers. the chief physician being our Lord Jesus
      Christ. The Orthodox Church has from the very beginning understood that the
      grace of ordination endowed the pastor or the shepherd of the flock with
      discernment and compassion to speak rhe words of absolution on behalf of
      Christ regarding the sins of those who have repented, confessed and turned
      away from sin.

      Christ in his discourse as given in the 15th chapter of St.John's
      gospel,says to the Apostles"You didnot choose Me, but I chose you and
      appointed(ordained) you"(v.16) In Mark's gospel He says to the Twelve" It is
      not you who speak but the Holy Spirit "(13:11) St.Paul tells Themotheos
      "Stir up the gift of God which is in you ,through the laying on of my
      hands(ordination) (2nd Thimothy 1:6) It is the grace of the Holy Spirit that
      enables the priest to serve God and His people ,including pronouncing the
      absolution. The Apostolic Church has encouraged the early christians to
      search their conscience and confess their sins, before coming to receive
      Holy Communion. St.Paul writes to the Corinthian Church "Let a man examine

      The question now is do we really need a priest, "can't I confess to God
      privately and directly?" Certainly we can pray to God and receive the
      cleansing. Don't We repeat though often without thinking about the
      implication, when we pray "Forgive us our trspasses as we forgive those who
      trespass against us!" Many of us may not be fully assured of
      forgiveness(?),there may be a doubt whether one is forgiven. Some one who
      knows us fairly intimately and be with us when we communicate with God in
      His all knowing presence, we are much more assured of forgiveness and of
      cleansing. The priest DOESNOT FORGINVE OUR SINS.(he is nort God)It is Christ
      who is present and forgives our sins. It has been found from experience of
      saintly persons and other ordinary Christians that it is far more effective
      to confess aloud to God before a priest and benifit from his guidance and
      counsel. This is not as easy as we think. It takes courage, humility and
      openness to confess so that God may bring about the cleansing and accept us
      into His glorious embrace restoring our sonship and the devine image in us.

      There are two kinds of confessions in the Orthodox Church., private
      confession by communing with God (praying and uttering "Lord jesus,Son of
      God have mercy on me a sinner." and any other form of prayer, and the second
      is the sacramental confession. In the Roman Catholic Church there is only
      the sacramental confession, (There may also be 'general confession') Among
      the Protestants there is confession by prayer (public or private); The
      Orthodox Church has both.and thus avoids extremes. In the case of grave sins
      (adultery, apostacy, disobedience, murder etc) private prayer has to be
      supplemented by sacramental confession. The Orthodox Church stipulates that
      even lighter sins have to be confessed before a priest winess at least once
      a year. Now a days Orthodox Christians have abused this previlege and 'go to
      confession' not for cleansing of the soul but for other reasons(attending
      the general body meeting is one important reason) The most terrible abuse
      that has crept in the life of the orthodox Christian is the demand for
      absolution, without contrition, repentance and with out a tinge of
      tears;just a mechanical means of being forgiven. Either this practice has to
      be stopped or the faithful have to be taught how to prepare for receiving
      the Holy Communion as this includes confession. Because of these abuses, as
      St.paul tells the Corinthian Church, " many are sick, some are dead" and
      there is no life in us. This is the most serious illness that has befallen
      on the Orthodox Church and we see the result in our present day church life.

      Allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and warm us and wake us up. and do as
      the Ninevites did.in olden times. Then we will shine as lamps lit by the
      Light that lightens the whole universe. Now brothers can not forgive
      brothers. Prospect of reconciliation has almost dried up. Woe unto us
      Malankara Christians esp the Orhtodox members.( forgive me for digressing)

      The priest as the leader of the community of the faithful, helps to bring
      about reconciliation with our brothern while private prayer may bring
      reconciliation with God. What ever way we get inner cleanliness (purity of
      heart) it must be followed up by receiving the Holy Communion "for the
      remission of debts and the forgiveness of sins" Listen next time you attend
      the Holy Qurbana, and note how many times the priest uses this formula,
      since this is the Sacrament by which our sins are forgiven and we are washed
      in the presious blood of the Lamb.

      The beauty of the sacramental confession is expressed in a Russian prayer
      of absolution It portrays the role of the priest as that of a witness rather
      than that of a judge. "Behold, my child, Christ stands here invisibly and
      receives your confession., therefore do not be ashamed or afraid, and hide
      nothing from me,but tell me without hesitation all the things yoiu have done
      and so you will have pardon from our Lord Jesus Christ; see his holy image
      is before us, and I am only a witness, bearing testimony before him of all
      the things you have to say to me. But if you hide anything from me , you
      will have greater sin; Take care then, lest having come to a physician, you
      depart un healed."

      NOTE) This portion has become too long. I apologise and would like to say
      that I am no authority and I will be extremely happy to be corrected or
      advised. Thanks, God bless. Samuel Achen .N.Y.
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