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Modern penitence


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#21 Kyrill Bolton

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Posted 29 June 2011 - 11:03 PM

Fr. Raphael, bless:

Your words "There is also though the deeper matter that we are never barred off in a spiritual sense from our society. Either we are busy redeeming it through selfless dying to ourselves- or unseen by ourselves we are increasing the pain of our society, by continually avoiding the fact that life for ourselves and for others who surround us, can only come from this dying to ourselves in terms which the Church directly offers to us: ie the parishes, monasteries, families, societies- which Christ actually places before us. Anything else can only be described as escapism" are a sweet condensation of a truth so widely missed and/or missed applied today. Thank you very much for your insight.

#22 Evan Herberth

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Posted 01 July 2011 - 01:56 PM

Dear Fr. David,

Thank you for clearing that up. I must confess, that concept is still a little lost on me.

Dear Kyrill,

Thanks for taking the time to answer my concerns. I see what you're saying about the difference in the sins with the magazines vs. the millions; that's interesting. You have me there, brother, I suppose I'd meditate on that as well, hoping the Holy Spirit would throw me a clue as to why. I appreciate how your attitude is empirical towards sin and combating it, as with the opposite sex and driving. I've noticed that the one thing a lot of skeptics and Atheists lack is self-empiricism. They're perfectly empirical about everything on earth, at least from their opinion, about origins and so on, but in the personal life, no sir, that's where you let the mind-numbing party go on forever, uninterrupted.

May I ask how it was you came to convert to Orthodoxy? "May God have mercy on us both," Amen.


Dear Fr. Raphael,

Thank you for explaining this further. It was once not legal to leave the Church?

That all makes very good sense, about our rotten culture, what the priest is seeking to achieve in us, how we should respond, etc., and it leaves only one concern that just arose. I've always wondered about it, but it becomes especially clear to me now. I realize that hypothetical scenarios are wanting for the backing of reality, obviously, haha, but I'll derive one that seems realistic (please correct me if this doesn't even have the possibility of being realized). Let's say a priest issues a very harsh penance from patristic or St. Nikodemos times to a parishioner (maybe a young, traditionalist priest). You've already indicated that perhaps because this priest's lack of wisdom, the parishioner might despair and fall away--maybe not, but it remains a possibility. What if, instead, he seeks a more lenient (in this case, just more normal) priest as confessor, and thereby receives a more modern kind've penance. What has just happened? Maybe in this case it was reasonable (correct me if that's incorrect); but the general idea behind it--escaping from one priest to another--seems to have defeated the whole point of confessing, besides the absolution itself, which remains a constant.

Best regards,
Evan

#23 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 01 July 2011 - 03:22 PM

This has certainly happened, very easy to do in the multi-jurisdictional maze that constitutes Orthodoxy in America. If you don't like this bishop's ruling, go to the other Orthodox Church under a different bishop that is more to your liking. Even entire parishes have played this game. I doubt that it is a good thing, but it is a part of the reality of our current situation.

#24 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 01 July 2011 - 03:33 PM

Let's say a priest issues a very harsh penance from patristic or St. Nikodemos times to a parishioner (maybe a young, traditionalist priest). You've already indicated that perhaps because this priest's lack of wisdom, the parishioner might despair and fall away--maybe not, but it remains a possibility. What if, instead, he seeks a more lenient (in this case, just more normal) priest as confessor, and thereby receives a more modern kind've penance. What has just happened? Maybe in this case it was reasonable (correct me if that's incorrect); but the general idea behind it--escaping from one priest to another--seems to have defeated the whole point of confessing, besides the absolution itself, which remains a constant.


Turning to another priest for a lighter penance would be very wrong. The only situation that I know of and that would be within this category would be if someone believed that the penance was actually abusive and destructive- and then turned to the bishop. In this extremely rare situation, the bishop could instruct the priest to act with more care and economia towards the penitent or towards his parishioners and spiritual children in general. But note that this still leaves the person confessing to the same priest. Which means that over time the priest and parishioner work things out- which is the norm in any case.

In other words if someone feels that a penance is too harsh, it's best to speak first with the priest who gave you the penance. Keep in mind that the priest has the power to lighten a penance or even withdraw it altogether if he feels that this would be for the best welfare of the penitent.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

#25 Moses Anthony

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Posted 01 July 2011 - 04:06 PM

Turning to another priest for a lighter penance would be very wrong. The only situation that I know of and that would be within this category would be if someone believed that the penance was actually abusive and destructive- and then turned to the bishop. In this extremely rare situation, the bishop could instruct the priest to act with more care and economia towards the penitent or towards his parishioners and spiritual children in general. But note that this still leaves the person confessing to the same priest. Which means that over time the priest and parishioner work things out- which is the norm in any case.

In other words if someone feels that a penance is too harsh, it's best to speak first with the priest who gave you the penance. Keep in mind that the priest has the power to lighten a penance or even withdraw it altogether if he feels that this would be for the best welfare of the penitent.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael


St.Basil the Great once said in the debate over the return to the Church of the lapsi; that, "Nothing we can ever do, will merit the forgiveness of Jesus Christ." And this he said when he argued for the lighter (but still hard), than more severe penitance many supported.

It's not so much whether it's 'hard' or 'easy', but whether or not I am willing to humbly obey the spiritual direction given me by my spiritual father, or priest, who stand in the place of Christ for the salvation of my soul.


the sinful and unworthy servant,

#26 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 01 July 2011 - 09:04 PM

It's not so much whether it's 'hard' or 'easy', but whether or not I am willing to humbly obey the spiritual direction given me by my spiritual father, or priest, who stand in the place of Christ for the salvation of my soul.



Yes this is so. I was speaking only of the extremely rare circumstance of truly wrong or destructive advice. Which as I explained above can even then most times be worked out over time with the priest in love & obedience. This is because penances and spiritual advice given by the priest are also almost always part of a given relationship with your priest & spiritual father. Thus what seems difficult now, can in time be worked out, given fuller understanding.

In other words our commitment to the priest gives us space to grow & mature over time. But it also gives some similar space to that priest. So that as we become sons & daughters they become fathers within the relationship of mutual commitment that grows over time.

This indeed is a most basic relationship as given by the Church and shows how faith works in reality on a concrete & daily basis within the Church. All of these relationships together is the glue that holds the parish together.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

#27 Evan Herberth

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Posted 02 July 2011 - 03:33 PM

Turning to another priest for a lighter penance would be very wrong. The only situation that I know of and that would be within this category would be if someone believed that the penance was actually abusive and destructive- and then turned to the bishop. In this extremely rare situation, the bishop could instruct the priest to act with more care and economia towards the penitent or towards his parishioners and spiritual children in general. But note that this still leaves the person confessing to the same priest. Which means that over time the priest and parishioner work things out- which is the norm in any case.

In other words if someone feels that a penance is too harsh, it's best to speak first with the priest who gave you the penance. Keep in mind that the priest has the power to lighten a penance or even withdraw it altogether if he feels that this would be for the best welfare of the penitent.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael


Dear Fr. Raphael,

Firstly, I'd like to note that this has never been a thought in my mind, personally. We have two priests at our small parish; an old Archpriest and a younger priest. The former is very understanding and lenient; the latter deals out penances, but, IMHO, with love, care, and real thought towards the confessing person. I'm grateful for our priests. However, and this is a big however, I was led by someone decent (a Hieromonk) before I was even Orthodox to consider that parish, because the elder priest was a friend of the Abbot of his monastery; not by happenstance. My point is, if I tell new driver Johnny that he's supposed to drive the car along road X until the road ends, and this particular road ends off a cliff, I've done Johnny a disservice. Forgive me, and correct me, but it seems to me that your advice elevates the sacerdotal individual to the same level as his office. We are to respect the clergy, as clergy, I understand, and a priest as a priest; but a priest is a priest and a human being at one and the same time. And I'm too much of a skeptic to believe that no zealous, perhaps less-than-wise individuals become priests. St. Denys' hierarchy was about what should be, not necessarily what is, right? We've already determined on here that over-zealous priests may be in the position of doing more harm than good to weak individuals (like me). Yet you say I'd have to go past the priest to the bishop. How? Why can't I do the most efficient action, which is to turn from the cliff that blind happenstance has led me to, and avoid my physical/spiritual death? I didn't know the road ended in a cliff, I should've told Johnny to use a little common sense when driving, or shouldn't I have?

Thanks,
Evan

#28 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 02 July 2011 - 04:40 PM

Dear Evan,

Please also take into account what I wrote in post #26 above. It's very difficult (in this part of the world at least) to think of a situation where a given penance is not part of the larger relationship which we have with our parish priest/spiritual father. ie penances are not something that stand alone but rather are understood more fully within the spiritual relationship which we have with our priest- that are explained by him in face to face talks for example or illuminated by the whole approach he takes to being a priest and father of his parish.

In other words it is not perfection that is needed but rather faith in regards to our priest and spiritual father. Which concretely refers to the time and commitment it takes to working with him even amidst difficulties.

Are there exceptions to this? Yes- of course there are. There are situations where advice can be so continually destructive that the relationship breaks down between us and our spiritual father. But these are I would say very exceptional situations since most times it is we who bear the burden of temptation to not trust; to demand a 'perfection' which would be the destruction of us if we were to actually encounter it.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

#29 Evan Herberth

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Posted 02 July 2011 - 09:50 PM

Dear Fr. Raphael,

Thank you for your patience and explanation. I'm grateful to be able to simply say that our parish is an example of what you're talking about, certainly, and the hypothetical was unnecessary, but I appreciate your explanation as to what the situation should be and how we should relate to it.

Peace in Christ,
Evan

#30 Darlene Griffith

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Posted 02 July 2011 - 10:31 PM

Yes- penances or epitimia must be geared according to the person who confesses. Keep in mind that by this way of looking at it- then confession itself could be a suitable epitimia for many people nowadays. Which was my point in my previous post.


Dear Fr. Raphael, I believe this to be true. But if confession is a "suitable epitimia" nowadays, what does that say for the Church's general requirement for Orthdox Christians that they only have to confess one time each year? If I misunderstand, please correct me. I realize that confession can be made into some legal obligation and thus become meaningless. But in what ways can/should a parish priest encourage and foster frequent confession? Often, I am aware of how easy it is to hide from my own sins, burying them in such a way as to escape my memory, so they will never rise to the surface again. How delighted and thankful I was (and still am), after having been received into the Orthodox Church, I could confess my sins in the sacrament of Confession. Confessing my sins to God alone (which I still do) as a Protestant became empty. Such confessions back then often were just an exercise in trying to relieve myself of guilt.

According to the classic commentaries on this, for example St Nikodemus the Aghiorite (these are found in his works on Confession and in his comments on the canons in the Rudder), penances have diminished in severity, even during the Patristic period, due to the increasing weakness of the faithful. What may have been a true corrective during the early centuries, in later times would serve likely to crush a person, instead of leading them to amendment. In this sense the penance ends up driving a person away from the Church rather than providing a lesson that leads closer to It. Keep in mind the extremely critical point for modern clergy, that in our times, this possibility of driving someone away from the Church is literally true compared to previous times when such an option would have been inconceivable (even legally).


As per your last sentence which I have underlined, are you referring to the different political structures that existed in other Orthodox countries where separation of church and state did not exist? I know that in England for several centuries citizens were required to be members of the Church of England and to tithe. Or are you speaking more in social terms, that in times past people regarded themselves a part of the Church and would not want to be severed from that religious fabric, even if they weren't all that pious or faithful?

Your last questions are not easily answered in a few words. Sin is a constant since the Fall. But man's conscious turning from God has now become a social value- or even a social virtue! The inevitable result of this, according to the ancient & modern Holy Fathers, can only be the gradual unraveling of man on every level- moral, social, spiritual. This is a spiritual law- that man only finds his life in God and Who is revealed in Christ.


Father, do you consider people more wicked today than perhaps even a century ago? Or would you say that sin manifests itself differently today in our modern age than previously? Or both?

The greatest and most destructive deception of our age then is that any option is possible. According to our way of seeing life, even Christ may have a place in our lives, as long as He is related to in terms of being only one relative option.


What would you say are some of the signs that we should look for within ourselves to see whether or not we are relegating Christ to such a place, that is, one option out of many? Would not such an attitude be disobeying the First Commandment which is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength?

This then is how we also arrive at the Church, for we are not free from such 'values'. There is also though the deeper matter that we are never barred off in a spiritual sense from our society. Either we are busy redeeming it through selfless dying to ourselves- or unseen by ourselves we are increasing the pain of our society, by continually avoiding the fact that life for ourselves and for others who surround us, can only come from this dying to ourselves in terms which the Church directly offers to us: ie the parishes, monasteries, families, societies- which Christ actually places before us. Anything else can only be described as escapism.


Would you not say, Father, that a healthy parish is one that offers many ways for us to die to ourselves? What then of the dying parishes (pun not intended) that have few services and where the minimalist attitude abounds? I think that such dying to oneself is necessarily connected to parish life first, for it is in the sacraments that we find strength to live our faith. And it is in being connected to the Body of Christ that we are able to bear the burdens of our brothers and sisters and "so fulfill the law of Christ."

The way forward then is to positively and in concrete and practical terms live the life that Christ has set before us. (eg what your priest asks you to do; what you need to face in terms of the parish or family you are part of). Thus the ideals of the Church are very high- but the means are right before us.


Often times I feel lost as to the "concrete and practical terms" in which the life of Christ is to be lived through me. More than likely this sense of feeling lost, or perhaps a better word would be clueless, has to do with the lifestyle I lived when I first became a Christian (prior to being Orthodox). For almost six years I lived in a communal setting when I first became a Christian. Granted, we were Evangelical Protestants, but nonetheless we lived very much like monks and nuns. Our asceticism was such that we denied ourselves the luxury of many things - personal ownership of just about anything was frowned upon. We ate very simply and stayed away from food that was considered a luxury, such as steak, shell fish, etc. We read the Bible daily, evangelized daily, prayed personally and corporately daily, memorized Scripture. In a nutshell, we did not consider our lives our own.

Now with all that said, I saw the downside of such a lifestyle, which I won't go into here. However, the recogntion of the benefits of such a way of life have always stayed with me. I feel I will never be able to be as committed as I was back then. I do not mean to say, however, that I am not thankful to be an Orthodox Christian. However, it seems to me that very little is required of the Orthodox Christian on the parish level. Would that there was some way that a communal life, or something close to it, could be an option for Orthodox Christians. I'm not speaking here of monasticism, but rather an option for Orthodox Christians who are not able to be monks or nuns.

#31 Father David Moser

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Posted 02 July 2011 - 11:45 PM

if confession is a "suitable epitimia" nowadays, what does that say for the Church's general requirement for Orthdox Christians that they only have to confess one time each year? If I misunderstand, please correct me. I realize that confession can be made into some legal obligation and thus become meaningless. But in what ways can/should a parish priest encourage and foster frequent confession?


There is, written into the corporate bylaws of many parishes, the definition of a "member in good standing" who is someone who receives the sacraments yearly. This is an absolute minimum for a person to be able to vote in parish meetings or hold office in the parish - it is not a "general requirement" in any other way. In Russian tradition, confession is expected prior to each communion and therefore a person who receives every week will also confess every week. (I recognize that in Byzantine/Greek tradition this is not necessarily the case). Among my spiritual children I have some who confess more often than they even receive, sometimes confessing two or three or more times between each reception of the Mysteries. (Sometimes I will even have someone confess Sat evening and then again Sunday morning before receiving if something has transpired overnight).

If you only "bathe" once a year, it is a major operation - but if you "bathe" weekly its much less traumatic or involved.

Fr David

#32 Darlene Griffith

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Posted 03 July 2011 - 12:33 AM

There is, written into the corporate bylaws of many parishes, the definition of a "member in good standing" who is someone who receives the sacraments yearly. This is an absolute minimum for a person to be able to vote in parish meetings or hold office in the parish - it is not a "general requirement" in any other way. In Russian tradition, confession is expected prior to each communion and therefore a person who receives every week will also confess every week. (I recognize that in Byzantine/Greek tradition this is not necessarily the case). Among my spiritual children I have some who confess more often than they even receive, sometimes confessing two or three or more times between each reception of the Mysteries. (Sometimes I will even have someone confess Sat evening and then again Sunday morning before receiving if something has transpired overnight).

If you only "bathe" once a year, it is a major operation - but if you "bathe" weekly its much less traumatic or involved.

Fr David


You are truly blessed, Father. Some of us are not so blessed to be part of a parish such as yours. And now I shut my mouth.

#33 Theodora E.

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Posted 03 July 2011 - 01:34 AM

If you only "bathe" once a year, it is a major operation - but if you "bathe" weekly its much less traumatic or involved.

Fr David


Amen, Fr. David! I truly wish more people would understand that. I know some people who are terrified of going to confession. They were received into the Church in my parish, and our priest is gentle when hearing confession. It gets easier the more you've gone to confession.

#34 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 04 July 2011 - 02:42 PM

Dear Darlene,
I'm sorry about the delay in replying. It has been a very busy weekend here!

if confession is a "suitable epitimia" nowadays, what does that say for the Church's general requirement for Orthdox Christians that they only have to confess one time each year? If I misunderstand, please correct me. I realize that confession can be made into some legal obligation and thus become meaningless. But in what ways can/should a parish priest encourage and foster frequent confession? Often, I am aware of how easy it is to hide from my own sins, burying them in such a way as to escape my memory, so they will never rise to the surface again. How delighted and thankful I was (and still am), after having been received into the Orthodox Church, I could confess my sins in the sacrament of Confession. Confessing my sins to God alone (which I still do) as a Protestant became empty. Such confessions back then often were just an exercise in trying to relieve myself of guilt.


The most suitable situation is the practice of frequent confession. Here it's not possible to put a number to this frequency. This has to be worked out with one's parish priest/spiritual father. In any case, this practice is taken up so that we cultivate the discipline of inner vigilance, without which one barely sees one sins. Then with practice, over time one begins to understand what confession is- that it is not satisfying God's wrath, or jumping through hoops to gain God's approval. Rather it is the art of recognizing, and coming to terms with the truth of one's own distorted nature.


As per your last sentence which I have underlined, are you referring to the different political structures that existed in other Orthodox countries where separation of church and state did not exist? I know that in England for several centuries citizens were required to be members of the Church of England and to tithe. Or are you speaking more in social terms, that in times past people regarded themselves a part of the Church and would not want to be severed from that religious fabric, even if they weren't all that pious or faithful?


I was referring to a past time when certain religious requirements were part & parcel of one's social world- the only reality you knew and which defined everything about one and the community one was part of. I don't think we recognize how much nowadays choice has the pre eminent place in our lives and how it has replaced the older, pre- modern way of seeing life. In other words we are Orthodox- but often like those who pick and choose at a shopping mall of infinite, eternal choices, and where each choice is equally valid.

Father, do you consider people more wicked today than perhaps even a century ago? Or would you say that sin manifests itself differently today in our modern age than previously? Or both?


Here we have to be very careful. Humanity's nature in itself has not changed since the Fall. Rather our nature has become distorted. In other words even after the Fall we are still created by God as good- and so inherently we have the desire to do good and ability to pursue it (otherwise, according to the Fathers, if this was not inherent, there would be no possibility of man desiring, of being able to pursue, or even of knowing what good is or what it means. And saying that 'God grants it' just skirts around the question: if God grants me the desire to pursue that good that is not part of my nature, then how could I ever respond to an impulse which I can know nothing of?). Good then is the constant in our nature- and has been present at all times and in every human culture. Often this good shows itself even more clearly amidst what is very evil.

Human nature however is highly dependent on God in order to maintain or achieve its goodness. We are good but not in the same way that God is good, since He is not dependent on something else to maintain His goodness but rather is good in Himself. So we are unstable; we are dependent on our Creator in order to meet our desire for what is good, to find what is good, to understand it, and then begin to achieve it. Unless then we turn to God we begin to unravel and become increasingly distorted since then the passions increase without check and begin (as can see in our own society) to become actual markers for expected social behaviour.

What would you say are some of the signs that we should look for within ourselves to see whether or not we are relegating Christ to such a place, that is, one option out of many? Would not such an attitude be disobeying the First Commandment which is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength?


Since dependency on God is the only way for us to find life- spiritually, morally, physically- then the modern cult of self dependency is something that we should seriously examine. Such modern values do not just get left by the door when we enter the Church- we bring them into the Church in various forms. But this question before we jump to the conclusion that it allows for a black & white answer- does in Orthodoxy still bring us to the crucial point that our lives within the Church requires continual effort. So we are called to rely or refer to something within ourselves. What though is this?

Would you not say, Father, that a healthy parish is one that offers many ways for us to die to ourselves? What then of the dying parishes (pun not intended) that have few services and where the minimalist attitude abounds? I think that such dying to oneself is necessarily connected to parish life first, for it is in the sacraments that we find strength to live our faith. And it is in being connected to the Body of Christ that we are able to bear the burdens of our brothers and sisters and "so fulfill the law of Christ."


Yes- the parish, monastery, family- must be the center of our lives. This is the ground of obedience where God has called us to grow. But in order for these places of commitment to come alive, we must put our lives into them. What I mean is the cross of self sacrifice as a continual effort. Only in this way does life come to these three- parish, monastery, family.

nonetheless we lived very much like monks and nuns. Our asceticism was such that we denied ourselves the luxury of many things - personal ownership of just about anything was frowned upon. We ate very simply and stayed away from food that was considered a luxury, such as steak, shell fish, etc. We read the Bible daily, evangelized daily, prayed personally and corporately daily, memorized Scripture. In a nutshell, we did not consider our lives our own.


Often such past lives actually help one to convert to Orthodoxy.

Now with all that said, I saw the downside of such a lifestyle, which I won't go into here. However, the recogntion of the benefits of such a way of life have always stayed with me. I feel I will never be able to be as committed as I was back then. I do not mean to say, however, that I am not thankful to be an Orthodox Christian. However, it seems to me that very little is required of the Orthodox Christian on the parish level. Would that there was some way that a communal life, or something close to it, could be an option for Orthodox Christians. I'm not speaking here of monasticism, but rather an option for Orthodox Christians who are not able to be monks or nuns.


I think that it is the freedom of Orthodoxy which we have to come to terms with. Such a past (and I have seen this with others who came to Orthodoxy from similar groups) could well have played a providential rĂ´le in preparing someone for Orthodoxy. However what I believe is unique to Orthodoxy is the kind of freedom it places before one in order to achieve one's salvation. In a word, each of us on a continual basis will have to come to terms with Christ's question: 'what do you want?'

Of course it is one thing when we are encouraged towards something by psychological & emotional supports and enticements. This is what the world offers and in spades. But what when gradually each of these, and on the personal level that only Christ knows about, are one by one removed? It is only then I think that we see what we really want- and usually it's not very noble or pretty or Christ.

So that to begin commitment towards Christ we first have to go through the process of dying to ourselves, of having the room swept clean bit by bit of some thing we formerly clung to, or even regarded as essential. There's no other way, for if we run from the cross of Christ in this sense, as He places it on a continual basis within our lives, then we drift right back into commitment to worldly impulses again.

Which seems to bring us full circle in this discussion. Since we were speaking of self dependency and dependency on God.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

#35 Sacha

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Posted 07 July 2011 - 03:22 PM

Fr Raphael, that was a very helpful post, thank you. Almost impossible not to do more soul searching after reading it.

#36 Jean-Serge

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Posted 26 December 2012 - 11:31 PM

Dear All,

I've recently read some of St. Nicodemus's Exomologetarion. I won't confess on here, but suffice it to say that the penances prescribed in the Saint's book are incredibly more intense than those prescribed by my parish priest, and he's very traditional in his outlook, I believe.

Having said that, my question is why, logically speaking, there has been a relaxing of penitence on the part of priests nowadays. Not that I'm complaining; I must confess that if I were prescribed such a penance, I would probably fall into disobedience, knowing myself. However, from an ecclesial standpoint, isn't it frowned upon to relax traditional rules very much, especially in the Orthodox Church?

Thanks,
Evan


Well from my observations, my first and until now only priest who heard my confessions applied the penances of Saint John the Faster, and it was the case for anyone confessing to him... This was particularly true for sins of sexual nature. As Saint Nicodemus emphasizes, these penances are light compared with the ancient ones that granted more years of abstaining from communion. Saint John the Faster diminished these years but introduces metanies to compensate that. Saint Nicodemus also explains that according to the age of the person, the repentance she or he displays, you can adapt the penances...

I can assure that making 100 metanies a day makes you think, particularly when your thighs terribly hurt the first days! The other good thing is that you make some sport (it is a joke). The thing is explaining to the penitent why things are in such way... This strictness also helps the penitent understand how bad he has behaved, and one is not to commune unworthly. A part of penitence is repentance and showing the old sinful behaviour have been abandonned. That's why it is convenient not to read immediately the prayer of absolution but delay it until the sinner has repented (by this I mean stopped his wrong behaviour) and accomplished his/her rule. For instance, for a masturbator, it is 40 days doing 100 daily metanies, which means during the period, the person does not commit again this sin... For a robber, it is to pay back what he stole, for a person living in fornication, breaking the link with his/her lover. A change of behaviour is necessary for absolution and a rule too. This rule is a treatment and without treatment nobody can be cured. If the absolution was given systematically and automatically, people could come back every week with the same sin to get an absolution and commune without having done any effort to change their behaviour.

The risk is not about losing faithful being too strict, but in tolerating anything simply to keep faithfuls. This generates a laxism that is very bad : in some cases, very well-known people living in public sin are allowed to communion. This harms the church a lot because it is a cause of scandal and ridicule for communion.




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