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What is forgiveness of sins?


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#1 Algernon

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Posted 01 August 2013 - 02:38 AM

I have been told that the Orthodox understanding of sin is not legalistic like that of other Christian confessions. That is, God doesn't penalize us for our infractions and then choose to ignore our sins or declare us "not guilty" when we confess our sins. 1 John 1.9 says He will "forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness." What does this mean? And precisely what happens when we are baptized for the "remission of sins"? (Acts 2.38)

 

Thanks,

A



#2 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 01 August 2013 - 06:58 AM

St Cyril of Alexandria (Commentary on Gospel of John) says that salvation is a restoration to the condition God originally gave to mankind.  This condition is not merely fellowship with God but a participation in the relationship between the Persons of the Trinity.  Communion has two meanings: this relationship with the Trinity, and taking the Body and Blood of Christ which is the means to that relationship.  We must accept responsibility for our sins and recognise that we are in need of the Body and Blood of Christ.  Confessing our sins and our need for Christ attracts God’s forgiveness which He gives because His righteousness means that He keeps His promise which we see He gave repeatedly as, for example, the Psalmist says (Ps 50 LXX).  Christ came to forgive not to condemn, to shed His blood for us.  We partake of the Body and Blood of Christ for the remission of sins (Matthew 26:28).


St John Chrysostom says of Acts II (Homilies VI and VII on Acts) that those to whom Peter spoke were conscience-struck at his words.  St John urges people not to be lost by casting themselves ‘into bottomless pits’: ‘but while there is time, let us wash off all that defiles the soul.’  Those who asked Peter, ‘what shall we do?’ were told to repent and be baptised.  The text of the baptism service contains the meaning of baptism.  It is related to Pascha which why in early times, baptisms were done on the eve of Pascha during the vesperal Liturgy of St Basil.  Baptism washes away the ancestral curse.  St. Symeon the New Theologian writes: ‘Human nature is sinful from its very conception. God did not create man sinful, but pure and holy. But since the first-created Adam lost this garment of sanctity, not from any other sin than pride alone, and became corruptible and mortal, all people also who came from the seed of Adam are participants of the ancestral sin from their very conception and birth. He who has been born in this way, even though he has not yet performed any sin, is already sinful through this ancestral sin.’   Baptism washes us clean of ancestral sin and thus is the gate by which we ‘enter into the kingdom of God.’ (John 3:5)
 



#3 Phoebe K.

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Posted 01 August 2013 - 11:27 AM

To add what Andreas had said, Baptisum of adults (which dose still happen especially in western counterys where the Orthodox church is growing by converting people) washes away actual sins committed before coming to faith as well as the stain of ancestral sin.  The tangible results of Baptism are impossible to describe, but there is a defenet change and releasing of the weight of the past, it is very difficult if not inposibel to decribe what the Spirit dose in your hart in the atule moment of baptism, I just remember the change other people noticed in me.  I was baptized during the fifteen readings of vespers of holy Saturday this year, so I am speaking from experience as well as my knowledge of theology.

 

Sin is viewed as a sickness in that each sin we commit damages us spiritually and the tendency to sin a result of the damage coursed by the fall.   This tendency to sin is known as the passion, these pasions are what incline us to sin, although each of us has each passion to a differing amount.  We see it as temptaions in our lives which we have to weressl with, but we only sucseed with the help of the Holy Spirit, who comes into our lives at Baptism and strencthons us each time we receive communion.  

 

The sacrament of confession for us agnolaging our tendency to sin and the specific areas where we have difficulty, we are comming to Christ in the pressence of a Priest to agnolage what help we need.  The process of confessing is simmaler to expalining to a Dr the symptoms we have when we are ill, in this case our Dr is Christ himself.  Our Father Confessor acts a witness to us as we tell our problems to Christ, he then with the gidence of the Holy Spirit instructs us on things which will help us to gain control over ourselves and our lives.  When the Priest prays the prayers for forgiveness he is articulating and helping us to make real the forgiveness which is offered to us as soon as we turn back to God.

 

All the sacraments are given to us by the church for healing of our lives and to help us on the path to theoses and union with God which is the gole of our Christian

life.

 

I hope I have explained things coreclty, though I am shore someone else will correct me if i have got something incorrect.

 

Phoebe



#4 Algernon

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Posted 01 August 2013 - 01:16 PM

Okay, thank you for that.

So would I be correct to put this concisely by saying that forgiveness of sins is God putting us back on the path to salvation?



#5 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 01 August 2013 - 01:49 PM

A young monk said to the great ascetic Abba Sisoes: “Abba, what should I do? I fell.” The elder answered: “Get up!” The monk said: “I got up and I fell again!” The elder replied: “Get up again!” But the young monk asked: “For how long should I get up when I fall?” “Until your death,” answered Abba Sisoes.
St. John Chrysostom said:
‘Repentance opens the heavens, takes us to Paradise, overcomes the devil. Have you sinned? Do not despair! If you sin every day, then offer repentance every day! When there are rotten parts in old houses, we replace the parts with new ones, and we do not stop caring for the houses. In the same way, you should reason for yourself: If today you have defiled yourself with sin, immediately cleanse yourself with repentance.’
God forgives us through his priests’ giving us absolution and so helps us get up again – and again – and again.



#6 Algernon

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Posted 01 August 2013 - 02:47 PM

God forgives us through his priests’ giving us absolution and so helps us get up again – and again – and again.

 

Ok. So what's absolution?

Can we get up again and again and again without it?

Thanks.



#7 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 01 August 2013 - 04:29 PM

When we go for confession, we tell our sins in the priest's presence.  As St Seraphim of Sarov says, the priest is a witness, though he may offer some spiritual guidance.  Then, the priest places his epitrachelion on our head and pronounces the words of absolution.  How often we do this depends on the custom of the particular Church and the advice of the priest.  In the Greek tradition, it is not necessary to confess before every taking of Holy Communion unless we have done a serious sin.  In the Russian tradition, confession before every taking of Holy Communion is the norm though this is now relaxed a bit in some Moscow churches I have been to.  But these are pastoral matters best discussed with the priest or spiritual father.



#8 Algernon

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Posted 03 August 2013 - 02:10 AM

Thanks for all that. But it still doesn't answer my question:

What is forgiveness of sins?

Is it God restoring our broken relationship?

Is it God setting us back on the path to salvation?

Is it God excusing a debt?

Is it God exonerating us of a crime?

Is it all of this or something else?



#9 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 03 August 2013 - 09:07 AM

According to the Holy Fathers, forgiveness of sins is the healing of the person.  Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos writes about this.  He says that the Holy Fathers tell us that there is a two-stage process.  First, we confess our sins to God and, secondly, we make our confession to our priest.  When we sin, we put distance between us and God.  As St Gregory Palamas says, when we draw away from God, we become sick in the soul.  Forgiveness is being freed from the sickness of the soul by absolution.  We are thereby reconciled with God, so yes, our relationship with Him is restored.  As St John of the Ladder says, we are speedily forgiven our sins but the struggle against the passions continues.  We will fall during our struggle and so we again confess.

 

We must remember, though, that Christ says that we must forgive others to obtain our Father's forgiveness.



#10 Lakis Papas

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Posted 03 August 2013 - 02:14 PM

Τhe Greek verb to "forgive" (συγχωρώ) means literally "to fit with another person in the same place". The word has the meaning of accepting others as I accept my intimate self. 
 
And "unforgivable" (ασυγχώρητος) in Greek has the literal meaning of "a person that can not fit in the same place with me".
 
Taken this literal meanings, we could say that forgiveness is the acceptance for coexistence and lack of forgiveness is the exclusion of coexistence. By coexistence we mean the personal relationship, rather than the natural coexistence.
 
Referring to punishment and justice, in fact we talk about containment measures suspending coexistence. Removing the vengeful framework, justice requires isolation of condemned and sentenced excluding them from the coexistence with the righteous.
 
When we 'forgive' a person we remove any exclusionary measures that were applied.
 
Sinful human behavior erected a wall of exclusion between man and God; because it is not possible to coexist sin and Holiness. The deadlock was resolved by the incarnation of Jesus intervened so that this wall to be collapsed.
 
Timothy 2:5-6

For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time

 

According to scholars, in the temple of Solomon there was a single veil/curtain before a set of doors which serve as the “gate opening into the building” and entrance to the "holy of holies". The Holy of Holies contained only the Ark of the Covenant. The Holy of Holies was accessible only to the Israelite high priest. Once a year, on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the high priest was permitted to enter the small, windowless enclosure to burn incense and sprinkle the blood of a sacrificial animal on the mercy seat of the Ark. So, the veil was a border of exclusion.
 
When Christ died on the Holy Cross, several things took place, one of them was the following:
 
Matthew 27:51

Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom

 

So, in this case the tearing of the veil/curtain (symbol of exclusion), from top to bottom, shows the termination of the exclusion and the start of the period of forgiveness.
 
I think it is clear that to forgive is Divine (as St Chrysostom said in one of his homilies). Actually, it is a work accomplished by Christ. But it is not just a simple restoration of a broken relationship. It is something greater. Because, now by God's forgiveness we become brothers of Christ and adoptive children of the Father. This relationship is not a restoration, rather it is a new birth in Spirit (as Andreas Moran and Phoebe K  already explained in earlier posts).

Edited by Lakis Papas, 03 August 2013 - 02:21 PM.


#11 Algernon

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Posted 04 August 2013 - 11:25 AM

Thank you.



#12 IoanC

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Posted 10 November 2013 - 01:36 PM

Because of the fact that man disconnected himself from God's love at the fall into sin, he was forever on a path away from love that leads to destruction. Only God could rescue man in order to re-unite him with Himself through love. In order to accomplish this God needed to willingly die on the Cross and offer His broken Body and shed Blood as food and not condemnation. In other words, this is different than legalism which is something that originated in the man's world after the fall, as a product of a coldness of heart and remains on a superficial, spiritually ineffective level; Christ suffers and dies not in order to draw attention to His own suffering, but to use His own suffering to prove His mercy, His willingness to forgive no matter what the price (even if Himself is the price). This is the model of perfect forgiveness that we all need in order to heal from the fall into sin. Christ offers absolute forgiveness as a gift and not something we need to earn from Him, and His Body and Blood as food and not something that testifies to our horrible deed (His crucifixion and death).



#13 Loucas

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Posted 18 October 2014 - 06:47 PM

Sin or what is called " original sin " comes from the fall and is rooted in disobediance. This because we have free will. God took the matter of his creation and became incarnate for our salvation. Sure sins can be noted as the bad or evil things done and thought. Most of all, sin is to love oneself and ones life more than God. Now to correct the sin of the fall and to return to God is not simply saying  " yeah I believe in God" or "Jesus is my friend". Now we must, with our free will come to God by our own decision and be obedient. Christ said if you love me, keep my commandments. This is why it is a life long struggle and why our Fathers gave us the Jesus prayer. And when we confess our sins the absolution given from our Spiritual Father is because, Christ told the Apostles, the sins they forgive are forgiven and those retained are not. However the Greek refers to it as remitted. So when God remits our sins after we confess and repent, they are no longer. Yes the evil one will bring them back to our minds to tempt us and to make us feel as though it is no use we can never be Holy. But Jesus said we can and must and the fathers and mothers of Orthodoxy spend their whole life repenting for their sins and for ours. God has done his part, now we must do ours, pray, fast keep the commandments and through our free will be obedient.






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