Confession, the Sacrament…


I grew up in the Anglican (Episcopal) Church (my mother’s parents  were born in Newcastle, UK.) In fact, I was an altarboy in the Episcopal churches we attended in various places when I was a kid.

After that, I drifted toward the Roman Catholic Church, attended mass there, but never converted, as such. Guess God had other plans, so 13 years ago we joined officially, the Eastern Orthodox church (Russian Orthodox) while we lived in Cambridge  – The Church of St Ephraim the Syrian…and coming from the Angles to Orthodoxy introduced us to some new customs – the biggest one for me being the rite of confession.  

Unlike the Catholic church which uses confessional boxes housing both the confessor and the confessee, in the Orthodox church you sit next to your confessor (priest) on a bench and, basically, have a conversation. The priest asking relevant questions, if required, then, hopefully, providing advice and absolution. Keep in mind that a confessee is not confessing to the priest, but to God. 

I think there’s an honesty to this method. There is no subterfuge or pretention (e.g., the secrecy of the confessional)  in the Orthodox approach. Also, unlike the Catholic church, a confessee is not punished (“say 25 hail Marys and ten Our Fathers (!)”. The absolution is given unconditionally. Not unlike Christ’s forgiveness.


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