Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

Confession and Penance

Mystery of PenanceOne’s Confessor is sometimes a good example of the synergy of the mystery. An Orthodox Confessor first prays with us for forgiveness, asking forgiveness also for his own sins, and confessing to God the commission of sins “like unto these” and only then pronounces the absolution. The interaction is often a dialogue and a joint seeking of theosis:

A certain Confessor, when prescribing a penance (the way a doctor prescribes medicine) will sometimes ask, “Is what I’ve prescribed for you too burdensome?” or ‘Do you feel you can bear it?’ or “Have I placed something too heavy upon you?” This communicates both the humility of the man and the meaning of the Mystery (theosis). Not all Confessors will do this or do it all the time – whether you ever hear those words will depend on your need.

Likewise, if our Confessor says something to us in Confession that doesn’t sound like we need it, or that seems inapplicable, or says we have sinned in some way that we do not see, we are taught to listen to him, remember the words, try to see how we could be guilty or how this may apply, and trust that it is a Mystery, so that God, who can give us insight from a parable, can do so from words that do not immediately make sense to us.


February 18, 2008 - Posted by | Western Rite Issues | , ,


  1. Thank you. Quite right, and that’s what I get for composing something at that hour. I was thinking of the part of Confession just before that: “Show thy mercy upon Thy servant… reconcile and unite him…”.

    I’ll correct the above immediately, and thanks for the correction. We do post corrections here routinely, and so yours is noted and then the article fixed.

    Comment by tuD | February 22, 2008 | Reply

  2. BPeter Brandt-Sorheim (Pecator Peter) writes: A featured entry today at the blog Western Rite Critic begins: “An Orthodox Confessor does not pronounce us absolved, but prays with the individual for forgiveness…” But note the following excerpt from Service Book of the Holy Eastern Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church: “And I, His unworthy Priest, through the power given me by Him, do forgive and absolve thee from all thy sins…”

    Comment by tuD | February 22, 2008 | Reply

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