Last night I had the rare opportunity, well rare for an orthodox priest anyway, of hearing first confessions. Emmanuel Orthodox Church in Warren Massachusetts will be received into Holy Orthodox this very morning by Chrismation. About 100 people will be welcomed home and I think I heard most of the confessions last night.

What makes this so special? Well I heard confessions from people who had not been to confession in 35 years and also people who had never had a sacramental confession before. People confessed sins that they had been carrying around with them for most of their live and were finally able to put words to what they were feeling. These were not your typical five minutes before liturgy confessions and I was honored to be asked to participate.

The interesting thing about Emmanuel is that it is a Western Rite Parish. Okay before you liturgical purists out there jump all over me rest assured that the Western Rite is as canonical as the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil, St. James, or any of the other liturgies that we presently use in the Orthodox Church. Liturgy has been around for a long time and did not always look like what we are used too on Sunday morning.

The ritual is actually very beautiful and very simple. I was surprised at how simple it was. No triple litanies, just simple get to it kind of ritual.

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.

May the Lord be in thy heart and upon thy lips, that thou mayest worthily confess all thy sins; In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

I confess to God Almighty, to all the Saints, and to you, Father, that I have sinned very much in thought, word, deed, and omission, by my own great fault. Since my last confession, which was (how long ago), when I received absolution and performed my penance, I have committed there sins: (get down to it). For these and all my other sins which I cannot remember, I am very sorry. I will try to do better, and I humbly ask pardon of God; and of you, Father, penance, advice, and absolution.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath left power to His Church to absolve all sinners who truly repent and believe in Him, of His great mercy forgive three thine offenses; And by His authority committed to me, I absolve three from all thy sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Penance was new to me. Well not new in the sense of doing penance, I grew up Roman Catholic, but the giving of penance. I don’t think there is a proscription against the giving of penance in the Orthodox Church but it just seems that it is not done. If anyone of the readers has any other information this please leave me some comments. I need to research further this concept of penance in the Orthodox Church.

This was such a wonderful event and I was honored to be part of it. People actually confessed their actual sins, stuff they have been carrying around for years and in most cases while the absolution prayer was being recited, they came to tears, tears of joy that they were once and for all forgiven of all that stuff they had been carrying around for year.

One older woman, she had to be in her late 70’s confessed something from when she was a teenager. She had never confessed it before and had been carry this around with her all those years. She told me she felt like a great weight had been lifted from her shoulders. Praise God!

We do not know how lucky were are to belong to a church with sacramental confession. It is too bad more people do not partake of this on a regular basis. Yours truly included. If you are from St. Mike’s prepare to hear more about this tomorrow.


  1. i have been orthodox for 3 years now and still am unfortable with doing confession in the orthodox style.there is some comfort with being able to start confession with “bless me father for i have sinned” its almost like starting a letter with dear sir. getting a running start if you will for what you have to say, not just starting cold.
    to the woman who had carried the giult of a sin for over 60 years i would think the feeling of the guilt would be worse then the sin it self, its like being chained to your guilt it never allows you to fully feel the love of God because the devil is always in a small part of you heart and soul making you feel you are not worthy of Gods’ love. linda

  2. We do not know how lucky were are to belong to a church with sacramental confession.


    You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

  3. the only penance i’ve heard of ever given in my church as been to stay away from communion for a certain period of time.

  4. David,

    I am sorry that your priest is using communion as a weapon. This was never the intention. I so wish people would stop doing this. Communion is to unify the people not to keep them away.

  5. The most awesome part of confession is when the realization comes, (at this time the Priest has his hand on my head with a garment, praying) that God forgave David, and now me. No matter what I do He still loves me. Always at that point the tears come, automatically.

  6. First, I resonate with everything that has been said about the Mystery of Reconciliation, and I’m sure that other priests would agree with me when I say that hearing real confessions that come from the heart is an amazing, humbling, privilege and honor.

    Second, I think the concept of “penance” in Orthodoxy is more along the lines of “prescription” in terms of asking the penitent to do something designed to aid the spiritual healing process, given that the sin confessed has, by its very nature, done damage, certainly to the penitent, but also, to other persons in the penitent’s life.

    Finally, I have nothing against the Western Rite, to be sure, and in the Byzantine Orthodox world, the Antiochian Archdiocese is to be commended for nurturing it. However, in looking at Emmanuel’s website, I was surprised to see a “Contemporary Praise” session listed between Matins and Mass on Sundays. I’m frankly not sure how this fits into any kind of Orthodox context.

  7. Fr Greg,

    There is nothing counter to Orthodoxy in using modern music or praise music before a liturgy. They are not using it during the liturgy but before. Why would you find this objectionable? These are the kinds of inovations that we need to keep orthodoxy relevant.

  8. I’m not objecting, Father, just asking. In looking deeper at Emmanuel’s website, I found something of an explanation in the parish’s history, it having been once been a part of the Charismatic Episcopal Church.

    That said, raising the question of “relevance” always makes me nervous. Either Orthodoxy is relevant or it is not. Obviously, I am convinced that it is.

  9. I don’t think adopting the latest passing fad necessarily makes a church “relevant.” We’re relevant so long as our liturgics are carried out with clarity, reverence and intelligibility; our preaching of the Gospel speaks to people on a level they can grasp; our practice of prayer, fasting and almsgiving is the focus of our lives; and we constantly recall our baptism, chrismation and eucharist, letting challenge us in who we are, what we do and what priorities we set. Then the life in Christ becomes real and relevant. Anything else can come across as a gimmick, and there’s far too much of that on the Christian scene these days.

  10. It’s to be worth noting that the secular tunes adopted by the Church (east and west) for chants were, exactly, passing fads. The Wesley Brothers picked up this patristic tradition.

    We should be so lucky as to have a “passing fad” become part of the Tradition of the church.

  11. I may be stepping in late in the conversation, but in the Eastern tradition, especially in Greece, denial of communion is the standard epitimia (penance). Here is an article on it. Separation from communion need not be the only kind of penance, but it is a typical one.

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