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In the prayer before the Eucharist we say, "for remission of all my sins and for life everlasting" and afterwards, "Behold, this has touched my lips, and shall take away my iniquities, and shall cleanse my sins".

How does this differ from the remission received in Reconciliation?

From an Orthodox book on the Holy Sacraments Reconciliation was, "originally a public act, required from sinners who either had been officially excommunicated or had performed acts liable to excommunication".

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I can speak only as a Latin: Holy Communion has (among other more important effects, of course) the effect of "blotting out venial sin" (Council of Trent, Sess. XIII, cap. ii). This effect does not require contrition. Absolution given after confession does remit also mortal sins, providing there's contrition for them.

Mortal sin is effectively self-imposed excommunication, that means you're spiritually dead and not eligible for Holy Communion.

This means that ordinarily (unless you have committed a mortal sin) there's no need for confession. Catholics are obliged to go to confession and receive Holy Communion at least once a year. But modern practice combines confession with spiritual guidance, so people go to confession more often. The penitential psychological element of telling your sins to a priest is also a good exercise in humility, I think.

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The original purpose of the Sacrament of Reconciliation was not forgiveness of sins by God (which occurs at the moment of contrition), but reintegration of the sinner with the Church as the Body of Christ. Thus, confession was originally a public act before the congregation, and the conditions under which the sinner would be readmitted to communion were enumerated by the bishop. When these were met, the bishop would seal that reintegration by offering communion.

This approach worked so long as the Church was a small and well catechized elite, but the pastoral problems quickly became apparent as congregations grew: public acknowledgment of some sins was more divisive than the sin itself. Hence, auricular confession became a private matter, first between the sinner and the bishop, then with the presbyter as deputy of the bishop. Again, the emphasis was not on forgiveness and absolution, as with reintegration: those who sinned had first to undergo an extended series of penances before readmission to communion, being consigned to a particular order of sinners marked not only by specific clothing, but by being prohibited from entering the nave, which in turn meant that they could not even be present for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Over time, the meaning of the sacrament changed, and more emphasis was placed on the absolution aspect, with the reintegration aspect pushed into the background (but not entirely forgotten). Between East and West, there were additional differences in emphasis. In the West, the objective became atonement for violations of divine precepts through fulfillment of a variety of penances. In the East, the emphasis was more therapeutic, focusing not on expiation of past sins so much as strengthening against future ones.

In both cases, technically, the sacrament is sealed by restoration to communion, though the Western distinction between venial and mortal sin tended to cloud that relationship. In the East, where such a distinction did not exist, the very fact of communion, the reception of the Eucharist, indicated that a person was in good standing with the Church.

As communion became more infrequent (sometimes just once or twice per year), the Eastern Church began insisting on confession as a precondition for reception of the Eucharist (technically, because of the canon that makes failure to receive for three consecutive Sundays cause for excommunication). Today, though frequent communion is becoming more common among the Orthodox, many jurisdictions still insist upon confession before communion as proper preparation to receive.

But if, in fact, one has been receiving regularly and has not committed any sin which carries with it an automatic excommunication (e.g., murder), then the act of reception indeed remits whatever sins one may have committed: "Behold, this has touched my lips and has burned away my iniquities. . . "

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Originally Posted by StuartK
canon that makes failure to receive for three consecutive Sundays cause for excommunication

Quote
Council of Trullo, Canon 80

If any bishop, or presbyter, or deacon, or any of those who are enumerated in the list of the clergy, or a layman, has no very grave necessity nor difficult business so as to keep him from church for a very long time, but being in town does not go to church on three consecutive Sundays— three weeks— if he is a cleric let him be deposed, but if a layman let him be cut off.

It looks like some kind of Orthodox version of "holy day of obligation". Is this canon still in force?

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It's not a matter of "obligation" so much as demonstrating one's membership in the Body of Christ, which can only be done through reception of the Eucharist.

As for the canon, ALL Orthodox canons are technically still in force. They accrete but never delete. Some fall into desuetude, others are mitigated, but I can't think of a single one that has ever been rescinded.

You must also remember that the East does not think of the canons as a body of objective law so much as a collection of precedents for guidance of bishops and other spiritual counsellors. A bishop's oikonomia can override many canons in a manner that a Latin bishop dispensation cannot.

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Stuart, Thanks for the clarification. This is something that has always confused me during Divine Liturgy, but I've never been able to find the reasoning behind it.

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Stuart, you mention sins which carry with them an automatic excommunication (e.g. murder). What other sins would fall under that category?

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There are various lists of them, and in the Eastern Tradition, excommunication is usually not indefinite (it takes a lot to be out forever). Murder, for instance, required a three to five year excommunication; same for abortion. Remarriage according to the Canons of St. Basil, which formed the basis for Orthodox marriage discipline, was 3 years for a second marriage, five to seven for a third marriage. Adultery, fornication, blasphemy, heresy, and numerous others all had mandatory periods of excommunication. Some were really weird, e.g., using a Jewish physician.

Because, as I said before, Orthodox canons are accretive, all of these are still on the book, though most are no longer applied, or if applied, not with that degree of rigor. As one Orthodox theologian noted, if the canons were applied consistently, nobody would be able to receive communion for many years.

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We might also want to investigate a point that our friend Tim has made on several occasions: the Mystery of Anointing of the Sick also remits sins, and is also sealed by the reception of communion. So, does receiving that sacrament obviate the need for confession?

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So, Stuart, can Orthodox in good standing receive Holy Communion after committing sins like lust, envy, theft, masturbation, extreme anger, gluttony, etc.? Most of these sins are mortal in all circumstances in Latin theology, and the others (gluttony) at least have the potential to be. Would an Orthodox not need to confess these before receiving as well?

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A physician of my acquaintance tells of the time that she went to Confession and confessed gluttony. The priest flatly refused to believe her!

Fr. Serge

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Originally Posted by Logos - Alexis
So, Stuart, can Orthodox in good standing receive Holy Communion after committing sins like (...) masturbation, extreme anger (...). Most of these sins are mortal in all circumstances in Latin theology, and the others (gluttony) at least have the potential to be. Would an Orthodox not need to confess these before receiving as well?
Alexis

Even a Catholic in good standing can most probably receive Holy Communion, I think, because committing masturbation or extreme anger usually involves strong impairment of free will. Holy Communion will strengthen his will in that case.

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That would depend, I suppose, on the individual, his spiritual father and the requirements of his jurisdiction. The East doesn't make the mortal/venial distinction, but instead talks of sins (committed willingly and with full knowledge), transgressions (committed by accident or without full knowledge) and frailties (caused by weakness of the flesh).

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"using a Jewish physician" - how odd, indeed.

I was delivered by a Jewish physician and my pediatrician and childhood dentist were also Jewish. I was such a naive child that I truly believed being Jewish was a requirement for becoming a medical doctor.

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Originally Posted by Proskvnetes
In the prayer before the Eucharist we say, "for remission of all my sins and for life everlasting" and afterwards, "Behold, this has touched my lips, and shall take away my iniquities, and shall cleanse my sins".

How does this differ from the remission received in Reconciliation?

From an Orthodox book on the Holy Sacraments Reconciliation was, "originally a public act, required from sinners who either had been officially excommunicated or had performed acts liable to excommunication".

Proskvnetes,

You have provided a good question, one which has come up in my own mind. Stuart and others have provided excellent answers based on Church teaching and theology.
I prefer to think of Reconciliation (Confession) in the spirit of the Mysteries, or Sacraments. Each Mystery has a rite (ritual) which is what we mortals comprehend. But the ritual is a comprehensible way of perceiving the incomprehensible, that is, God's graces or energies. This is the real affect of the Mysteries. Ritual is only to help us to understand, rather, give an inkling, what is happening to our heart (soul,if you prefer).

So with Reconciliation we, through our voluntary submission, are humbly acknowledging that we wish to receive God's mercy. Gifted to us through our humbleness are the graces to discern what is sinful and what is spiritually beneficial and to receive a resolve, through our cooperation with God's Benevolence which will strengthen us to ward off the future temptations of the sins which we confess.

If I may say, (with no intention of offense) those who say that Reconciliation is unnecessary are turning down God's graces. I find myself needful of every grace that God grants.

Fr Deacon Paul

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