The question of “Does the Orthodox Church have confession?” is one of the most frequent questions I hear from people interested in the Orthodox Faith. Whether or not confession is necessary is a personal choice, but it is an important part of the spiritual life of the Orthodox Church. In fact, the Orthodox Church has a tradition of confession for both clergy and laity. The main differences between the practices are the frequency of confession and the amount of time required.
Patriarch John IV
Whether you’re a Catholic, a Protestant, or an atheist, it’s always wise to make a confession of sin. While Catholics are considered members of the Church and are called to repentance and conversion, they are also still defiled by sins. For this reason, Orthodox believers are encouraged to make a confession of sin, even if they are members of the Orthodox Church.
The Patriarch of Constantinople, Saint John the Faster, wrote a series of canons about penances in the early Church. The Penitential nomokanon (also known as the Law-Canon) is a collection of Canons for Confession of Sin, a body of documents written by the Patriarch in the 10th century. The Canons contain rules for the hearing and conducting of secret confessions. They also address the duration and manner of churchly public penances, including those for people who are clearly guilty of sins, as well as those who have committed sins but are unaware of them.
During the reign of Patriarch John IV of Constantinople, he led the opposition against Maurice’s restoration of Chosroes II to the throne of Persia. This prompted the postponement of the throne for more than a year, and he also pushed for the execution of two alleged monophysites.
Saint Nektarios was born to a poor family in Thrace, which was under the Ottoman Empire. At a young age, he traveled to Constantinople in search of work. Unfortunately, he was unable to pay for the ticket. The boat would not move until he boarded it. The relic of Saint Nektarios was then put on the bed of a paralytic, which miraculously restored his health and spirit.
Saint Nektarios served in many capacities in the Patriarchate of Alexandria and was eventually elevated to the Episcopacy as Metropolitan of Pentapolis. He was beloved by the residents of Alexandria, a city with a large Greek Orthodox community. Saint Nektarios’ humility was further enhanced by the fact that he had already endured many trials in his life.
Patriarch Seraphim Aleksiev
The practice of confession in the Eastern Orthodox Church has its roots in the Bible. This ancient teaching asserts that God alone can forgive sins. He does this through Christ in the Church and the condition for forgiveness is genuine repentance and change. Confession is a public acknowledgment of a sin. Orthodox Christians practice confession to achieve this goal. A priest or monastic confesses a sin to a priest, who then forgives it.
In medieval Russia, people were not prepared for priesthood, bishopship, or deaconship. Therefore, their preparation for Confession was not the same as today’s. This may have had an impact on the practice of Confession. This practice was also not practiced in the Americas until the early twentieth century. However, in other Orthodox Churches, confession is practiced by the pastor of the congregation.
St. Nektarios was a monk in Athens. He was later venerated as a saint of the Orthodox church. In 1961, he was blessed by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. His humble life inspired the Orthodox church to celebrate his feast day on November 7.
When St. Nektarios was denied a position as a bishop in the Church of Greece, he was left without means of support. He was unable to afford food, lodging, and other simple needs. During this time, he would visit the office of the Minister of Religion to seek help and advice for his spiritual life. He would then contemplate his decision to go on a monastic retreat, but gave it up for fear of being censured.
In the Orthodox church, Saint Nektarios is considered the first Greek martyr. His martyrdom prompted many of his contemporaries to take up the cause of the Orthodox Church. He has since become an icon of Orthodox Christianity. The statue of St. Nektarios at the entrance to the Church of Greece is the only one of his kind in the world.