by Rev. Fr. John Brian
P. F. from Palestine asks:
Father I have a question. Is it prohibited for someone only to confess himself in his heart in front of iconostas (e.g. at the steps in front of the altar) without confession to his Priest? Please, teach me. Thank you.
Rev. Fr. John Brian responds:
Peace of Christ be with you
In Holy Orthodoxy, there are many things to consider.
1. We should confess the truth of our sins before God anywhere and everywhere - a practice of rigorous honesty will bring you closer to God as it will remove the things that interfere with our connectedness with God. So heart-felt confessing at the iconostas is good.
2. If we are confessing our sins ONLY to be closer to God, then that may be sufficient. However, the great commandment is to love GOD and OUR NEIGHBORS AS OURSELVES. So, we need also confess to another, representing our neighbor. Since sin separates us from God, it also separates us from Holy Church, we will need to be reconciled by sacramental absolution by a priest.
3. If a priest recognizes the iconostas confession, he may grant absolution. In the sacrament, the priest is only a witness of your repentance and an agent of God's restoration. Some priests accept the general prayer of confession as sufficient without hearing the details of a person's sins. Others will not grant absolution without such details and, further, a commitment to follow any penance given.
4. In this case, the function of clergy (but also all Orthodox Christians) is in the scriptures: "whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven - whatever you loose on earth, is loosed in heaven."
5. In any jurisdiction, there may be reasons one cannot confess to their parish priest. The church is merciful and allows neighboring priests to offer sacraments in such cases.
So, do not feel your confession before the iconostas is not heard by God. Such prayers and heart-felt communications with God are lovingly and carefully carried by angels to Him. However, it is incomplete.
Love God with all your heart, mind and soul and your neighbor as yourself.
God bless you in your spiritual life here on earth as it will be heaven.
See Also:Sin and its Confession
Holy Confession - Spiritual Therapy for the Soul
Salvation - Belief / Infant Baptism
Should I confess before a Priest?
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