CONFESSION: Time, Space & Age

I recently asked two knowledgable Archimandrites the same question: “Is there a set form or protocol for Confession? Perhaps some sort of ancient rules — a “confession typicon?”

They both, independent of each other, said …

“No.”

Fr Zacharias, of St John Baptist Monastery, admitted that he currently hears most confessions in his office. Fr Daniel Griffith of All Saints, Salina, KS said the same.

That’s been the norm for my own confessions. I meet with my Confessor in his office and we talk about my sins, temptations, and struggles. Then we go into the church for the formal rite, prayers, further counsel, etc.

(I keep a “prayer desk,” stole, and blessing cross before an icon corner in my office for this same purpose.)

Many people make their Confession in the church prior to, during, or after a service. In Russian practice there’s usually a stand, adorned with the Gospel and Cross, before which the Confession is heard by the priest (who serves as witness). Greek practice varies — but it is common to hear Confessions in front of an icon by the iconostasis. For most, these are the norms.

However, as is usually the case with Orthodoxy, there’s lots of room for wiggle …

And so having a time and place established for sacred confession — the time being in the morning,* the place being mainly the Church, or as ocassion demands, a modest house, clean and peaceful, as Symeon of Thessaloniki says, in which there also must be an icon of our Master Christ, and certainly His Crucifixion — you bring the one to confess there …

* – Although all times are suitable for confession (especially in time of need), according to Job in his Concerning the Mysteries, the most suitable time is in the morning, because at that time, the intellect, of both the Spiritual Father and the penitent, is more clear and collected. That which David says also bears witness to this: “In the morning I slew all the sinners of the land, utterly to destroy out of the city of the Lord all them that work iniquity” (Ps. 100:9), namely, in the morning I killed though confession all those evil thoughts of my heart and destroyed from my soul all the lawless demons and passions. According to Timothy (Canon 18), some should start confessing from ten years old, others from an older age. According to Balsamon, children should confess after six years of age (Responsa ad Interrogationes Marci, Question 48, PG 138, 996C – 997A).

— Taken from EXOMOLEGETARION – A Manual of Confession by St Nikodemus the Hagiorite (p.137).

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