Holy Confession

© Syrian Orthodox Dioceses of North America and Canada. Reproduced with permission. No part of the material may be reproduced in any form or by any means, without written permission from the publisher.

The Sacrament of Repentance

Repentance and remission of sins is one of the seven sacraments of the New Law ordained by our Lord when He breathed on His disciples, saying: "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive a man his sins, they shall be forgiven to him; and if you withhold forgiveness of a man's sins, they are kept. (John 20:22-23)"

This sacrament was ordained of our Lord in the form of a law, giving power and authority to His ministers to declare and pronounce absolution to the faithful who confess and repent of sins willingly committed after baptism.

The faithful repenter should consider the many sins which he or she committed and must truly and earnestly repent of them. One should then confess them to the priest without concealing or hiding them and, consequently, accept the canonical penalty.

General Exhortations

  1. The priest should be well acquainted with the divine as well as the ecclesiastical laws that he may be able to determine whether or not this repenter is worthy of absolution. Consequently, the priest, in the likeness of a spiritual physician, should treat the faithful penitent and take great care for his or her soul's health.
  2. The priest should take great heed never to reveal anything of the penitent's confession, but rather keep it secret even until death.
  3. Whenever the priest is called to make confession to some faithful repenters, he must show himself always ready to respond to the call and to earnestly beseech the Lord that he may be assisted to fulfill his service fittingly and piously.
  4. The confession ought to be made only in church. The priest wears a stole around his neck and sits on a chair which must be put in a special place so as to be seen by the congregation. However, on account of sickness, or for any other compelling reason, the priest is allowed to go to the sick person's home who wishes to make confession, but is unable to go to church. While the penitent is making confession, the priest must be sitting in a special place where he may be seen by those who are present.
  5. If the priest finds out that the penitent is not acquainted with the fundamental truths of the Church, then he must try to enlighten and instruct the person with such truths at the time of confession, but if it would be impossible, then he must do so at a more convenient opportunity.
  6. If it may happen that, by reason of extremity of sickness or by any other impediment, one of the faithful is deprived of the power of speech and is unable to make confession except by making gestures to indicate his or her sins, the priest should grant the individual absolution.

Prayer of Repentance

Have mercy upon me, O Almighty Father, You do we praise and do we bless. You do we worship, humbly kneeling, that You should show us Your great mercy. O Christ, Fountain of mercy, show me Your compassion on the day of judgment as You did to the thief on the Cross, the publican and the woman taken in iniquity. Amen.

Prayer Before Confession

O God, Who does not will the death of the sinner, but rather that he repent and live, I confess before You that I have sinned before heaven and in Your sight, while enjoying Your great goodness. By this ungratefulness have I fallen from the estate of sons and am no more worthy to be called a son of Your grace. Make me, O Father, as one of thy hired servants. But blot out my transgressions in Your mercy. Cleanse me from my sin. O Merciful Father, turn Your face from my sins and look not upon my iniquities. Cast me not from before Your face, O Gracious Lord. Rebuke me not in Your anger, but listen to the voice of my sorrow, O Lord, and look upon my tears. May they wash me clean in Your sight, O God, for I do repent most humbly and am heartily sorry for all that I have done wrong. Moreover, I have determined not to return to the hateful paths of sin again. Receive my confession and help me in Your mercy and grace to live a life that brings Your glory and praise. Amen.

Prayer Upon Confession of Sin Before the Priest

I confess to God the Father Almighty, and to His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, and to the Holy Spirit, in the presence of our Lady the Virgin, ever sacred in her virginity, and all the holy angels, of Michael, of Gabriel, both chief of angels, and St. John the Baptist, of the holy apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, the twenty-four prophets, the twelve apostles, the four evangelists and the seventy-two sent forth.

I confess the holy faith of the three Ecumenical Councils of Nicaea, Constantinople and Ephesus in the most noble priesthood ascribed unto You, Father Priest, by which You loose and bind.

I have sinned through all my senses, both inwardly and outwardly, in word, in deed and in thought. My sin is great, very great, and I repent of it most sincerely, purposing not to fall again into the same ever, preferring death rather than embrace sin. And I ask you, by the authority of the sacred priesthood, that you absolve me and forgive, asking God to pardon me through His grace. Amen.

Prayer of Absolution for the Laity

The priest lays his right hand on the head of the penitent and says: 
May God have mercy upon you, and may He guide you to everlasting life through the authority of priesthood which was entrusted by our Lord Jesus Christ to His disciples who, in turn, entrusted it to their successors until it was given me; I who am weak and sinful, absolve you, brother (sister) of all the sins that you have confessed and are repentant of them, as wellas of all the transgressions which have escaped your memory in the Name of the Father +, amen, and of the Son +, amen and of the Holy Spirit + for everlasting life. Amen.

Prayer of Absolution for the Clergy

May God, Who blessed his holy disciples, bless you. May He preserve you from all evil deeds and perfect you in the gracious ones that you may be the keeper of His commandments and the fulfiller of His laws. May He make you a chosen vessel that is fit for the service of His glory. May you enjoy peace in Him, and may He be pleased with you and according to His Good Will, may you be blessed, absolved and consecrated, in the Name of the Father +, amen, and of the Son +, amen and of the Holy Spirit + for everlasting life. Amen.

Prayer After Confession

O Lord Jesus Christ, our great Physician, and Fount of mercy, behold me now in Your presence, the blind to receive sight within from You, to behealed of all my sickness and to be made rich in my poverty. I believe that You have accepted my confession and are pleased to acknowledge my supplications; that You have forgiven me and cleansed me from my sin. Ever do I render thanks to You, O Lord, and Your praise is at all times upon my lips, in accordance with the multitude of Your loving kindnesses. I beseech You, by Your grace, to confirm me in my purpose and promise that I may never return unto sin; and to grant me triumph over all my temptations that I may love You alone upon earth, and my spirit may be exalted in Your praise until that day when I shall see You in Your heaven above for ever more. Amen.

Prayer Before Receiving the Holy Eucharist

O Bread coming down from heaven to nourish everyone, grant that I may partake of You in all pure desire, adoration and godly fear. O happy Wine of Life, may I be intoxicated by Your love. O You Who did cry, saying: "Whosoever is athirst let him come to Me and drink," behold my soul in thirst has come to You to be satisfied by the Water of Life. O God, I am not worthy that You should come into my heart. Speak a word to heal my soul which is athirst for You even more than the thirst of the deer to the streams of water, O Cup of Blessing and Salvation. O Heavenly Manna and Bread of Life, dwell in me forever more. Amen.

Prayer After Receiving the Holy Eucharist

With what tongues shall I utter Your praise, O God, most high and greatly to be praised, for this Your wondrous grace. It passes all telling; forYou have even been pleased to give of Yourself to Your servant for nourishment; and have rejoiced his heart with the wine of Your sacrifice. You have sanctified me by Your Spirit, and have satisfied my hunger from out of the bounty of Your house. My heart is Your perpetual dwelling place that You may preside over all my faculties and my desires, controlling them as You will. And I beseech You that this my Communion increase my faith and strengthen my trust in You that it rekindle the fire of Your love within me, causing me to grow in every virtue; that it be a weapon to shield me from all the tricks of the enemy of my soul until I become one with You in that life above where You are with all saints, so that I may join in the chorus of praise and adoration to Your Father and Your Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.