Malankara World

What Shall I Do To Be Saved?

By Rev. Dr. Curian Kaniyamparambil

Question 89. When did this practice of confessing to the elders/priests begin?

It began from the apostles time. Refer to Acts 19:18 (Question 84). [In Ephesus] "And many who had believed had come confessing and telling their deeds. Also many of those who had practiced witchcraft brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver" (Acts 19:18). There is an argument that this was not a private confession, though no-where does it say it was not so. That is, no-where in the true Bible it says so. But in a few translations, the word 'publicly' has been inserted. (i.e. And many of the believers came publicly admitting and revealing what they have done!) See below what many of our early church fathers have written.

Didache (Apostolic tradition AD 140) Confess your offences in the church and do not go up to your prayer with an evil conscience. (3) On the day of the Lord gather together, break bread and give thanks after confessing your transgressions so that your sacrifice may be pure. (8).

St. Clement (AD 80) For whatever our transgressions and whatever we have done through the attack of the adversary let us pray that we may be forgiven For it is good for a man to confess his failing rather than harden his heart (26a)

Tertullian (AD 155- 240) After describing the preparation before confession to bow before the presbyters, to kneel before God's refuge places and to beseech all the brethren for the help of their own supplication. (315) Therefore, when you cast yourself at the knees of the brethren, you are dealing with Christ, you are entering Christ. (316). If you are inclined to draw back for the conclusion, consider in your heart the hell which confession extinguishes for you Therefore when you know that after the initial support of the Lord's Baptism there is still in confession a second reserve against hell, why do you desert your salvation? Why do you hesitate to approach what you know will heal you?

St. Hippolytus of Rome: In prayer for the ordination of bishops 'grant to this servant' to offer to you the gifts of your holy Church; and by the Spirit of the high priesthood to have the authority to forgive sins." (394a)

Origon (AD 185-253) I will accuse myself to the Lord, of my justice. If we do this and will reveal our sins not only to God but also to those who are able to remedy our wounds and sins, then our sins will be blotted out by Him.(477) Only be careful and circumspect in regard to whom you would confess your sins. Test first the physician to whom you would expose the cause of your illness.(485a). When a sinner washes his pillow in tears, when his tears are day and night of nourishment, and when he does not shrink from declaring his sin to a priest of the Lord.(493) Confession of sins merits remission of sins.

St. Cyprian (AD 251): Regarding participation in Eucharist: before they made a confession of their crime, before their conscience has been purged in the ceremony and at the hand of the priest, before the offence against an angry and threatening Lord has been appeased they do violence to His Body and Blood and with their hands and mouth they sin against the Lord more than when they denied Him (551). before penance has been done, before a confession of the most grave and extremist sin has been made, before a hand has been imposed in penance by the bishop and the clergy to offer on their behalf and to give them the Eucharist ; that is to profane the holy Body of the Lord(568). Sinners do penance for a just time, after which according to the rule of discipline, they may come to confession and through the imposition of hands by the bishop and clergy, may receive the right of communication now. (570) We know that only in the Church, where prelates have been established by the Gospel law and by the ordinance of the Lord, is it permitted to baptize and to give the remission of sins. Beyond the pale, however, nothing can be bound or be loosed, where there is no one who is able either to bind or to loose. (594)

Fermillian of Caesarea (AD 255): Since all power and grace is settled in the Church, where preside presbyters who possess the power both of baptizing and of imposing, hands and of ordaining (601c) Christ breathed upon the Apostles alone, saying to them: 'Receive the Holy Spirit: if you forgive any man his sins, they will be forgiven; and if you retain any man's sins, they will be retained.' Therefore the power of forgiving sins was given to the Apostles and to the Churches which these men, sent by Christ, established; and to the bishops who succeeded them by being ordained in their place (602).

Aphraates the Persain sage (AD 336): (to the priests) You physicians, then, who are the disciples of our illustrious Physician, you ought not deny a curative to those in need of healing. And if anyone uncovers his wound before you, give him the remedy of repentance. And he that is ashamed to make known his weakness, encourage him so that he will not hide it from you. And when he has revealed to you, do not make it public, lest because of it the innocent might be reckoned as guilty by our enemies and by those who hate us. (685)

St. Basil the Great: The same rationale is observed in the declaring of one's sins as in the detection of physical diseases. Just as the diseases of the body are not divulged to all nor haphazardly, but to those who are skilled in curing them, so too our declaration of our sins should be made clear to those empowered to cure them. (975). It is necessary to confess your sins to those to whom the dispensation of God's mysteries are entrusted. Those doing penance of old are found to have done it before the saints. It is written in the Gospel that they confessed their sins to John the Baptist; but in Acts they confessed to the Apostles, by whom also all were baptized. (977)

St. John Chrysostom (AD 386): Priests have received a power which God has given neither to the angels nor to the archangel. It was to apostles, Whatever you shall bind upon earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose, shall be loosed. Temporal rulers have the power of binding; but they can bind only the body. Priests, however, can bind with a bond that pertains to the soul itself; and transcends the very heavens. What ever the priests do on earth, God will confirm in heaven, just as master ratifies the decisions of his servants (1119) What greater power is there than this? The priests of Judaism has power to cleanse the body from leprosy or rather, not to cleanse it at all, but to declare a person as having been cleansed. Our priests have received the power not of treating with the leprosy of the body, but with spiritual uncleanness; not of declaring cleansed, but actually cleansing what mean-souled wretch is there who would despise so great a good? None I dare say, unless he be urged on by a devilish impulse!" (1120). Unless you tell the magnitude of your debt, you do not experience the abundance of grace (1132)

St. Ambrose (AD 387): - [The sinner] not only confesses his sins, but he even enumerates them and admits his guilt; for he does not want to conceal his faults. For just as fevers are not able to be assuaged when they are deep seated, but offer a hope of cessation when they break, so too the illness of sins burns on while it is hidden, but disappears when it shows itself in confessions." (1259) "Note well that it is through the Holy Spirit that sins are forgiven. Men make use of their ministry in the forgiveness of sins, but they are not exercising any power that is theirs by right. It is not in their own name, but in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit that they forgive sins. They ask and the Divinity forgives. The ministration is of man, but the gift bestowed is from the power on high(1287). For those to whom [the right of binding and of loosing] has been given, it is plain that either both are allowed, or it is clear that neither is allowed. Both are allowed to the church, neither is allowed to heresy. For this right has been granted to priests only. (1293) "He promised His mercy to all, and granted to His priests the license of forgiving sins with out any exception." (1294), "It seemed likewise impossible for sins to be forgiven through penance; yet Christ granted even this to His Apostles, and by His Apostles it has been transmitted to the office of priests. (1297).

St. Jerome (AD 398): Just as in the Old Testament the priest makes the leper clean or unclean, so in the New Testament the bishop and presbyter binds or loose not those who are innocent or guilty, but by reason of their office, when they have heard various kinds of sins, they know who is to be bound and who to be loosed. (1386)

Martin Luther: The words of Christ Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained. (John 20:23) (Math 18:18) What is private confession? It has two parts, first we make a personal confession to the pastor and then we receive absolution, which means forgiveness as from God Himself. The absolution we should not doubt, but firmly believe that our sins are forgiven before God in heaven. '

TOC Section 1 (Q 1-26) | Section 2 (Q 27-56) | Section 3 (Q 57-81) | Section 4 (Q 82-115) | Previous Chapter | Next Chapter

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