The Rites – The Syriac Church

AN EXAMPLE OF THE SYRIAC TRADITION (from the 12th century)

“… confession [should] be heard while seated at the door of the church.  The penitent should present himself with head uncovered, hands joined, eyes downcast, and kneel at the priest’s right for the confession.  After having heard the confession, the priest says: ‘Keep yourself from repeating these deeds.  I pardon you here as does God in heaven, and the deed that you have revealed will not be made manifest again on the day of Judgment, nor will you be condemned on its account.’

“Then the priest recites psalms and the Gloria, a number of ancient prayers, readings, and hymns, adding to them prayers relative to each sin, and lays on hands.  When the confession has to do with the sins of the flesh or lies, there is found at this point a reminder of the promise of Christ to the apostles: ‘What you bind on earth… ‘  Finally, he imposes the canonical penance.  After the penitent has completed the penance that had been imposed, he must once again present himself to the confessor.  The confessor places his hands on the penitent’s head, breathes three times into his face, and says: ‘May this sin be wiped away from your soul and body, in the name of the Father.  May you be purified and made holy in the name of the Son.  May you be pardoned and reconciled in the name of the Holy Spirit'” (Chapungco, 108).

But for most of the Syrian Eastern Catholics– for example, the Chaldeans, the Malabarese, the Maronites– they “have been inspired by the Roman Ritual” and use an indicative formula (eg: “I absolve you…”)

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4 Responses to The Rites – The Syriac Church

  1. hpurcell says:

    I find it interesting that the rite also includes instructions for the faithful to follow to indicate their contrition. I have not seen requirements in Roman Rituals to ‘appear with eyes downcast,’ etc. before the priest. This tradition highlights the unity of the person who is made both body and soul: his contrition will manifest itself in how he carries himself, especially into the confessional.

    Another point to note is that this rite still has the order of the steps of penance from the ancient Church, in that the canonical penance is performed before the penitent is absolved of his sins. I wonder, have some of the Syriac Churches today ‘Romanized’ in this aspect too? That is, have any of them begun to give absolution before the penitent completes his penance?

  2. Rev. Mr. Marco De Loera says:

    I was just wandering about the seal of confession in this rite. Are the priests from this rite bound to the same seal of secrecy than the priest of the Roman Rite?

    • ajgerber says:

      Yes, they are. According to CIC (EC) 728.1: “Absolution from the following sins is reserved to the Apostolic See: 1. direction violation of the sacramental seal.” This implies that it could be broken and that priests are thus bound to keep it.

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