Where Does the Sacrament Take Place?

As mentioned in the Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches (1990), the place of the sacrament is ordinarily to take place within in the church and according to the law of the particular church.

For most of the Byzantine churches, the sacrament takes place before the iconostasis.  What is an iconostasis?  (click on the image below for a larger size)

The Iconostasis is what sets apart the sanctuary from the rest of the parish church.  During the sacrament, you would stand before the Icon of Jesus Christ, facing (with the priest) the icon itself.

In other Eastern churches– for example, in the Maronite rite — the sacrament does not take place before the iconostasis, but rather it takes place in a confessional.  This is very Roman and is the result of that Eastern church’s assimilation of Roman practice.  (Chupungco says that none of the Eastern Churches use the Roman confessional, but the experience of persons who attend a local Maronite church disprove that).

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4 Responses to Where Does the Sacrament Take Place?

  1. Deacon Jaskierny says:

    I am curious about when this sacrament is celebrated within the Eastern Churches. I know that typically there is not a tradition of daily Divine Liturgy in the East except in the monasteries. Normally there would only be one Divine Liturgy celebrated for the entire parish on Sunday. Since their understanding of when to celebrate the Eucharist is different than that of the West, I am wondering about Penance as well. In the West, the Sacrament of Penance is normally offered at least once per week, and ideally more often, even every day. What is the practice in the East?

    • ajgerber says:

      The practice is as varied in the East as it is in the West. At St. Raymond’s here in St. Louis, it is before every liturgy, which is daily. At the Ruthenian-Byzantine mission, it is by appointment (there might be confessions before the Saturday night vigil, but I cannot find them). At the Ukrainian Church, I could not find any information. It appears to depend on how large the parish is….

      I know that, just as in the West, there are certain penitential times (Advent and Lent for example), where confessions are heard more often.

  2. Michael Grosch says:

    Do the Eastern Churches have face-to-face confession as well? This seems like a relatively recent concept in confession, and I was wondering how the practice of the Roman Rite in recent years has impacted the practice in the East.

    Also, if the priest is without a confessional, are they able to have it “on the fly” so to speak?

    • ajgerber says:

      Some do (the Maronites, some Byzantines,…). And from what I’ve read, you appear to be right that it is a relatively recent concept in the East. Without a doubt, the practice of the Roman Rite has impacted the practice in the East– especially those churches who reunited with Rome. They were quick to take on many Roman practices. But, as well, many other Eastern Catholics, as they have become a minority in their countries and as priests and parishes have become more sparse, have turned to Roman Catholic priests and parishes to receive their sacraments. I have encountered a few Eastern Catholics who have never been to an Eastern Catholic priest for confession– they only know the Roman practice. This certainly has an affect on Eastern practice, I would imagine.

      As to confession “on the fly,” Canon 736 says “1. The proper place for celebrating the sacrament of penance is a church, with due regard for the prescriptions of particular law. 2. Due to infirmity or another just cause, this sacrament can be celebrated outside the proper place.” There was, in an article or book that I read– sadly, I cannot find it– a eastern church which forbade the hearing of confessions in the sacristy or anywhere else such that the confession would be illicit. I would think that in the case of necessity or gravity, all bets are off. But, it does seem that “on the fly” is allowed but not necessarily encouraged.

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