The Order of General Confession
Held after Sunset before the Liturgy . According to Orthodox Usage.
(If General Confession is used, it should take place the Evening before the Divine Liturgy. The Priest must: 1) read the Prayers before Confession; 2) call the penitents to repentance; 3) enumerate all acts, thoughts and desires with which we offend the holiness of Almighty God, the sanctity of our neighbor and the sanctity of our own soul - in this enumeration, each one will acknowledge himself and truly repent - the more deeply the pastor examines his own conscience, the fuller the General Confession, and the spirit of repentance generated by it, will be; 4) call the penitents to direct their inner vision from their unworthiness to the Lord's Table awaiting them, to God's mercy and love - he will call them to desire with their whole being that communion of which we are never worthy, however is always a gift to us; 5) ask those who feel the need to add something, because of a special burden on their conscience, to move aside and wait - the others will approach the Priest, one by one, and the Priest will read the Prayer of Absolution, covering their heads with the Epitrachelion and giving them the Cross to kiss; 6) while all those who have been reconciled listen to the Prayers before Communion, the Priest will confess individually those who have to complete the general confession and absolve them. General Confession is under no circumstances meant simply to replace Private Confession. It is not and must not be a substitute. However, especially found in the Russian Church where it is practiced, those who take part in such a general confession begin to have a much better private confession, filled with meaning and reality. It's use also gives the Priest the time necessary for a more attentive confession of those who really need Private Confession, and will thus become a way to common growth in the spirit of repentance. -- Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann)
Prayers before Holy Confession
PRIEST: Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal: have mercy on us. (3X)
All Holy Trinity, have mercy on us. Lord, cleanse us from our sins. Master, pardon our iniquities. Holy God, visit and heal our infirmities for Your Name's sake.
Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Glory to the Father + and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: both now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name; Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, of the Father, +
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy great mercy: according the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out mine iniquity. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge mine iniquity: and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee only have I sinned and done evil in Thy sight: that Thou mightest be justified in Thy words, and prevail when Thou art judged.
For behold, I was shapen in iniquity: and in sin did my mother conceive me. For behold, Thou has loved truth: the unclear and hidden things of Thy wisdom Thou hast made clear to me. Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Thou shalt make me to hear joy and gladness: the bones which Thou hast broken shall rejoice. Turn away Thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God: and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence: and take not Thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation: and steady me with a guiding spirit. Then will I teach transgressors Thy ways: and the impious shall be converted unto Thee. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, Thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of Thy righteousness. O Lord, open Thou my lips: and my mouth shall declare Thy praise. For hadst Thou desired sacrifice, I would have given it Thee: Thou delightest not in burnt offerings. Sacrifices to God are a contrite spirit: a contrite and humble heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise. Do good, O Lord, in Thy good will unto Zion: that the walls of Jerusalem may be built up. Then shalt Thou be pleased with the sacrifice of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offerings: then shall they offer bullocks upon Thine altar.
Have mercy on us, O Lord, according to Thy great mercy, we pray unto Thee, hearken and have mercy.
Furthermore, we pray for the remission of sins, both voluntary and involuntary of we Thy servants: we pray unto Thee, hearken and have mercy.
For You are a merciful God, and to You we give glory to the Father + , and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Calling the Penitents to Repentance
PRIEST: God does not desire the death of a sinner, but rather that he turn away from his sins and live. In the Holy Sacrament of Penance, we have the means whereby we may obtain forgiveness of our sins, and be restored to the favour of Almighty God.
In order that you may make a good confession, it is necessary for us to prepare ourselves carefully. We ask God to give us grace to make a thorough examination of conscience, courage to make a sincere and complete confession, and strength to amend our way of life in the days to come.
Let us begin our examination with the time of our last confession; try to recall whether you omitted anything through carelessness or lapse of memory, or from fear of embarrassment. Let us examine ourselves with the assistance of the form of self- examination according to the Ten Commandments:
1) I am the Lord Thy God. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me:
Has God had the first place in your life?
Do you love or fear anyone or anything more than Almighty God?
Have you neglected your daily prayers?
Have you placed the claims of God on your time, money and talent first, and then on your own concerns?
2) Thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven Image:
Have you trusted in anything or anyone more than Almighty God?
Have you venerated the Holy Icons and the Precious Cross in the correct way?
Have you loved yourself, money, power or position more than Almighty God?
3) Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain:
Have you wished that evil might come to anyone?
Have you used profane language, cursed or sworn at others?
Have you fulfilled our promises to God?
Have you attended superstitious practices, or been to fortune-tellers?
4) Remember to keep holy the Lord's Day:
Have you brushed aside thoughts of Almighty God, His Day, His Word, His Services, His Holy Orthodox and Catholic Church?
Have you spoken against the Lord, or against His Holy Church, His priests and teachers?
Have you attended the Divine Liturgy each Lord's Day?
Have you permitted anything to interfere with your Sacred Obligations?
5) Honour thy father and thy mother:
Have you thought evil in your heart towards your parents or superiors?
Have you spoken against parents or superiors and provoked them or others to anger?
Have you disobeyed or been disrespectful to your parents or superiors?
Have you prayed for them, and taken care of them?
6) Thou shalt not kill:
Have you secretly hated others or wanted to harm them in any way?
Have you wished that evil come upon others?
Have you spoken against others unjustly or provoked others to hatred?
Have you quarreled or teased others?
Have you purposely injured your own health or that of others?
Have you drunk or eaten excessively?
7) Thou shalt not commit adultery:
Have you indulged in impure thoughts or lustful desires?
Have you listened to or told obscene stories?
Have you done impure things with yourself or with others?
Have you been faithful to your wife, your children and to your family?
8) Thou shalt not steal:
Have you schemed to get for yourself what belongs to others?
Have you told untruths about things you sold, that is, misrepresented the value of things?
Have you taken what belongs to others - things, money, time, and their good name?
Have you contributed to the Holy Church?
9) Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour:
Do you think evil of others or hold grudges?
Have you judged, slandered or gossiped about others?
Have you lied to or about others?
Have you testified falsely?
Have you encouraged evil talk or deed in others, both at home and at the work-place?
10) Thou shalt not covet:
Have you been jealous or envious of others and their goods?
Have you been bored with your family and friends?
Have you connived with others about getting what does not belong to you?
Have you tried to take what belongs to another?
PRAYER OF THE SPIRITUAL FATHER
PRIEST: Behold, my spiritual children, Christ stands here invisibly, and receives your confession. Therefore, let us not be ashamed, nor afraid to admit our faults and errors before Almighty God: tell Him, doubting nothing, all those things which you have done wrong; and then shall we have pardon from Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Here, His Holy Image is before us: and I am but a witness, bearing testimony before Him of all the things that we have confessed. But, if we try to conceal anything from Almighty God, we shall have the greater sin. Let us take care, therefore, so that having come to the Divine Physician, we do not depart unhealed.
We have sinned, O Lord, forgive us, O God, be merciful unto us sinners.
Let us pray: We sinners, confess to Almighty God, the Lord, One in the Holy Trinity, to the Immaculate Virgin Mary the Theotokos and Mother of God, to all the Saints, and to our Spiritual Father, all our sins.
For these and all our other sins which we cannot now remember, we are heartily sorry that we have offended Almighty God, Who is good, and angered Him against us: we sincerely repent, and we promise with the help of Almighty God to better our way of life: wherefore we humbly ask you, our Spiritual Father, saving penance and absolution.
Let us pray to the Lord.
O Lord God, the Salvation of Your servants, gracious, bountiful and long-suffering, who forgive us concerning our evil deeds, and desire not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live: Show Your mercy upon Your servants and grant unto them an image of repentance, forgiveness of sins, and deliverance, pardoning their every transgression, whether voluntary or involuntary. Reconcile and unite them unto Your Holy Church, through Jesus Christ our Lord, to Whom also, with You, are due dominion and majesty: now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
(The Priest then takes his right hand and places the end of his Stole upon the head of each penitent and pronounces the Words of Absolution:)
May our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, through the grace and bounties of His love towards mankind, forgive you, my child,
all your sins and transgressions. And, I, His unworthy Priest, through the power given to me by Him, do forgive and absolve you from all your sins. In the Name of the Father + and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
(The penitents kiss the Holy Cross and then all receive the Blessing.)
May Christ, our True God, through the intercessions of His most Holy Mother, and of all the Saints, have mercy upon us and save us, forasmuch as He is good and is the Lover of mankind.
(The penitents then return to their seats and give thanks to Almighty God for His goodness, by saying the Prayers Before Holy Communion.)