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Doing Penance for Another Person

Landon77

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  I have a question regarding the practice of doing penance for someone else.  I was reading a book on St. Seraphim of Sarov called Flame in the Snow: A Life of St. Serafim of Sarov by Julia de Beausobre.  In this book, St. Serafim tells the men who crippled him (when they come back to beg for forgiveness and to ask a penance to carry out) that he is already doing their penance for them.  So I guess my basi question is, "Is this widely practiced by Orthodox Christians?"  It struck me as sounding very... Roman Catholic- not that that is automaticly a bad thing.
 

greekischristian

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As the purpose of penance is to rebuild and uplift someone spiritually, and not to pay back some debt, the concept of doing penance for another person seems rather absurd. However, considering the example that you gave perhaps he saw that they were overly distraught and he needed to reassure them, or that they were not repentant and needed to make them feel guilty...I could see numerous pastoral reasons for such a statement.
 

ozgeorge

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When St. Nektarios of Aegina was the Director of the Rizarios Theological school in Athens, two of the students became involved in a fistfight. They were summoned to his office and he listened to both sides, and replied: "I have no choice but to punish myself" and gave orders to the school cook not to prepare any meals for the him. The startled boys, out of respect and love for the school director, were reconciled with one another so that the Saint would start eating again.
 

Fr. George

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It seems that none of the above statements are incongruous... the two saints attributed sin to themselves in the extreme case, followed through with a course of reconciliation themselves that also helped to move the primary parties involved to better reconciliation themselves, thus building up their bonds and ties through their συνκατάβασις....
 

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cleveland said:
It seems that none of the above statements are incongruous...
I think it is incongruous to say that "Penance" as understood by the Orthodox to be "epitemia"- medicine for the soul, is the same as "penance" as understood by Roman Catholics to be "satisfaction". Both St. Nektarios and St. Seraphim were actually applying an "epitemia" to heal the souls of those who had fallen into sin. By awakening Love in the sinners in both cases, they call them to repentance. So in fact, both St. Nektarios and St. Seraphim were really administering a penance (according to Orthodox understanding- "epitemia) on the others, rather than themselves, and they did this with great discernment.
 

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I normally try to stay away from the word penance specifically for that reason... It is one of the things seminary is teaching me well about - precision in language is important in order for people to understand.  If one uses penance, then one will get the presuppositions that come with western "penance" versus "epitimia."
 

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cleveland said:
I normally try to stay away from the word penance specifically for that reason... It is one of the things seminary is teaching me well about - precision in language is important in order for people to understand.  If one uses penance, then one will get the presuppositions that come with western "penance" versus "epitimia."
And if you use epitmia, people will think you are speaking Klingon! That's not much of an improvement  :D
 

Fr. George

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Well, if the person I'm talking to is a shady Romulan, maybe their thinking that I speak Klingon will back them off (at least for a short time - long enough for me to get away).
 

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cleveland said:
Well, if the person I'm talking to is a shady Romulan, maybe their thinking that I speak Klingon will back them off (at least for a short time - long enough for me to get away).
Isn't the point to educate them in Church teachings instead of having a conspiracy theory that they are romulans?  ???
 

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Meekle said:
Isn't the point to educate them in Church teachings instead of having a conspiracy theory that they are romulans?  ??? 
Sorry man, just a joke about the whole Romulan thing.  If it came down to it, I would probably spend the two or three mintues explaining the difference between epitimia and penance, for the benefit of whomever I'm speaking to.  It will have the effect of getting them to appreciate the difference, while getting them to learn the word, since I'll probably say it7 or 8 times while explaining it...
 

Landon77

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  Well, if you would like to spend seven or eight minutes explaining it to me, I wouldn't mind.  ;)  Because my next question is going to be about how St. Seraphim (or is it Serafim) taught people to imagine things while praying, sort of like the mysteries of the Rosary.
 
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