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Killing and Penance

drewmeister2

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On the Self-Defense thread, Anastasios said this:

"Now if he does it to save someone else, this is noble, but the fact still remains that he took a life. Orthodox canons don't tend to take the rightness or wrongness of any given killing into account because regardless of whether it was right or wrong it still causes a change ontologically. You can not be guilty of something but still it will effect you; so if I take a life even for a good reason I have still ended a life and this will effect me. For instance, many people who have killed in self-defense still have nightmares about what happened due to the psychic changes.

Also, there is the question of scandal; if someone has killed it might cause scandal to let him be a priest.

The Byzantines would make people in their army do penance after killing someone in war. Now interestingly enough St Basil gives an exception for killing in war as far as if someone can become a priest afterwards. Perhaps this is due to the lack of choice involved. But regardless of whether killing in war is an impediment, the fact remains that any taking of life is to be followed by penance because of the effect and change this causes. Whether what one did was justifiable or not doesn't seem to be taken into account in Orthodox canons."

An interesting thought came into my mind about this part though: "But regardless of whether killing in war is an impediment, the fact remains that any taking of life is to be followed by penance because of the effect and change this causes." Is the penance assigned so much as to be a punishment for a sin? Or is it to help strengthen a person in Christ during a possibly very difficult time (both mentally and spiritually)?ÂÂ

Thanks :) (Please, no debating on this one ;))
 

choirfiend

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It is given not so much as a penalty for sin, but as a consequence thereof. If you are told not the touch the stove, and you do anyway, and are burned, was that a punishment, or a consequence? The same concept applies here. If we kill, we spend time in repentence.
It is also to help strengthen a person in Christ during a possibly very difficult time (both mentally and spiritually) because, just as we all need Lenten times of repentence and giving further attention to our spiritual state, so someone who has been forced to kill or who has otherwise killed in self defense needs the time of prayer and repentence in order to pay attention to their spiritual state and forgive themselves, even if Christ has already.

 

drewmeister2

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choirfiend said:
If we kill, we spend time in repentence.
But why must we repent, if the act of self-defense is justifyable?  Ie, I remember someone bringing up the story about how a woman in New York was raped, and all her neighbors just locked their doors and ignored it.  But if someone actually went over to try to help the poor woman, and they ended up killing the rapist, they would have to repent, even though what they did was necessary (and possibly even the right thing to do, as ignoring the need of the helpless woman might not be good either)? 
 

choirfiend

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It's less about justifiableness and more about brokenness....We're kinda less about "justice" and more about "wounding."

Someone may not be guilty of causing their unborn baby's death. Women miscarriage all the time. But ask any woman about a miscarriage and her mourning for the child and her wondering if she could have done anything differently. Someone who kills another in un-preventable car accident may not be held accountable for their death, even by the secular law, but ask that person if they feel responsible for the death...Someone may be forced to choose between defending one's self to the death against someone intent upon taking their life, but ask that person if they still feel the affects of knowing they killed someone.

Sin is not about "right and wrong" or the scorecard which keeps track of sins with a space on the side for those considered "justifyable."  It is about sin wounding and changing the very fiber of a person's being and changing their relationship with fellow man and with God as well. This is why someone would need the medicene of "penance."


This will be a very different understanding and quite possibly hard for you to understand, coming from a RCC background, for the legalistic side of things was certainly overemphasized there. If I killed the worst murderer in the world, I would still repent, because I was the cause of the death of one of God's children.
 

drewmeister2

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Thank you!

This is starting to make sense.

But why do some call murder in defense of yourself or another as "missing the mark"?

Is it because, as you said above: "It is about sin wounding and changing the very fiber of a person's being and changing their relationship with fellow man and with God as well." ?  So since murder in any case changes a person, it is missing the mark?
 

choirfiend

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It is not change of a person alone that constitutes sin, because we also change toward God, rather than away from Him. In my understanding, this teaching on killing another person is LESS about YOU, because you were faced with a horrible decision--the teaching is about the person who DIED, in recognition that they were one of God's children, that death was not the intended fate for any of us, and that causing the death of another is a horrific action that happen sometimes in our fallen world, where we are often faced with 2 choices that both have bad consequences.

God, in His great mercy and wisdom, can take the horrific decisions we make in this world and use them to shape us for good. If we have killed someone, in order to shape us for the good and prevent us from falling away from God, we spend time in mourning for our actions, even if there was no other option. Mothers who have tubal pregnancies have to have the baby removed lest their tubes burst and they both die. It results in death, and there is no other option. They are not guilty of sin, but you better believe they're going to mourn that little baby and pray for this fallen world that can allow situations such as this.
 

admiralnick

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Alot of this is still not too intuitively clear. Christ tells us the story of the man who fell among robbers and a priest and levite passed by him on the otherside and did not help, but a samaritan stopped to help and take care of the man. If we act in self-defense or in defense of another we are being like the samaritan, but if we do nothing because we want to avoid the "wound" we are commiting an even more grievous sin IMO since christ says if you have/have not done this to/for the least of my breathern, you have/have not done this to/for me. Did not even Christ defend his Mother when her bier was going to be overturned? Did he not send the Archangel Michael to cut off the man's hands? Is that not defense of another on the part of Christ? 

P.S. Don't take this in the mean tone that it imparts, think of it in more of a "tell me a story" type tone  ;D
 

ozgeorge

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admiralnick said:
Is that not defense of another on the part of Christ?ÂÂ
Can we take on the perogatives of God? Christ also made a leather whip and drove the moneychangers out of the Temple...are we permitted to do the same? The poor old sacristan selling the candles and the ladies running the book stall may be in for a shock next Sunday! :D
 
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