Penance | Russian Oldbeliever Church

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The Russian Orthodox Old Believer Church

The official website of the Moscow Metropolitanate.

Address: Russia, Moscow, Rogozhsky Poselok street, 1A, 5.
Phone: +7 (495) 361-51-91


Penance is a spiritual instruction designed to help a person overcome his sinful predilections and serve as atonement for the sin or sins committed. Penance may consist in specific prayer assignments (for example, to make a certain number of daily bows with prayer to some saint or to read some kafism), in specially specified types of abstinence (for example, from meat or alcohol), in some household recommendations (for example, not to communicate with such a person, not to to do such and such a thing, or, conversely, to do something constantly: for example, to do alms). All this is determined by the priest at his discretion on the basis of patristic rules and church customs.


Penance is given, as a rule, for a specific stipulated time: for several years, until the next confession, until the next fast). In matters of choosing and assigning penance, the priest often consults with the penitent himself, as far as it is feasible to perform.

Penance is feasible, but not too easy work, which should benefit the soul of the penitent. The performance of penance testifies to the sincere intention of the penitent to receive forgiveness of sins, his willingness to work hard for this.

Christ, handing over to his disciples-apostles the power of forgiveness of sins, bequeathed: “To whom you forgive sins, they will be forgiven; to whom you leave, they will remain.” (John 20:23). In other words, the confessor, in full accordance with the letter and spirit of the Gospel, is given the right not only to forgive sins, but also not to forgive them for the time being. In the past centuries, both of these possibilities – to forgive and not to forgive – were used by the Holy Church equally often, which undoubtedly helped Christians to improve effectively in keeping the commandments and living a virtuous life.

If a person diligently fulfills the penance he has received, the grace of God strengthens him in keeping the commandments and protects him from the devil’s tricks. Confession, backed up by diligent observance of penance, is never in vain and certainly promotes a person along the path of spiritual perfection.

The meaning of penance also lies in the fact that, by performing it, a person by his labors gradually extinguishes the righteous wrath of God, ignited because of the sins he committed, and inclines the Lord to mercy. Thus, a person goes to reconciliation with God. Therefore, the words that conclude the confession, which the priest pronounces on behalf of the Lord – “God will forgive you”, he pronounces as if in advance: Not now he has already forgiven, namely, then, later, after the real correction of life, and, in any case, faithfully performed penance.