14 August 2007

Some Further Thoughts on Confession


Just some musings I posted elsewhere... thought they might go good here as well.

Sin is not just between us and God. When we sin -literally miss the mark- we harm our relationship with God and cause damage to our fellow man, even if we fail to recognize that fact. When we convince ourselves that 'confessing directly to God' is good enough (and certainly it is good... just not quite good enough) then we loose the valuable experience of humility that comes with the Confessional experience.

In the ancient Church, such confessions were public... everyone knew what you did, because you confessed to everyone. History tells us that the greater and greater influx of people to the Church, coupled with the harsh discipline of the Montanists and Donatists, lead to the end of public confession of specific sins and into the privacy of what we today consider Confession.

I am of the mind that there should be no specific Confession of Sins in Christian worship. These confessions are general, and sins are never general. Sins are always specific. Further, the liturgical texts (when properly employed) serve to paint a strong balance between sin & God's righteous anger and forgiveness & God's abundant mercy.

Further, to avoid the humiliation (that's what it is) of confessing our sins is a manifest refusal to take up our cross and be humiliated like Jesus.

Finally, Confession of sins needs to be thought of less juridically and more compassionately. The confessional act is a spiritual hospital for the sin-sick soul. We need the grace of the Great Physician, ministered by his residents, nurses, care-techs, etc... to avoid it is like not going to the hospital for a burst appendix.

Confession isn't very pleasant... but hell is even more unpleasant. When we fail to comprehend how our sins harm others, and fail to acknowledge them in utter humiliation, we fail to learn from our sins and avoid them in the future...

That's stubborn pride, and as we all know, pride goeth before a fall.

2 comments:

IM Cupnjava August 20, 2007 at 3:28 PM  

I replied to this post, but it got a little long. I posted it on my blog.

http://itinerantsoulism.blogspot.com/2007/08/sacrament-of-reconciliation.html

Fr. Bryan Marabanian August 20, 2007 at 10:54 PM  

"Sin is not just between us and God. When we sin -literally miss the mark- we harm our relationship with God and cause damage to our fellow man, even if we fail to recognize that fact. When we convince ourselves that 'confessing directly to God' is good enough (and certainly it is good... just not quite good enough) then we loose the valuable experience of humility that comes with the Confessional experience."

While humility is a valuable lesson to learn, the point of the sacrament is to reconcile the sinner to Christ and the Church. Focusing strictly on humility does a great disservice to all three parties.

"Further, to avoid the humiliation (that's what it is) of confessing our sins is a manifest refusal to take up our cross and be humiliated like Jesus."

I couldn't disagree more. It is never the job of an ordained person to judge the intentions of another person or the state of that person's soul. There are many valid reasons why a person would avoid the sacrament. Instead of brow-beating the faithful into submission, we should welcome them into right-relationship with God and the Church. We often forget that Christ suffered and was humiliated because of sin so that his faithful would no longer have to be.

"Confession isn't very pleasant... but hell is even more unpleasant." To imply that those who don't receive the sacrament of reconciliation will go to hell is completely inappropriate. We're priests, not psychics. To make such implications is to claim direct knowledge of God's Holy Will. To make such claims also places limits on the will of God. All good ministers are careful to avoid such situations. Priests are messengers of Christ's compassionate love, not his "righteous anger".

All original material (C) 2007-2010 by Father Robert Lyons.

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