Palm Sunday 2017 – Penance

Forgiveness

Q.

What is Reconciliation of a Penitent?

A.

Reconciliation of a Penitent, or Penance, is the rite in

which those who repent of their sins may confess them

to God in the presence of a priest, and receive the

assurance of pardon and the grace of absolution.

 

Occasionally I have heard someone say something like “I wish we had confession in our church”. The answer is, that if you look in our Prayer Books you will see that we do. The Anglican Reformers, although they wanted to do away with the idea that people

had to make private confession to  a priest, were very insistent that this needed to be an option.  They, of course, believed that the absolution that we receive after the congregation makes a general confession is completely valid when received in faith. At the same time they outlined a couple of reasons why individual sacramental confession continued to be important. First of all because it was a way that a Christian could speak about their spiritual life with a priest.  Secondly because, even when we have received the general absolution, there still might be cases in which our consciences remain troubled and we need to say some things out loud and be forgiven

.

 

The 1962 Book of Common Prayer says that the priest should read the

Exhortation

to the Congregation at least four times a year. This exhortation is on pages 90-91 of the 1962 Canadian BCP. It includes the following “And because it is requisite, that no man should come to the holy Communion, but with a full trust in God’s mercy, and with a quiet conscience; therefore if there be any of you, who by this means cannot quiet his own conscience herein, but requireth further comfort or counsel, let him come to me, or to some other discreet Minister of God’s Word, and open his grief; that by the ministry of God’s holy Word, he may receive the benefit of absolution, together with spiritual counsel and advice, to the quieting of his conscience, and the avoiding of all scruple and doubtfulness.”

 

C.S. Lewis describes how the characters in the Narnia books sometimes simply find themselves in the presence of Aslan the Lion (who is Christ in these stories) simply being truly known and speaking the truth about themselves. Here they know that they are known. Aslan often says little but that experience of being known itself is enough. They are forgiven.

 

Certainly it may be intimidating to think about this. But it can be profoundly healing. It helps us to overcome shame and regret, receive forgiveness and move on with Christ. Jesus has given us this sacrament as one of his primary ways of grace. In fact, in the Book of Common Prayer, it seems that it is

the

primary ministry of a priest, in that the bishop lays his hands on the priest to be and says “those whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven…”  The church teaches and has taught, since the beginning, that Christ has given his priests the authority to forgive sins by his power. It’s his gift to us.

 

If you feel yourself moved to make your confession, what should you confess? Following the Anglican Reformers, for those who are undertaking this as a regular spiritual practice, the Ten Commandments are one good place to start. Remembering that Jesus tell us that we are to observe these

inwardly

not just outwardly. So, for example. “have no other gods before me” means the various things that we put at the centre of our lives instead of God.

 

In some cases, again, following the Anglican Reformers (and the above exhortation) we might want to confess those things which are troubling our consciences.

 

The forms for making ones’s confession are on the bottom of page 581-582 in the 1962 Book of Common Prayer (the little maroon prayer book), on page 447 of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer (the Blue paper back) or page 171 of the Book of Alternative Services (Green prayer book). They are all pretty much the same.

 

The Anglican Church is

extremely strict that nothing that is said in a confession can ever be spoken of or alluded to under any circumstances by the priest. The priest would not even suggest that someone had made their confession.  Everything that a priest hears is “under the seal” of the sacrament of confession. The only

exception is if a child is suffering significant abuse that must legally be reported. And even then one could expect the priest would offer real support and guidance to the person making their confession.

 

What is the point of this Sacrament? The point is to know Christ’s forgiveness. It’s that simple.

 

The Rev Faith Brace and I will both be available to hear confessions on Good Friday between 2-3pm. Faith will be in the library area of the church. I will be in my office.

 

God’s blessings on you during the upcoming Holy Week.

 

Greg+