Tag Archives: confession

Daily Office Basics – The Psalms

Today’s installment of Daily Office Basics could also be called “Beginning the Office,” as we consider the various ways to begin Morning or Evening Prayer.

The Daily Office is the public prayer of the Church, not just prayers for us to say at home, so the opening sentences are options to give a seasonal flavor to the service.

The Confession of Sin is optional, too. Some people choose to say it only occasionally, others once a day at Evening Prayer. For me, the Confession is not optional but critical, so I say it every time I pray the office.

The introduction to the Confession in Morning Prayer contains a perfect little statement about what we are doing when we pray the Daily Office:

Dearly beloved, we have come together in the presence of Almighty God our heavenly Father, to set forth his praise, to hear his holy Word, and to ask, for ourselves and on behalf of others, those things that are necessary for our life and our salvation. (BCP 79)

Once we’ve looked at the opening sentences and the Confession of Sin in this video, we get to the proper start of the office, the Psalms with which we “set forth God’s praise.”

In the next two installments, we’ll look at the Lessons and Canticles in which we “hear God’s holy Word,” and then we’ll talk about the Prayers in which we “ask, for ourselves, and on behalf of others, those things that are necessary for our life and salvation.”

 

12 Steps of Christmas | Holy Innocents

Step Five – “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

The readings for the Eucharist on the Feast of the Holy Innocents can be found here. Additionally, the Gospel reading appointed for Morning Prayer is here.

This doesn’t feel like Christmas!

Having confronted the darkness inside us with John yesterday, we confront a ruler’s murderous rage and the killing of innocent children today.

Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, sure stirs up fierce reactions in us and in the society around us.

But as we considered in Step Four yesterday, we have done a lot of stirring up ourselves — causing grief and pain within ourselves and harm to those around us. Our moral inventory is a long list of the wrongs we have done to ourselves and to others.

holy-innocents-rachel-weeping

Today, Step Five invites us to take the next critical step in admitting our faults. We must talk to someone about them.

So intense, though, is our fear and reluctance to do this, that many A.A.’s at first try to bypass Step Five. We search for an easier way—which usually consists of the general and fairly painless admission that when drinking we were sometimes bad actors. Then, for good measure, we add dramatic descriptions of that part of our drinking behavior which our friends probably know about anyhow. But of the things which really bother and burn us, we say nothing. Certain distressing or humiliating memories, we tell ourselves, ought not be shared with anyone. These will remain our secret. Not a soul must ever know. We hope they’ll go to the grave with us. (55)

Along with good insight about the importance of spiritual counsel, Step Five also highlights two difficulties we will face in the process of making our confession real — for that is what we are talking about — and then of understanding what we must do next.

The first difficulty

Many people think they understand confession in a religious sense, but we too often caricature the worst examples of each other’s positions.

In the Roman Catholic Church, largely because it comprises half of the world’s Christians, the problem with confession to a priest — basically what Step Five is describing — is the sheer volume. If everyone really ought to confess before they go to Mass on Sunday, then priests have to hear too many confessions to make them very personal at all.

Until we actually sit down and talk aloud about what we have so long hidden, our willingness to clean house is still largely theoretical. When we are honest with another person, it confirms that we have been honest with ourselves and with God. (60)

Confession, or seeking the advice of a spiritual director, can have the benefit of making real the spiritual forgiveness we are promised in Jesus Christ. More than just going to the confessional booth, though, this may need to be a longer conversation with a priest or director.

Sometimes we simply need to say our sins out loud; and sometimes we simply need to hear from another person that we are forgiven before we can really believe it.

The second difficulty

For Protestants, the understanding that one has direct access to God through Christ, without the need for a human mediator — while true — may mean that Christians do not avail themselves of spiritual counsel and the assurance of forgiveness given by another human being

The second difficulty is this: what comes to us alone may be garbled by our own rationalization and wishful thinking. The benefit of talking to another person is that we can get his direct comment and counsel on our situation, and there can be no doubt in our minds what that advice is. (60)

While many Protestants participate in regular Bible studies or in accountability groups, simply talking about your struggles and getting advice from people close to you may not have the sacramental “heft” that enables you to believe Jesus’ assurance that you have been forgiven.

What must we do?

The Gospel reading at Morning Prayer is an example of “prophetic hyperbole” — Jesus is using exaggeration in order to make a point.

But Jesus’ point is clear: we must be bold and decisive in admitting our wrongs and working to eliminate them from our lives.

If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into the hell of fire. (Matt. 18:8-9)

Step Five couldn’t support this notion more fully:

Provided you hold back nothing, your sense of relief will mount from minute to minute. The dammed-up emotions of years break out of their confinement, and miraculously vanish as soon as they are exposed. As the pain subsides, a healing tranquillity takes its place. And when humility and serenity are so combined, something else of great moment is apt to occur. Many an A.A., once agnostic or atheistic, tells us that it was during this stage of Step Five that he first actually felt the presence of God. And even those who had faith already often become conscious of God as they never were before. (62)

So the process of speaking to another person about our wrongs gives us the opportunity to turn and make a new start on our lives.

But on this feast day of the Holy Innocents we must also be mindful that making Step Five also commits us to undoing the harm that our actions have brought to others — the process of making amends that is the subject of Steps Eight and Nine.

May your new start — begun with the honest admission of your wrongdoing — give you the strength to continue making the changes that are ahead of you.

As for me, I will live with integrity;
redeem me, O Lord, and have pity on me.

My foot stands on level ground;
in the full assembly will I bless the Lord. (Ps. 26:11-12)

Step Four on Ash Wednesday

genuflect

Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
and did not conceal my guilt.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.”
Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.

(Psalm 32:5-6)

A couple of weeks ago my AA sponsor and I knelt together as I prayed that God would “relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do his will … and take away my difficulties, that my victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy power, Thy love, and Thy way of life” (Big Book 63).

This prayer of abandonment to God’s will is what AA calls Step Three and what the Book of Common Prayer calls in the Ash Wednesday liturgy “a right beginning of our repentance, and a mark of our mortal nature” (BCP 265).

Today Lent begins, and for me a very particular process of self-examination and repentance.

I have reached the point in my recovery where it’s time to begin Step Four — to conduct a “searching and fearless moral inventory” of myself — and then to take Step Five, to admit to God, to myself, and to another human being the exact nature of my wrongs.

Though I have been in the Church all my life, I am beginning to understand for myself the wisdom of traditional practices like Confession, what the Book of Common Prayer calls Reconciliation of a Penitent (BCP 447). We need at times to write down what we’ve done wrong, to say it out loud to another person, and to hear from them our Lord’s assurance of forgiveness.

Lent is a particularly appropriate time for this hard and holy work, and I am embracing it gladly as my main observance this year.

And now, O Lord, I bend the knee of my heart,
and make my appeal, sure of your gracious goodness.
(Canticle 14, BCP 91)

Whatever you may decide to do to mark this Lent, I invite you to take it seriously but joyfully.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer (BCP 265).