CONFESSION IN LENT AND ADVENT is traditional. These penitential times are natural for what is called “auricular confession” - private confession between a penitent and priest. Auricular Confession for Anglicans is underused. This is unfortunate since it is tremendously freeing and uplifting. Everyone thinks of it as a Roman Catholic practice but it has been a practice for Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox, and Lutherans for centuries as well. While it is not mandatory, it is encouraged. There is an old Anglican saying regarding who ought to go to confession: All Can, Some Should, None Must.
WHY DO WE CONFESS THE WAY WE DO?
When we go to Confession we meet Jesus who takes us to himself and, because we are in him and because we are sorry, God our Father forgives us. Each time we sin, we damage the loving relationship that exists between God our Father and ourselves, between Jesus our Brother and ourselves, between the Holy Spirit and ourselves, and between ourselves and the Church.
SIN IS PUBLIC, NO MATTER WHAT
Each time we sin even though the sin may be an entirely private affair we harm the other members of God’s family. We are all members of Christ’s Body, the Church. A sin hurts us individually and so affects all other members. St. Paul writes: ‘If one part is hurt, all parts are hurt with it’.
(I Corinthians 12:26)
That is why it is not just enough to apologize to God, we must also apologize to God’s people, and so we either do so generally (during the service at the time of General Confession) or personally (called “Auricular Confession”) to the Church’s deputy - the priest. So when we go to confession although what we say to the priest and what he says to us is absolutely private, what we are doing is something public. It is much more than when in the privacy of our bedrooms, during our night prayers, we kneel down and tell God we are sorry. All of us participate in the General Confession at each Eucharist and in Morning/Evening Prayer and Compline.
ALL CAN, SOME SHOULD, NONE MUST
Auricular Confession for Anglicans is underused. Everyone thinks of it as a Roman Catholic practice but it is a practice for Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox, and Lutherans as well. There is an old Anglican saying regarding who ought to:
All Can, Some Should, None Must.
WHAT TO EXPECT
The Book of Common Prayer has two forms for Confession. It is called “Reconciliation” in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and can be found on page 447 or page 449.
There is a time in each Rite to confess specific sins. This examination is meant to be an aid in order to help you make a full confession.
All things confessed remain between you and your priest. The seal of the confessional is never broken. This is both established in church and secular law. Your confessor will not bring up anything to you in the future unless you seek counsel.
Along with your absolution the priest may assign what is called “Penance.” This should never be seen as away to “make up” for your sin. Only Jesus Christ can or has done that. Rather, it is a way to make yourself right or your relationship with another right and bring restoration.
PREPARATION FOR ALL TYPES OF CONFESSION
Begin by asking the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus to help me to realize how you need God’s pardon. Ask that He will move you to be truly sorry, that He will help you to see yourself as you really are.
This prayer should be best said in your own words. The following is only a suggestion:
O Spirit of Jesus be with me now.
I have sinned and I stand in need of pardon and help.
Lead me to true sorrow for my sins.
I ask you to help me to search my mind.
If you do not help me, I shall see only what I want to see. I shall make excuses for myself.
And so I ask you to help me to look at my daily living.
Let me see myself as I truly am. Amen.
O Christ my God, at the last day, we will all stand before your judgement seat; now drawn by your mercy and seeking your grace, I come before your presence, and stand as if before you, and the angels and all the whole company of heaven. I bring before you my unrighteousness, my evil thoughts and deeds. Look on my heart, broken by my guilt and humbled in your presence; my sins are more than I can count, and I pray for your mercy. Amen.
Use the following examination to help you list our your sins to confess and bring them written to confession.
THE ANATOMY OF SIN
THE ANATOMY OF VIRTUE
SELF-PERCEPTION AND EXAMINATION
MY INTERACTION WITH OTHERS
With those at home and also those who are related to me but who do not live under the same roof:
My relationship with my parents Grandparents
My relationship with my siblings
My relationship with my children
My relationship with my husband/wife
• Have I treated them with the dignity and respect they deserve as well loved children of God?
• Have I consistently tried to love them as Christ loves them, even at a cost to my convenience? Or have I been selfish at home, moody, inconsiderate of others’ feelings, neither sharing things with them, nor working with them for the good of all?
With those at work:
• Have I cooperated with them for the good of all?
• Have I been honest with my employer/employees/teachers – in the
matter of time-keeping, work materials, and quality of work?
• Do I try to show Charity (Christian Love) to my co-workers, employees, boss etc. seeing them as people created in God’s image?
With those I meet:
• Have I been considerate towards other road-users?
• Have I used my gifts to the best of my ability and in the service of my community?
• Have I used them to make this world of his a better place?
• Do I try to love my enemies and pray for my persecutors?
• Am I a peace-maker?
The Gifts of Health and Strength:
• Have I forgotten that my body is a not my own but God’s work?
• Have I damaged it by over-eating, abusing stimulants of any kind, over-smoking or lack of sleep?
• Am I vain in appearance?
• Do I view my body as the source of my confidence?
• Am I involved in addictive behavior?
MY USE OF MY GIFTS
THE GIFT OF SIGHT
• Have I used my eyes as God my Father would have wanted, to notice the needs of others, to enjoy and be amazed at all the good things around me? Or have I used my sight in ways that will be used as sinfully?
• Has my sight led me to look critically at others, searching for the speck that is there while I ignore the planks of wood lodged in my own eyes?
THE GIFT OF HEARING
• Have I used my ability to hear as God my Father would have wished to listen to other people, to listen to the suggestions my colleagues make, to listen to the request my own family make of me?
• Am I a listening person, using this gift for sympathy or empathy or am I still immature and show it by boring other people with stories about myself only?
THE GIFT OF SPEECH
• Have I used it as God my Father would have wished relate only the good I hear about people, and not the bad?
• To bring about harmony and unity between peoples, races, and creeds. Or, have I been harsh and critical in my speech, condemning others, relating gossip, blackening people’s characters, unkind to people and unkind about people?
• Have I spoken the truth?
THE GIFT OF SEX
• Have I used (or not used) this gift as God my Father would have wished in accordance to His Word?
• Have I betrayed his trust in me by misusing this precious gift, using it before he sanctions its use through the Sacrament of Marriage, or using it selfishly simply for my own pleasure and not as an expression of love towards my spouse?
• Have I allowed my passions to rule me beyond my responsibilities and other forms of intimacy?
• If I am married, have I been faithful physically, emotionally, spiritually?
The Gift of Intelligence:
• Have I hampered its use through spending too much time watching or reading things that are harmful, or in day-dreaming, or in futile conversation?
• Do I recognize my mind for the tremendous gift that it is?
POTENTIAL AND WORK
The Gift of Work:
• Have I tried to work honestly and well?
• Have I used at least part of my money and effort for the relief of suffering in those less fortunate than myself?
RELAXATION AND LEISURE
The Gift of Leisure:
• Have I used my leisure time constructively?
• Do I make adequate time for leisure and the Sabbath?
• Have I allowed my use of leisure to encroach on my family duties?
• Have I spent more on my leisure and comforts than I have offered in care for others and for the support of my Parish?
MY RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
Lastly, think about your relationship with God your Father, Jesus your Brother, and the Holy Spirit your protector:
• Have I spoken with God as a real father, or have I ignored him, or just gabbed a few prayers from time to time?
• Have I been concerned for God’s honor, wanting his name known and loved by all?
• Have I had faith in the realness of Jesus, close to me now?
• Have I trusted him and realized that if I am not in him I am worth nothing?
• Have I loved him and shown my love by ‘keeping his commandments’ and showing the same love to others as he showed to me?
• Have I listened to the Holy Spirit?
• Have I tried to do as he told me?
• Have I believed that I can do no good of myself but only in the power the Holy Spirit gives me.