Confession – the sacrament of reconciliation
Confess your faults one to another,
and pray one for another, that ye may be healed — James 5:16
What is confession?
Through the sacrament of confession, a person receives the forgiveness of God and is reconciled to the Church by confessing their sins (that is, anything that distances them from God and their fellow man) in the presence of a priest, who is the representative of the Church.
‘Can’t I just confess to God?’
As St Paul tells us, ‘You are the body of Christ and individually members of it’ (1 Cor. 12:27), and ‘if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it’ (v. 26).
In other words, all the members of the Church, the Body of Christ, are connected to one another, and my spiritual state affects not just me but the Church as a whole. Therefore, there is no such thing as a ‘private sin’, no sin that is ‘just between me and God’; my sin, however secret, also affects my brothers and sisters in Christ. As such, repentance also is not only a private thing, not ‘just between me and God’, but must involve our reconciliation to the Church, to the other members of Christ’s Body.
What happens in confession?
The priest and penitent will stand before the icon of Christ — a cross and Gospel book are usually also present — in a quiet part of the church where they cannot be overheard. The sacrament begins with a number of petitions and prayers expression contrition and asking for God’s mercy and forgiveness. The penitent will then make their confession. The priest may ask questions or make any relevant comments he thinks will be of help, but his primary role is simply to listen, since, as he says to the penitent, ‘You are not telling these things to me, but to God before whom you stand’. Once the confession is complete, the priest will read the prayers of absolution over the penitent, concluding with the words, ‘As for the sins that you have confessed, have no further anxiety about them; go in peace’.
In certain cases, the priest may feel that the penitent would benefit from a period of abstinence from Holy Communion, undertaking a particular rule of prayer, or fulfilling a particular task. A person who has confessed to stealing, for example, might be exhorted to return or make amends for whatever they had stolen before returning to Communion. This is what is often called a ‘penance’.
It is important to stress that these types of penances are not punishments, nor will we have ‘paid back’ a debt owed upon fulfilling them; God’s forgiveness a free gift of grace, dependent only upon our sincere repentance. Penanceses are instead therapeutic in nature, and their purpose is to help the penitent continue their walk with God.
How can I arrange a confession?
Fr Kristian is available for confession by appointment on weekdays, and without appointment on Saturday mornings (9:30am – 12:30pm) provided no services are scheduled. To book an appointment, please call the church office.