In this blog post, The Rev’d Sinclair Ender, SCP, responds to these questions:
How has the Sacrament of Reconciliation changed you, both as a confessor and as a penitent? Why do you think making use of this Sacrament is should be a part of a priest’s Rule of Life? What are the qualities of a good confessor?
For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. ~Psalm 51:3, KJV
As I reflect on the season of Easter, and the joy of life in the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus, it is not lost on me that we first made our journey through darkness and death before being able to claim new life in Christ. It was through first keeping a holy Lent that we are now enjoying a holy Easter. Reflecting on these two seasons of the Church year, I see the sacrament of the Reconciliation of a Penitent as modelling death to newness of life; it participates in the paschal mystery—the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I recall that during Lent, my own self-reflection on Psalm 51 and reading the “Exhortation” in our Book of Common Prayer (pages 316-317) led me to think that it would be good for me to schedule an appointment with my priest-confessor.
I love the sacramental act of penitence, where I go before God with one of His ministers, and lay bare that which is holding me back from right-relationship with God, others, and often enough, myself. These are the things that I have to let die in myself, so as to find abundant life. It is when I acknowledge my transgressions that I then receive the forgiveness of God—not as a general truth or vague experience, but personally, immediately, and actually. After making a good confession, and having absolution pronounced, I’ve always experienced a sense of the newness of life in Christ. Sacramental confession is great!
As Anglicans and Episcopalians, we have no specific requirements in our doctrine or disciplines that one must make a personal confession. Our Anglican saying of “all may, some should, none must” holds true. All the same, those who do make use of this sacramental rite allow for the forgiveness of Jesus to take hold of them in a living way, which I have yet to experience by any other means.
So, if you find that there is something weighing you down or holding you back from fully experiencing the joy of this Easter Season, I invite you to “go and open your grief to a discreet and understanding priest, and confess your sins, that you may receive the benefit of absolution, and spiritual counsel and advice; to the removal of scruple and doubt, the assurance of pardon, and the strengthening of your faith” (BCP, 317).
The Rev’d Sinclair Ender, SCP, is curate of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Davenport, Iowa.