This blog has permanently moved to a new blogging address. Come on over to
The Potter's Shed!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Good Confession

I wanted to post this last week for Ash Wednesday, but we were all under the weather with the flu.

While we are not required to go to a priest for confession, Anglicans are expected to do a self-examination before communion, and we make a general statement of contrition during the service. Other than that we are a bit on our own.

While getting prepared for Ash Wednesday services, I came across a good guide for self examination based on the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. I'm going to use this regularly this Lent and probably beyond.

The Ten Commandments

I am the Lord your God, and you shall have no other gods before me.
Has God been the source, center and hope of my life? Have I put myself, others or things before God? Have I failed to trust in God’s existence, love and mercy? Have I failed to pray to God, to worship Him and to thank Him for His blessings? Have I tried to serve God and keep His commandments faithfully? Have I murmured or complained against God in adversity? Have I praised and glorified God through my words and deeds?

You shall not make for yourself a graven image in order to worship it.
Have I valued anyone or anything above God? Have I given to anyone or anything the love, honor and worship that belongs to God alone? Have I made and idol of any person, idea, occupation, or thing?

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
Have I blasphemed God’s holy name in any way? Have I sworn a false oath? Have I broken any solemn vow or promise? Have I entered into an agreement, promise or contract against God’s law? Have I cursed or used foul language?

Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.
Have I worshiped regularly on Sundays and major feast days and have I helped others to do the same? Have I worked unnecessarily on Sundays or major feast days or caused others to do so? Have I spent the Lord’s Day in a wholesome and edifying ways?

Honor your father and mother.
Have I loved and respected my parent s as I should? Have I neglected them or failed to help them? Have I disobeyed them, deceived them or caused them pain by my words or deeds? Have I treated all my family members with patience and love?

Thou shall not kill.
Have I caused the harm, injury or death of anyone? Have I wished my own or anyone’s harm or death? Have I been cruel to animals or destroyed any life unnecessarily?

You shall not commit adultery.
Have I committed any immoral acts alone or with others? Have I caused others to commit immoral acts? Have I committed immoral acts in my heart?

You shall not steal.
Have I taken anything that was not mine from anyone or from anywhere? Have I cheated anyone? Have I caused others to steal or cheat? Have I tried to find the owners of lost things I have found? Have I damaged or destroyed anything that belonged to another? Have I defrauded anyone of rightful wages? Have I paid my debts? Have I given to the poor and to philanthropic causes in proportion to my means?

You shall not bear false witness.
Have I given false testimony against anyone? Have I spoken evil, told lies or spread rumors about anyone? Have I disclosed to anyone the sins and faults of another? Have I made careless statements or done anything else to harm the name and reputation of another? Have I engaged in idle gossip?

You shall not covet.
Have I looked with envy jealousy or hatred toward the possession talents or achievements of others? Have I desired the downfall or loss of others out of evil intent that I might benefit? Have I grieved that God has bestowed greater blessings on others than on me?

The Beatitudes

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Have I truly recognized my complete dependence on God? Have I been proud arrogant and self-righteous in my ways? Have I been selfish, possessive and self-seeking? Have I sought after status power and wealth?

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Have I endured difficulties and afflictions with faith and patience? Have I felt sadness for the sufferings of the poor, the hungry, and addicted; the sick, the lonely and the sinful of the world? Have I truly been sorrowful for my sins and faults?

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Have I tried to serve or rather to dominate others at home, school, work, office, Church and elsewhere? Have I nursed against anyone? Have I been resentful, bitter, unforgiving or insulting and abusive to others? Have I loved my enemies?

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Have I truly yearned for God’s will to be done in all things? Have I worked for justice in my family, society and the world in ways with in my reach? Have I tried to cultivate a righteous life through prayer, fasting, worship, receiving Holy Communion and deeds of love toward others?

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Have I shown compassion and help toward the poor, hungry, lonely and needy around me? Have I tried to understand and forgive others? Have I been indifferent judgmental or legalistic?

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Have I loved goodness, purity and holiness? Have I succumbed to evil motives and intentions? Have I given way to impure thoughts, words or deeds? Have I been guilty of bias and prejudice? Have I been hypocritical, pretentious or self-indulgent to sinful passions?

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Do I have God’s peace in my heart? Have I been unfairly angry, aggressive or impatient? Have I worked for peace at home, work, Church and in society? Have I been irritable, polemical, or divisive?

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Have I complained when persecuted for God’s sake? Have I prayed for my persecutors? Have I failed to defend anyone in the truth for fear of humiliation or persecution? Have I had the courage to stand up for what is right despite criticism, ridicule or persecution?

Blessed are you when they revile you and persecute you on my account; rejoice and be clad, for your reward is great in heaven
Is the joy of Christ in my heart even in trying moments? Have I been pessimistic despondent or despairing? Have I truly delighted in the promise of God’s treasures in heaven?


sam said...

Kerry, the self-examination you found is quite good. I feel somewhat compelled, though, to supplement your statement that we are "not required to go to a priest" with, "but that is best" -- it is certainly what the meditation in question is made for! There's an Anglican tentativeness to the Roman rigor which outlines certain conditions in which sacramental confession is obligatory. But sacramental confession -- not simply the general confession or our "private" confession to God, is essential to true penitence, unless we are very holy indeed. For confession is as much about restoration as it is about cleaning up the filth of our sin; and that is something that is very difficult to do alone.

I hasten to add: Anglican priests are unfortunately pretty bad about making sacramental confession available, and they may be bad at hearing it. So there's that tentativeness again. (I think I've picked up that you're part of an Anglican jurisdiction that's not the Episcopal Church -- though I'm not sure which one. I have a wonderful confessor, though I admit that I would be very reluctant to make my confession with the vast majority of Episcopal priests in this area who don't have the first idea what sin is!)

(Oh, and I think this is the first time I've commented here... I'm a friend of the Confessing Reader, and I remember he linked to you a while back. I'm in Chapel Hill.)

Kerry - A Ten O'Clock Scholar said...

Hi, Sam! Thanks for your excellent comment! You've hit the nail on the head on many things here - particularly "Anglican reluctance", and lack of good confessors.

Personally, I've been feeling the Lord nudging me to making confession with a priest. I agree that our general and personal confessions are not always adequate for us to experience restoration.

So, how did you find your confessor?

(We are Anglicans under the Diocese of West Africa - at least for the time being.)

sam said...

Would that it were easy to find a good confessor! You can always start with your local priest, by simply asking whether he hears confessions. He may also be able to recommend someone if he doesn't (whether another priest in the new jurisdictions or a priest in TEC that he knows is orthodox). I wouldn't recommend making a first confession to someone who is hearing their first confession; it is also essential that confessors themselves make regular confession. (Even the pope has a confessor, and certainly the Archbishop of Canterbury does.)

Obviously Anglo-catholics more readily practice confession than classic evangelicals, but there aren't very many of those around. You may have to travel a bit. And that's not bad. Unless you're a die-hard catholic who makes confession every Saturday, you should plan on going a few times of year (Advent, Lent, Pentecost). My priest at Holy Family is very good, and I'm sure he would receive people from outside the parish -- if you felt like traveling to Chapel Hill. (I also just noticed that Church of the Redeemer, a TEC parish in Asheville, appears to have anglo-catholic roots, though I don't know anything about it.)

Really, one of my most consistent complaints (and I have many! *sigh*) is that those priests who do offer auricular confession often do so by appointment, and then only when asked. While I see problems with the medieval confessional booth, I do see the real value in having regular times when anyone could come and make their confession. It is beyond me why such a great gift of the Church should be tossed aside simply because at times it was abused.

Kerry - A Ten O'Clock Scholar said...

Thanks, Sam, for more good input. I am blessed with a good priest, who does hear confessions by appointment. But I am a bit hesitant to go to *my* priest...even Catholics have the benefit of a screen of some sort. It aleast gives the impression of anonymity. :) I do trust him to keep confidences, so, perhaps it is time to make a regular habit of confession.

sam said...

Yes, the face-to-face confession is hard, but I guess that's part of its value. There's no hiding from anybody. There's no convincing yourself that God doesn't care, because there's the representative of his Church sitting right in front of you!

On the confidentiality bit, one might note that the 1979 prayer book describes the confidentiality between priest and penitent as "absolute." And if the Episcopal Church is willing to use such a big and shocking word, I daresay others would take it at least if not more seriously.

Kate said...

I was just outside hanging out the laundry and then came in to read your post about confession, and the two reminded me of a friend of mine who makes a confession as she loads the washing machine (she's a mother of three, so that's a lot of confessing!). Sometimes she'll have something specific in mind, sometimes she'll use the confession from the Book of Common Prayer, and then she'll say, 'Lord, wash me of my sin' as she's closing the door of the washing machine. It's a lovely, quite Celtic way of combining the sacred and the mundane, I think. Though I agree with Sam that there is certainly a place for confession in the presence of a priest.

Kerry - A Ten O'Clock Scholar said...

Oh, Kate - as a mom of three myself, I love this! I do a lot of laundry, which just might keep up with the amount of confessing I need. HAHAHA!