Posted by: AJtheIrishLass | June 18, 2007

What to Expect at Confession

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The general rule regarding confession (or the Sacrament of Reconciliation), is “All may, some should, none must”. However, there are times when private confession is especially appropriate: during Advent or Lent; after a long period away from the Church; or during a retreat. Some members of religious orders or communities are make a regular confession under their order’s Rule. Depending on the parish, there may be regularly scheduled confessions, or they may be done by appointment. Confessions are usually heard by a priest. A deacon or layperson may hear confessions, but must give a declaration of forgiveness instead of absolution.

Most Episcopal parishes, to my knowledge, don’t have confession boxes. Usually the confessor sits inside the altar rails and the penitent kneels nearby, or they sit face to face. One of two forms from the Book of Common Prayer follow:

Form 1 (p. 447): The penitent begins by saying “Bless me, for I have sinned”. The confessor says a prayer that the penitent may truly confess their sins. The penitent makes his/her confession, and the priest offers counsel. He/she may assign the penitent a prayer or something to be done as an act of penitence. Absolution or a declaration of forgiveness follows. The Rite concludes as follows:
Confessor: The Lord has put away all your sins
Penitent: Thanks be to God.
Confessor: Go (or abide) in peace, and pray for me, a sinner.

Form 2 (p.449): The confessor and penitent begin by saying a portion of Psalm 51 followed by the Trisagion (Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One, have mercy upon us). The penitent says, “Pray for me, a sinner”, and the confessor prays that the penitent may remember all the sins he/she wishes to confess, possibly adding relevant Scripture verses. The penitent confesses his/her sins, and the confessor offers counsel. After asking the penitent if he/she will again turn to Christ and if they forgive those who sinned against them, absolution or a declaration of forgiveness follows.

Copyright 2002.


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