Friday, December 15, 2006

Confession v 2.0

No one said I had to. Not my spiritual director, or my parish priest. Not my mother or father or friends. Not my UU minister or my husband.

But God did. God planted the idea of confession inside me and let it sit in the dry soil of my heart until baptism must have watered it enough to grow.

This time it wasn't as scary. I had my list scratched out in a little notebook (an oddly whimsical one I bought for the first confession last summer.) My biggest fear was that I didn't have enough stuff to confess. I was concerned about whether I was diligent enough in my preparation.

The smell of old incense hung in the air of the Lady Chapel. The chairs squeaked as I knelt to pray.

"Open my heart, oh Lord. Let me be fearless and humble. Let me be truthful and complete. Create in me a clean heart, oh Lord."

We used the Anglican version of the prayerbook, which is unabashedly traditional in it's language. "Forgive me Father, for I have sinned." I hadn't noticed before that the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer leaves 'Father' out. With apologies to all the women priests out there, I must confess that I like saying that line. "Father" in this case, means both my confessor, and God. If I ever confess to a woman, I might have to say "Forgive me, mother and Father..."

I had a harder time identifying sins this time around. It is a subtle thing, teasing apart what is sin versus temptation. And when does temptation give way to sin? There were a few things I was certain of, mostly because I got a sick little feeling inside when I thought of them. But some were subtle, so at the end of the confession, Fr. P spoke about how to understand what a sin actually is. The questions he asked while I confessed also offered clues for next time.

It is not surprising, I suppose, that the motherload of my sins have to do with the way I treat my husband and children. In the future, whenever I commit the sin of spiritual pride, I need only reflect on breakfast this morning, or getting ready for church last week, to be quickly brought back to my senses. Now that I have gone to confession a couple of times, my husband jokes when I act badly: "Better write that one down for the next confession!" Brat.

We used a different confessional box than last time, but the step was just as hard on my knees. I could barely walk afterwards. This time there was a crucifix attached right to the screen separating me from Fr. P. As my pain geared up, I leaned my head against the wood and reached up to touch the figure of Christ. It is like that in life, too, isn't it? That in the midst of pain, we reach for him who holds all of our pain within Himself.

So it was that a couple of days before the beginning of Advent, I spoke my sins. I felt safe. And was relieved when Fr. P pronounced it a humble offering. In the years or decades to come, he said, you may come to understand the nature of sin more clearly.

After absolution, I went back to the pews to say a psalm of thanksgiving. Then I left the church and walked down the street towards my car a few blocks away, weeping for joy.

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