It is essentially an act of devotion - a work Catechism of the Catholic Church , - by a person designed to obtain forgiveness for sin. The Catholic Encyclopedia in part describes penance as, "a sacrament of the New Law instituted by Christ in which forgiveness of sins committed after baptism is granted through the priest's absolution to those who with true sorrow confess their sins and promise to satisfy for the same.
The Spiritual Disciplines: Confession
Depending on the modern translations of the Bible one chooses to read, the term "penance" is mentioned only in one verse. Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord?
As one can see, the Catholic Bible substitutes "penance" for the word "humble. Why Penance is Unbiblical? The word anah in Hebrew according to the BDB, means humble, afflict, to weaken oneself, to stoop, to become low, to be depressed or downcast. It does not mean "penance," a word that didn't even come into existence until c. Repentance cannot be earned.
Repentance is an underserved gift. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. It is something God gives to an undeserving sinner by grace alone. It is not a reward for depriving one's self of food, sleep, or engaging in some sort of self-torture.
Even our very best prayers and our finest works - even our very repentance itself - needs to be repented of! We need the Holy Spirit to strengthen our weaknesses Rom The Bible teaches that one is made right with God by faith apart from their works Rom ; , 5; , 9; ; Eph Christ's blood cleanses us of all sin - past, present, and future Psa ; Rom ; Gal ; It is Christ alone who made the atonement by which our sins are removed Heb ; ; ; 1 Pet Ultimately the Catholic and Orthodox churches decided that even mortal sins can indeed be forgiven after due repentance, confession, and penance.
In the third and fourth centuries, however, the issue of apostates returning to the church was especially contentious. It became the practice of penitent apostates to go to the confessors—those who had willingly suffered for the faith and survived—to plead their case and effect their restoration to communion with the bishop's approval. Later, the word "confessor" has come to denote any priest or in some traditions layperson who has been granted the authority to hear confessions. In Roman Catholic teaching, the sacrament of penance is the method initiated by Christ by which individual men and women may confess sins committed after baptism and have them absolved by a priest.
This sacrament is known by several names, including penance, reconciliation, and confession. The intent of this sacrament is to provide healing for the soul as well as to regain the grace of God, lost by sin. Here, the resurrected Jesus tells his disciples:. Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven. Roman Catholics believe that priests have been delegated the authority by Jesus to exercise the forgiveness of sins on earth. This power belongs to Jesus alone; however, he exercises it vicariously through the priesthood.
The basic form of confession has not changed for centuries, although in the early church confessions were made publicly.
Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Absolution
The sinner is also encouraged to confess venial sins. The penitent must a be truly sorry for each of the mortal sins he committed, b have a firm intention never to commit them again, and c perform the penance imposed by the priest. The penitent sinner begins with the words, "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned," followed by a statement of how long it has been since his his or her last confession and a listing of the sins committed since then. Absolution by the priest takes this form, although the entire formula is not always recited:.
God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son, has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
It typically commences: "O my God, I am heartily sorry…" The reception of absolution is considered necessary before receiving the Eucharist if one has guilt for a mortal sin. The sacrament of penance is the only ordinary way in which a person can receive forgiveness for mortal sins committed after baptism in Catholic tradition. However, if there is no opportunity of confessing to a priest, then perfect contrition—a sorrow motivated by love of God rather than of fear of punishment—exists as an "extraordinary means" of removing the guilt of mortal sin without confession.
Mortal sin, according to Roman Catholic teaching, include, among others, murder , blasphemy , adultery , and fornication. Frequent confession, the spiritual practice of going to the sacrament of penance often and regularly in order to grow in holiness, is recommended. For Catholic priests, the confidentiality of all statements made by penitents during the course of confession is absolute.
This strict confidentiality is known as the Seal of the Confessional. Priests may not reveal what they have learned during confession to anyone, even under the threat of their own death or that of others. In a criminal matter, a priest may encourage the penitent to surrender to authorities. However, he may not directly or indirectly disclose the matter to civil authorities himself. Within the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches, it is understood that the mystery of confession and repentance has more to do with the spiritual development of the individual and much less to do with purification.
Sin is not seen as a stain on the soul, but rather a mistake that needs correction.
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In general, the Orthodox Christian chooses an individual to trust as his or her spiritual guide. In most cases this is the parish priest, but may be a starets Elder, a monk who is well-known for his or her advancement in the spiritual life, or any individual, male or female, who has received permission from a bishop to hear confession. This person is often referred to as one's "spiritual father" or "spiritual mother. The individual turns to his spiritual guide for advice on his or her spiritual development, confessing sins, and asking advice. Orthodox Christians tend to confess only to this individual.
What is confessed to one's spiritual guide is protected by the same seal as would be any priest hearing a confession.
Is Catholic Penance Biblical?
While one does not have to be a priest to hear confession, only an ordained priest may pronounce the absolution. In Orthodox tradition, confession does not take place in a confessional, but normally in the main part of the church itself, usually before an analogion lectern set up near the iconostasion. On the analogion is placed a Gospel Book and a blessing cross. The confession often takes place before an icon of Jesus Christ. XIV, chap. The deacon's power is recognized later on in Alcuin, in a council held at York, , and in the Council of London, cap.
This reconciliation generally took place on Holy Thursday, and the bishop presided. Surely absolution was pronounced on Maundy Thursday. This all the sacramentaries attest Duchesne, Christian Worship, , ; but the practice of public penance has given rise to the important and difficult question, whether or not the absolution granted at the public function of Holy Thursday was really the sacramental absolution. II, nn. But there are many others who think the traditional truth concerning the Sacrament of Penance cannot be safeguarded unless it is admitted that, ordinarily speaking, sacramental absolution was given only after the completion of the penance imposed and in the public session of Holy Thursday.
Moreover, there is full evidence of a reconciliation on Holy Thursday; there are canons as late as the sixth century forbidding priests to reconcile penitents, inconsulto episcopo Batiffol, ibid. This exception gradually became the rule, especially after the Scholastics of the Middle Age period began to distinguish clearly the different parts which make up the Sacrament of Penance. XIV, iii. That the public penance was concluded with some sort of prayer for pardon, is the doctrine of antiquity, particularly as contained in the earliest sacramentaries Duchesne, Christian Worship, , Leo the Great does not hesitate to assert that pardon is impossible without the prayer of the priest "ut indulgentia nisi supplicationibus sacerdotum nequeat obtineri".
In the early Church these forms certainly varied Duchesne, loc. These forms, while much the same in substance, vary in wording not a little Vacant, Dict. It was not until the scholastic doctrine of "matter and form" in the sacraments reached its full development that the formula of absolution became fixed as we have it at present. The form in use in the Roman Church to-day has not changed since long before the Council of Florence.
It is divided into four parts as follows:—. In the Oriental churches the present forms are deprecatory, though they by no means exclude the idea of a judicial pronouncement on the part of the minister. Is the indicative form necessary? Many learned Catholics seem to hold that the indicative form as used at present in the Roman Church is necessary even for the validity of the Sacrament of Penance.
The great Doctor of the Sacrament, St. Alphonsus De Sac. Thomas and Suarez also declare that the indicative form is necessary. Others equally learned, and perhaps better versed in history, hold that in the light of the Divine institution the deprecative form must not be excluded, and that the Council of Trent in its decree did not intend to make final pronouncement in the premises. VIII that up to the twelfth century the deprecatory form was employed both in the East and in the West: that it is still in use among the Greeks and among Orientals generally. Theologians, however, have questioned whether or not the deprecatory form would be valid to-day in the Latin Church, and they point out that Clement VIII and Benedict XIV have prescribed that Greek priests should use the indicative form whensoever they absolve penitents belonging to the Latin Rite.
But this is merely a matter of discipline, and such decrees do not give final decision to the theological question, for in matters of administration of the Sacraments those in authority simply follow the safest and most conservative opinions. VIII; Tournely, ibid. Some, not pronouncing judgment on the real merits of the case, think that the Holy See has withdrawn faculties from those who do not use the indicative form, but in the absence of positive ordinance this is by no means certain. Conditional Absolution.
XIV ; also, because God absolves in heaven when certain conditions are fulfilled here below. The fulfilment may escape man's judgment, but God no man may deceive. This very doubt makes conditional absolution possible. Conditions are either a present, b past, or c future. Following a general law, whensoever the condition leaves in suspense the effect intended by the Sacrament, the Sacrament itself is null and void.
If the condition does not suspend the sacramental efficacy, the Sacrament may be valid. As a consequence, all future conditions render absolution invalid: "I absolve you if you die to-day. What is in itself valid may not be legitimate, and in this important matter reverence due the holy Sacrament must ever be kept in mind, and also the spiritual need of the penitent. The doctrine commonly received is that whenever conditional absolution will safeguard the holiness and dignity of the Sacrament it may be employed, or whenever the spiritual need of the penitent is clear, but at the same time dispositions necessary for the valid reception of the Sacrament are in doubt, then it would be a mercy to impart absolution even if under condition.
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It obtains whenever absolution is granted for a fault that has not been submitted to the judgment of the minister in the tribunal of penance. Forgetfulness on the part of the penitent is responsible for most cases of indirect absolution, though sometimes reservation see Reserved Cases may be. Granting of Absolution. The power to bind as well as the power to loose has been given by Christ. The minister therefore must have in mind not only his own powers, viz. If a the penitent is well-disposed, he must absolve; b if the penitent lack the requisite dispositions, he must endeavour to create the proper frame of mind, for he cannot and may not absolve one indisposed; c when dispositions remain doubtful, he employs the privilege given above in conditional absolution.
When the minister sees fit to grant absolution, then he pronounces the words of the form supra over the penitent. It is commonly taught that the penitent must be physically present; consequently, absolution by telegraph has been declared invalid, and when questioned in regard to absolution by the telephone the Sacred Congregation 1 July, answered Nihil respondendum.
Absolution Outside the Latin Church. The belief of the ancient Greek Church has been set forth above. II Russian Church. The belief of the Greek Church is naturally also that of the Russian. Russian theologians all hold that the Church possesses the power to forgive sins, where there is true repentance and sincere confession.
The form in use at present is as follows: "My child, N. III Armenians. Denzinger, in his "Ritus Orientalium " , gives us a full translation of the penitential ritual used by the Armenians. The present version is from the ninth century. The form of absolution is declarative, though it is preceded by a prayer for mercy and for pardon. It is as follows: "May the merciful Lord have pity on thee and forgive thee thy faults; in virtue of my priestly power, by the authority and command of God expressed in these words, 'whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be hound in heaven', I absolve thee from thy sins, I absolve thee from thy thoughts, from thy words, from thy deeds, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and I restore thee to the Sacrament of the Holy Church.
May all thy good works be for thee an increase of merit, may they be for the glory of life everlasting, Amen. IV Copts. This finished, the priest recites over them the prayer said at the beginning of the Mass, the prayer asking pardon and forgiveness from God; to this is added the so-called "Benediction", which Father Bernat says is like the prayer said in the Latin Church after absolution has been imparted.
Hyvernat, however, asserts that Father Bernat is mistaken when he likens the Benediction to our Passio Domini , for it is like the Latin prayer only inasmuch as it is recited after absolution.
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