Why Reconciliation of a Penitent?
The Reconciliation of a Penitent (often called Confession) is one of the five Sacramental Rites of the Church. Holy Scripture commends us to “call the elders of the church” (the ordained), then to, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). As World War II pastor and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, once said, “A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person. As long as I am by myself in the confession of my sins everything remains in the dark, but in the presence of a brother the sin has to be brought to the light” (Celebration of Disciple 148).
Preparing by an Examination of Conscience
First Corinthians chapter 11 reminds a Christian to “examine himself” before receiving the Lord’s Supper. Self examination, sometimes called an Examination of Conscience, is taking time for the Holy Spirit to bring to mind sins which need to be confessed. Throughout the ages, many have found the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) to be a helpful aid in self examination. As the Holy Spirit exposes your sins, it is best to write them down. Bring your list for your confession, and then destroy it afterward.
What to Expect
You will meet with the priest privately and use the Reconciliation of a Penitent service in the Book of Common Prayer. The priest will compassionately hear your confession and pray for you. He will not think less of you, but see you as a fellow sinner in need of God’s forgiveness. He will pronounce an absolution, reminding you that “The Lord has put away all yours sins.” He will tell you to “Go in peace, and pray for me, a sinner.” The priest will not repeat your confession to anyone else, not even you.