Sunday, March 02, 2003

‘That the rest of our lives may be spent in PEACE and penitence, let us ask the Lord: Grant this, O Lord
A conservative site for peace/A conservative blog for peace wish readers a blessed Meatfare Sunday (Orthodox calendar, including Byzantine Catholics in their Eastern European homelands), Forgiveness Sunday (US and Canadian Byzantine Catholic) and Quinquagesima Sunday (traditional Roman Catholic) as the last two groups begin the observance of (Great) Lent this week. 'Remember, man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return'. Каюсь, Господи, помилуй и прости. [Cyrillic (Windows)]

Going to Confession: West and East
Routine cleaning for most of us
As most of you probably know, the custom in the western Catholic Church is anonymous Confession. I remember something from one of my favorite books, Merrily on High (link to browse and buy is on my Anglo-Catholicism page), in which Colin Stephenson remembers going to another church for Confession because he'd done something he didn't want his regular confessor to know about, 'a reprehensible attitude that showed I had not absorbed the anima catholica as much as I prided myself I had'.

Interesting comparison to Eastern Orthodoxy, particularly Russian, where 1) anonymous Confession is not the norm and 2) you are expected to go to one priest nearly exclusively for the sacrament, and if you go to a neighboring priest he will ask you why you aren't going to your own priest — are you hiding something from him, etc. (The Orthodox community in many places is sufficiently small that the neighboring priests will know who you are and where you're from.)

Both ways are good and have their respective pros and cons. The many Roman Catholic churches available and the anonymity of 'nipping into the box' make Confession easier for a lot of people who need the grace (I don't think this relative ease and comfort are hypocritical like some critics of the Catholic Church do — besides, old confessionals are beautiful pieces of church furnishing), but the Eastern way gives you the personal touch, from a priest who knows you, plus knowing the priest is a good deterrent to falling into the same sins again.

There is a picture on my Orthodoxy page of how Confession is done there: there's no box but neither is it the face-to-face thing some liberal Roman Catholics were and perhaps still are pushing. The priest actually sees you, and you him, but it's still very formal/ritualized and Godward-focused.

On confessionals (from '70s US TV):
Edith Bunker, having just learnt about the Catholic Church: They're like telephone booths to God!
Mike Stivic: That's very poetic, Ma.
Archie Bunker: No, it's not, meathead! That didn't even rhyme!

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