DISTANCED FROM GOD BY SIN, THE PENITENT FINDS THE PEACE HE IS LOOKING FOR IN REPENTANCE AND ABSOLUTION
Throughout history, man has realized that he is sinful. While he aspires to the untainted life which divine teaching shows is available to him, he is subjected to numerous and various temptations and sometimes succumbs to them. All religions, therefore, have their rites of purification: ablutions, baptisms, or even public penance which can, at times, take aberrant forms.
As far as the Catholic faith is concerned, there exists an original sin, which is explained in allegorical terms in the opening pages of the Bible. In his Incarnation as the Redeemer (from the Latin redimere, “to buy back”, notably to pay a captive’s ransom and give him back his freedom), Jesus Christ came to deliver us. But a principle of evil is at work in this world, that “devil” who divides us. The world and its history clearly shows how perverse mankind can be, and how this perversion makes us suffer.
Baptism washes away original sin and penance (or reconciliation) cleanses us of later personal faults. In the Gospels, Christ affirms, while curing the paralyzed man, that he has the divine privilege of forgiving sins. On the evening of his Resurrection, this power was transferred to the apostles’ and beyond the apostles, to those whom they have chosen to continue their work. Before his sins are forgiven, the sinner must make an act of contrition, that is, to express regret for having committed them. He then specifies the nature of his sins by confessing them to a priest, who gives him absolution, on the condition of a symbolic satisfaction, which generally takes the form of a few prayers. Contrition, confession and satisfaction are the necessary steps to obtaining absolution.
The Church invites its faithful to receive this sacrament at least once a year, at Easter. ‘Doing one’s Easter duty” consists in confession and communion. As in our daily lives, so in the life of the spirit we also eat, drink and wash. The Eucharistic communion feeds us, while confession cleanses us. Both should be performed frequently.
In most churches, the sacrament of penance is administered in Confessionals. But custom also allows penitents to be received in small rooms, in which a longer dialogue is possible.
Source: SYMBOLS OF CATHOLICISM
Don Robert LeGall, Abbot of Kergonan