At the Ash Wednesday liturgy, the priest invites the community of faith to the “observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial, and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word” (“Proper Liturgies for Special Days,” Book of Common Prayer). The reason for this invitation to observe a holy Lent is so that Christians can prepare themselves to better celebrate and live Christ’s resurrection on Easter and beyond.
A key element in that preparation is the work of self-examination and repentance, and confession provides meaning and purpose to that activity. Confession, also known as the Sacrament of Reconciliation, is an important, year-round, sacramental resource that has a valuable place in the lives of those who desire a meaningful Lenten journey.
Sacramental confession allows God’s loving mercy and His grace-filled absolution to be confirmed for us through the ministry of the priest. We bring into sacred conversation with the priest the things we have done, or left undone, that have created hurt in our lives and the lives of others. In the act of confession, we acknowledge that we have done things to separate us from the love of one another, things that have also wreaked havoc with our relationship to God. Confession has us examine our lives and admit to that which has been wounding and destructive, while at the same time guiding us to a meaningful and healing repentance.
The guide to that healing repentance is Christ’s representative, the priest. It is Christ, through the priest, who invites us to let go of anything that is in the way of our relationship with Him. It is Christ, through the priest, who encourages us to open ourselves to the peace and grace that can only be found through God’s forgiveness. And it is Christ, through the priest, who invites us to accept God’s forgiveness, amend our lives, and go forth to live lives that are informed by the knowledge of God’s unconditional love for us.
It is in sacramental confession that we hear, through the ministry of the priest and the Church, a direct expression of God’s love for us. It is a love that grants us absolution from our sins and empowers us to make a new beginning as God’s people.
Fr. Lyon hears confession year-round by appointment, and after the Maundy Thursday service during Holy Week.
Some find it helpful to review the “Reconciliation of a Penitent” rite and the explanation of that rite before their confession. You can find them in the Book of Common Prayer, under “Pastoral Offices.”