Monday, February 15, 2010

Mardi Gras or Shrove Tuesday?

I find it very interesting that we live in a culture in which "Fat Tuesday," the outrageous party with all of its excesses, has come to replace our good Anglican Shrove Tuesday. Of course, given the failure of bishops and priests to teach "doctrine, discipline and worship" of the Church over the past half century it should come as little surprise that so many don't know the meaning of that name or the practice which it recommends. Or being more Episcopalian that Anglican, they don't understand that the practice of confession and absolution is part of our Anglican heritage.

Let me quote part of The Exhortations which the English prayer directs to be read when the priest gives warning for the celebration of Holy Communion:
"if there be any of you, who by this means cannot quiet his own conscience herein, let him come to me, or to some other discreet and learned Minister of God's Word, and open his grief; that by the ministry of God's holy word he may receive the benefit of absolution, together with ghostly counsel and advice, to the quieting of his conscience, and avoiding of all scruple and doubtfulness."

Further in The Visitation of the Sick there is provided a form for the sick person to say before listing the sins of which he is repenting. And that is followed by one of the most beautiful sentences in the whole of the English prayer book, one that I very much wish had been retained in our American version but which is used, I believe, by good priests through out Anglicanism when absolving sinners.

"Our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath left power to his Church to absolve all sinners who truly repent and believe in him, of his great mercy forgive thee thine offences : And by his authority committed to me, I absolve thee from all thy sins, In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."

It is a formula I have heard a good deal because I was lucky enough to be well instructed in the teaching of the faith as set forth in the traditional and classical prayer books in my teens. One of my fondest memories was of setting on the steps of my parish church with my university pals as we each waited for our turn to go in and confess our sins and be absolved. We were unusually happy sinners because we had discovered that the simple practice of acknowledging the particularity of our sins and receiving the absolution of the Church made it easier to grow in grace and charity. It was a way of saying to ourselves and to our Lord that we were serious about our faith and our commitment to live as Christians. I think it was also comforting to know that we were not alone in our habit.

Indeed, I have had other incidents which has ever reminded me that no matter how high or low one's station in life, there are times when noting will quite do the job like confession. First there was a sermon by Michael Ramsay when he was archbishop of Canterbury. He pounded the pulpit as only he could and told us that the best assurance of God's forgiveness of all our sins was auricular confession. And then thee was the time when I found my bishop standing in the center of the quire in the glory of his scarlet rochet and chimere. He called me by name and sent me to fetch the rector, saying, "Tell him that I have come to make my confession."

We live in a world that likes to party and Fat Tuesday as it is celebrated in New Orleans or Mobile is certainly partying at its wildest. But for true Christians there is certainly no better party in this world or the next than the wedding feast of the Lamb. And the best way to go there is in the spotless wedding garment that a good confession provides. It is a good way to start Lent and an even better way to prepare for Easter. And it is certainly not to late to get on your kness and ask God to help you prepare a true bill of your sins, large and small, and then arrange with your priest to come and make your confession.


Rappahannock Rev said...

"...and then arrange with your priest to come and make your confession." True, Father. But do they come when you call them?!

webmasterNW52HR said...

Dear Father,

Let me tell you a little story - which may be rather long for a comment.
I was born and brought up in the Church of England - what I call "village Sarum" an English Altar - Priest and Server vested properly, choir in its stalls and the (English) 1928 Prayer Book.
I served at the local equally English Sarum cathedral as a teenager in the 1950s.
After serving in the Air Force and working in the City as a banker and teaching for a while in a college, I found myself in the USA when the first priestess was "ordained" and in short order a member of the Anglican Catholic Church. I was subsequently Ordained in the Anglican Rite Jurisdiction of the Americas (although no longer in America). But the Continuum was fracturing at a great pace and it was obvious to me that this simply was not The Church.
Then one day an Orthodox Archpriest, visiting in southern England, told me that I could be Western Rite and Orthodox.
Needless to say - that is what I am now - an Orthodox Priest blessed to the Western Rite, answering to a Canadian-born Archbishop of the Russian Orthodox Church. It appears that the Russian Church as long ago as 1870 authorised the Western Rite specifically for England. In 1907 it authorised bishops to adapt services taken from the Book of Common Prayer for Orthodox use.
Today, we have a full Western Rite Prayer Book (The Saint Colman Prayer Book) which would gladden the heart of Percy Dearmer, and I am in charge of Western Rite Missions in England.
So, if you're wondering where Anglicanism is going ..... I don't entirely know ... but some Anglicans are certainly finding that we have the answer to their prayers. We are re-constituting the Orthodox Church that we had in the British Isles for a thousand years up until the Norman invasion ... but in the 21st century.

Fr. Michael
frmichaelnw5 - at -

Canon Tallis said...

Rappahonnock Rev.,

I have heard confessions in some of the strangest places, but yes, they do come.

And strangely, at the moment I have learned that by my influence or example the rector of one of the nearby ACNA parishes how has posted times for confession.

Father Michael,

I have my own long history with the Orthodox Church but i am now where God has placed me for better or worse. But most certainly for his pleasure.

I am sure you know the Article which asserts that all of the patriarchal sees have erred. That includes all of Orthodoxy who to this day continue to obey the Emperor Justinian rather than the teaching of the New Testament. But they also reach those whom have lost faith in the Western Church and churches.

Personally I am glad that they are beginning to recognize that Orthodoxy can have another dress and another liturgy than that of the great Eastern saints.

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