RECONCILIATION A HISTORICAL OVERVIEW
RECONCILIATION Historical development of a sacrament Organic in nature Not cumulative • The Church responds to the prompting of the Holy Spirit in making revisions, changes, and adaptations Like a seed unfolding it becomes united to the earth which holds it. Who can imagine the tree from the seed?
RECONCILIATION Just as a seed develops through many stages unlocking the tree within Reconciliation continues to develop • never remaining static • providing new insight into the developing process of God’s forgiveness This history of dynamic growth and development should encourage us
RECONCILIATION Old Testament people saw God in terms of cultic deity, nature God, warrior Their experience and response took on particular form and structure set off by particular laws and commands Ten Commandments Deuteronomy Leviticus Numbers
Old Testament Covenanted communion with God is considered the source of life. Dt 30:19-20 “ I am offering you life or death, blessing or curse.Choose life then, so that you and your descendants may live, in love of Yahweh your God, obeying his voice, holding fast to him; for in this your life consists.” • If broken only God can restore the person back to the covenant promised Abraham • Throughout the prophetic period men and women are called back to the source of life.
Old Testament Despite many breaks in relationship Israel came to understand God’s love was eternal Penitential practices abounded • Fasting, weeping, mourning, penitentiary garb such as sackcloth (Joel 1:13-20) • Prayers for mercy (Lamentations 5; Ps 51, 60, 74, 79) • Sacrifices of expiation were offered (Leviticus 1-7) • Intercession of a community leader were sought (Exodus 32:30; Jeremiah 14)
Old Testament Ritual in itself was not enough Change of heart was needed A change that only God could initiate Psalm 51:10 “God, create in me a new heart, renew within me a resolute spirit.” The new heart for which the psalmist prayed was realized in Jesus’ life-death-resurrection
New Testament Who could imagine when considering Israel’s growing awareness of God’s Spirit in creation and in the Exodus that it would reveal covenant, redemption, cross, and resurrection lying just beneath the surface?
New Testament INCARNATIONEnfleshment of God in Jesus The Good Shepherd, the Suffering Servant Reconciliation emphasized Mercy, Love, ForgivenessBeatitudes became the norm to follow “Come back to me”
New Testament Recurring theme that God’s initiative, realized in the dying and rising of Jesus, is pure gift offered by God “wanted all fullness to be found in Jesus and through Him to reconcile all things to him.” (Colossians 1:19) “with exultant trust in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have already gained our reconciliation” (Romans 5:11)
New Testament Jesus aloneRestores us to life giving communion in the power of the Spirit Jesus aloneCompletes the original plan of God the Father by accepting in his own flesh the unbreakable link of sonship offered through the Holy Spirit. In him our adoption by the Father is finalized.
New Testament “Institution” “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." (John 20:23) Not the origin of today’s event The community’s power to “isolate, repel, and negate evil and sin” was worked out differently within individual church communities, each specifying “both the manner and means of its exercise.” John highlights the community’s participation and power in the reconciliation process.
New Testament We are all reconciled to the Father through the Son 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 “And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.”
New Testament Various Reconciliation Practices emerged “One on One”Matthew 18:15-20 Galatians 6:1-2 Eucharistic CelebrationMatthew 5:23-24 “Communal”1 Corinthians 5:1-5 2 Corinthians 2:5-11
New Testament Communities held basic truths certain • Anyone who sinned could be forgiven through the ministry of the church • Forgiveness is rooted in Christ’s victory over sin • He handed the power on to his Ambassadors of Reconciliation • Peter Mt 16:19 I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." • Disciples Mt 18:18 Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
New Testament Initially NO structures, sacred signs or gesture This in no way means today’s sacrament does not stem from Christ It shows an organic process at work as the community, led by the Spirit, celebrates God’s forgiveness in different ways, reflecting the diverse aspects present within the treasury of grace.
The Early Church The Body of Christ Communal and Social dimensions Sin as not a matter of hurting God, but of wounding the body of Christ present in the Church Reconciliation was structured so that the community celebrated the healing of its member
The First Six Centuries Marked by hesitancy on the part of the Church to offer a post Baptismal experience of forgiveness The question was not whether God could forgive sins after baptismbut whether the Church could or should
The First Six Centuries Tension betweenMatthew 18:22 “Forgive seventy times seven”Romans 6:2 “We have died to sin; how could we go on living it?” The experience of committing serious sin after baptism was not the initial experience of the early community
The First Six Centuries Time of unparalleled fervor and faith Early Christians • Embraced the demand of Christian life with passionate love. • Nothing could stand in the way of reaching their eternal crown of glory • The second coming was imminent Christianity was an adult reality, accepted by adults, lived within the context of a strong adult support group
The First Six Centuries By the 2nd Century a Gradual Change of Heart Tertullian The Church’s power to forgive sins is “a second plank after shipwreck.” Shepherd of Hermes (c. 140) Steering a course between rigorism and complete laxity • Allowed for forgiveness to be granted when grave sins were involved but only once in a person’s lifetime. • Allowed forgiveness of non-grave sins at the Bishop’s discretion • The Bishop judged the gravity of the sin • Normal forms of mortification, that is fasting, almsgiving, prayers etc. celebrated the forgiveness
The First Six Centuries Third Century Persecution Begins Decius (250-51) Gallus (253) Valerian (257-58)Rock the Church with their intensity Martyrdom vs Apostasy Should apostates be allowed to return to the Church?
The First Six Centuries Council of Carthage (251) Pope Cornelius & St. Cyprian Mercy and favor would be granted to those who denied the faith during persecution but only once Immediate dispute “Severity vs Clemency” Novatianus challenged the decision resulting eventually in schism
The First Six Centuries By the fourth century A canonical or ecclesiastical structure emerged for the forgiveness of sins after baptism PUBLIC PENANCE Emphasis was on the process involved in reconciliation Unshaken conviction that a sinner could be forgiven only through ministry of the community 1 Peter 1:15 Be yourselves holy in all your activity, after the model of the Holy One who calls us, since scripture says, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’”
The First Six Centuries • Sinner confessed privately to Bishop • If serious enough penitent was enrollment in the Order of Penitents • Community then praised God over sinners repentance • Penitent was excommunicated “removed from main body of believers” • No Eucharist • Relegated to back of Church. There to greet the community with prayers, tears and prostration • This was coupled with public acts of penitence that could last for years or in extreme cases a lifetime. • Bishop decide when repentance had truly ripened • Bishop then prayed over penitent and led them back to their prior place in the community. This usually occurred on Holy Thursday. • Reintegration was never complete. Once a penitent always a penitent. They were considered “Born Again” to be excluded from clerical orders, holding public office. Rehabilitation was ongoing
The First Six Centuries The entire church was obliged to take an active part in the sinner’s reconciliation with God, since the individual member’s unity or rupture with God affected the community’s holiness. By the end of the sixth century this form collapsed • Church membership was increasing but apostolic fervor and heroism diminished • People were no longer willing to give up their trade as a means of reconciliation • End of persecution weakened community solidarity. No longer a minority. • Christ’s coming was no longer seen as imminent
Middle Ages Highlighted God’s splendor, majesty, kingship God was unapproachable, distant, omnipotent Reconciliation emphasized judgement, atonement, reparation, ransom
Monasticism Affected the very core of spiritual growth among the church’s members Spiritual Direction Each person had a spiritual companion or soul mate with whom they confessed Not the form of reconciliation we exercise today It was a sharing of one’s journey when in search of direction, encouragement, prayer, discernment
Monasticism Patrick began to offer a conversion process in Ireland based on gradual growth in spiritual direction Monks began to offer forgiveness combined with Spiritual direction in the guise of ongoing conscience formation “Penitential Books” As Monasticism spread so did the new system of Penance
Monasticism After the Germanic invasion Columban introduced the system into Europe The Monastic structure spread throughout Europe Third Council of Toledo (589) Condemned the practice Synod of French bishops (652) Deemed the practice good for all Spread to Rome where a compromise arose • public notorious sin would use public penance • private sin would use private penance
What did it look like? • No order of penitents • No one time only rule • No segregation from community • No public penance • Confess and receive absolution from priest not bishop • Absolution was given immediately • Penance was an honor system • No more after effects from penitence • Fostered a gradual process of spiritual conversion and growth • No distinction made between mortal and venial sins • The use of penitential books to assist in deciding on penance • Early penance concentrated on personal healing and reparation Later it developed into a judgement and repayment mode
Abuses Developed Commutation Penitent could commute their punishment to another through prayers, readings or payment • Contributed to class distinction because the poor could not take advantage of it • Resulted in buying and selling of indulgences
Fourth Lateran Council (1215) The Ritual of Reconciliation in the Irish form is canonized “Each member of the faithful of both sexes who has reached the age of discretion must confess their sins at least once a year to their parish priest, and accomplish within the measure of their means, the penance which is imposed.”
Controversy:Contritionists vs Absolutionists The relationship that the actions of the penitent and actions of the priest have on the forgiveness of sin PenitentSorrow, Confession, Acts of Penance PriestAbsolution In the name of Christ and the Church
The Controversy Contritionists Peter Abelard (1142) & Peter Lombard (1160) • Sincere sorrow motivated by the love of God was the cause of forgiveness • The priests absolution is more a statement of the fact forgiveness has occurred than the granting of forgiveness Absolutionists Hugh (1141) and Victor (1173) of St. Victor • Saw the priests absolution as the proper use of Christ’s power known as “the power of the keys” • This power was used to admit or exclude people from forgiveness, rather than from community.
Solutions CONTRITIONIST Thomas Aquinas (1274) • The individual’s personal actions were the matter for the sacrament. • The ecclesial action was the form. • Both were necessary for the efficacy of the sacrament ABSOLUTIST Duns Scotus (1308) • Forgiveness is received through the priests absolution • The persons sorrow simply opened their heart to receive it • A priest is required for forgiveness
The Decision Council of Trent Advocates the absolutionist position of Duns Scotus Maintains the judicial importance of the priests absolution granting role • He judges the penitents disposition • Imparts penance as penalty for sin • Pronounces absolution Penitent must then • Confess the number of mortal sins “integral confession” • Venial sin can be forgiven in other penitential practices
Today God is portrayed in his intimacy Face-to-face confession, Penance services filled with sensitivity and close experience of God Reconciliation is more “Intimate Encounter”
Vatican II (1973) Sin ruptures relationship: • Our link with God • Union with community in the church Forgiveness requires a restoration and healing of broken bonds Sacrament of Reconciliation • Cleanses our sins through Christ’s redeeming blood • Makes us one with God • Reconnects us with Christ’s Body, the Church
Vatican II (1973) Sacrament of Reconciliation The Church is represented by the Priest confessor The words of absolution officially signify our restoration to full healthy status within the Catholic Church This need to be reunited and reconciled with the Church is why someone who sins in a serious way is required, under ordinary conditions, to go to confession before receiving Eucharist
Penance is a Sacrament of the Church Given to us by Christ. It restores Grace! • Provides a uniquely rich and protected way for us to confess our failings, acknowledge our guilt and unburden our anxiety • We actually hear in clear and certain words that our sins are forgiven • Talking out our problems with a friend can comfort and reassure us when we are burdened but they can not announce God’s forgiveness with certitude