Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 51 year old Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church of Detroit. Piety Hill refers to the old name for our neighborhood. The neighborhood has changed a great deal in the over 150 years we have been on this corner (but not our traditional biblical theology) and it is now known for the neighboring theatres, the professional baseball and football stadiums and new hockey/basketball arena.

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Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Being Shriven...Shrove Tuesday

Today's 'Feast' goes by many names: Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday. Here in Detroit it is Paczki Day for the sickly-sweet lard-laden jelly donut being consumed before Lent. In the Anglican Tradition it is called Shrove Tuesday. Below is an email I sent to the parish list about being Shriven.

The word "shrove" in Shrove Tuesday comes from the idea of being "shriven" - to get rid of something. Not only are we getting rid of the fats, butters and sweets before Lent (getting rid of them by eating them!), but we should be encouraged to be Shriven of our sins!

One powerful way of doing this is through the sacrament of auricular confession. Auricular comes from the word for hearing in the ear. It is where you tell a list of your sins to God through the person of the priest. He hears them, offers counsel, assigns a penance, and dispenses God's absolution. (photo staged for demonstration purposes only, it is not a real confession - that would be anonymous!)

Is it required to do it this way in Anglicanism? No, but there is the wonderful old maxim - None Must, All May, More Should! No one is required to do it, but it is available to all and more should take advantage of it!

It takes real humility (a virtue) to confess out-loud to a another person the exact list of your sins. But frequently, until we do, the impact and gravity of them are often justified away and then repeated. The priest, sitting in as alter-christus, listens with the loving welcome of the father of the prodigal, rushing out to greet his wayward son. He may suggest some ways to remedy a sinful behaviour (ie...for being judgemental towards other one might be encouraged to say "God bless them" to stop the train-wreck of trying to kill them in your heart). The priest may also assign a penance. Penance doesn't pay the price of sin - Jesus did that on the cross! Rather, a penance is like giving a little 'offering' in thanking God for the free gift of having been forgiven. It is sort of like giving a loved one flowers - the flowers do not represent all of your love - but is a token gift. Finally, once the sin is confessed and forgiven, it is gone forever! The priest will tell no one what you have done! (torture and death would not get the context of a confession from this priest) and quite frankly they are forgotten even by the priest soon after! You will not be judged or thought of any differently for going to the priest to make your confession. Believe it or not - I am never surprised that people sin! I expect we all do! And there is a wonderful relief in finally making a confession and then being done with it. It is an incredible aid to the spiritual life!

I have some excellent Anglican/Episcopal Materials on the "why and how to make a confession", as well as a great list in the parish office to use from the St. Augustine's prayer book to prepare for confession. Here are some list of sins to examine your conscience on-line ....take a moment to honestly evaluate your spiritual and corporal life compared to these lists....

click on the sins on the left to get a list to examine yourself.

If your list of sins is long (honesty will do that to you) do not despair - God can still forgive you. All you need is contrition (sorrow for having offended God by sin) and intend amendment of life (by God's help desiring not to do these things again)!

I will be available all afternoon in the office to hear confessions (most take 5 to 15 minutes) on Shrove Tuesday. Just pop in and say "Father, can you help me for a minute" and we can head over to the Chapel to hear it. If you want to make your confession anonymously tomorrow (ie...I am sitting in the acolyte vesting room with my back to the door and you come in, shut the door and whisper the sins into my ear without my knowing who you are), I will be sitting in the acolyte sacristy from 4:30pm to 5pm, before Evening Prayer.For Lent I will be sitting 'anonymously' to hear confessions on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11:30 to 12:05pm in the Acolyte Sacristy, or you can grab me any time after Evening Prayer Tuesday through Friday. Finally, you can always call and make an appointment with me. Also, Fr. Bedford would be happy to hear your confession, as would Fr. Duford in Clarkston, Fr. Kerr at St. Martin's in Detroit, and Fr. Fraser at Redeemer, Southfield. All have extensive experience in hearing confessions as priests of the Society of the Holy Cross (SSC). Their phone numbers are available in the parish office, and all would be available by appointment to hear your confession and help you to be shriven.

This Lent, take the opportunity to be shriven in preparation for the coming Paschal (Easter) Feast!