For modern Catholics, the Rite of Reconciliation is the sacramental act of entering the confessional, confessing one’s sins, receiving a penance, making an act of contrition, obtaining absolution, and leaving the confessional reconciled with the Living God. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE THAT! What I am trying to say is hard to explain, but I’ll try.
I think if there was more public ceremony we might take it more seriously. Gone are the days of public penances (I would be forever on the liturgical chain gang) and with it the understanding of the effects of grave sin upon the community. Today, we approach sin and confession as if it is a private affair, and in a certain sense, it is. That being said, every sin is social and affects the Body of Christ – especially the grave ones.
I tripped over this video at Chant Blog that demonstrates the reception of penitents on Maundy Thursday in preparation for the Triduum celebration. The rite finds its origin in the diocese of Salisbury, England circa Eleventh Century. It is a rite filled with noble simplicity. To read more about these rites check out this pdf prepared by D.H. Frost entitled, Interpreting a medieval church through liturgy. Beneath the video is a translation of what is being chanted.
“Venite, venite, venite, filii; audite me : timorem Domini docebo vos.” (“Come, children, hearken to me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord.”) Notice the prostrations and even the bare feet. Then, the priest, with due reverence, leads and accompanies the penitent like a bride being introduced to her groom. Outstanding!