The Essence of Penance & Reconciliation
Nowadays, everyone knows that the penance and reconciliation are supposed to be the efficient the ways for the spiritual transformation and development. However, it should be mentioned that, due to the variety of reasons, not everyone is ready to accept this practice. The infantilism, immaturity, lack of foresight, the habit to turn off the pain and the desire to try all the sorts of joy surrogates belong to the key restrictions and obstacles to the penance and reconciliation. Based on the abovementioned, the following paper is aimed to provide the overview of penance and reconciliation as the essential element of Roman Catholicism. In addition, the paper will discuss these notions as the most efficient and popular tools of absolution.
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Penance & Reconciliation Overview
Catholicism views sin as an insult to God, based on the violation of the specific rules established by the religion and supported by the church. The penance and reconciliation are considered to be the efficient tools for the individuals to apologize for the offense and to become forgiven (Curran). Thus, the Church acts as a mediator between God and people, facilitating their handling through love and prayer. Due to the grace of a merciful God, the sinner, embarking on the path of repentance, returns to the Lord and receives His blessing (Ferrari). In fact, it should be mentioned that people often conduct unrighteous actions together. Thus, the penance and reconciliation can be mutually helped, so that being free from the sin by the grace of Christ, people of good will can work together for justice and peace in the world. By God's power, all people are bound together by the supernatural ties, whereby the sin of one affects the others, just as the holiness of all bears the blessing to everyone. Therefore, the penance is closely related to the econciliation with other individuals, suffering from the consequences of the committed sins (Bouyer).
After committing the sin, the one who wants to proceed to the sacrament of reconciliation and be led by the Holy Spirit, should turn to God with an open heart. The inner conversion includes the regret about the commited sins and the firm intention to lead the pious life. It should be expressed through the confession of sins in front of the Church. In turn, based on the mediation of the Church, God absolves the person from his or her sins through the priest and the sacraments of penance and reconciliation (Denzinger & Hünermann). However, it should be stated that the sacrament of reconciliation requires the proper mindset and spiritual attitude, including love, faithfulness etc. The person commits sins because of the absence and negation of love. Thus, the process of turning away from sin implies the penance and reconciliation accomplished only through love to God.
The interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in a variety of forms. In the Medieval period, the popular forms of penance and reconciliation included fasting, pilgrimage, floggings and imprisonment. However, the modern approach onto the religious aspects of penance and reconciliation is based on the three forms which imply fasting, prayer and alms, expressed as an appeal to the Lord’s mercy (Denzinger & Hünermann). In addition, the Baptism or martyrdom as well as the efforts made for reconciliation with the people, including the tears of repentance, concern for the salvation of the neighbor, the intercession of the saints and the deeds of love can cover the multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8; Ferrari). The daily life of the one who strives for the reconciliation should include the concern for the poor, the implementation and protection of justice, the recognition of the personal misconduct, the revisioon of life, the examination of conscience and spiritual direction. The person should follow Jesus’ will.
In Catholicism, the sacrament of penance, as well as the mercy of God, provides a believer with the absolution so that he can reconcile and reunite with the Church. The priest through the power received from the Church absolves the person who sincerely repents of the committed sins. Thus, the believer receives forgiveness bestowed by God as well as gets rid of the punishment for the commited sins and gets grace to resist temptations.
In Catholic teaching, the sacrament of penance is effective only when the believer truly regrets of his actions. In fact, he has to be determined to avoid any of the voluntary sins. Another important condition implies the compensation for damages caused to others as well as the implementation of a conditional sentence imposed by a priest. The sinner must confess before God, while the priest will serve as a witness to the confession.
The confession to a priest enables the believer to receive the spiritual advice, which will help to avoid the commitment of the sinful acts in future. However, the most important duty of a priest implies the obligation to preserve the secrecy of confession, which is not allowed to break. If a priest violates this rule, he becomes excommunicated.
It should be mentioned that the sacrament of penance is closely linked to the practice of granting the indulgences, i.e. the specific feature of Catholic theology. It has always been the issue of the large number of disputes. However, according to the Catholic theology, the penance and reconciliation are considered to be the efficient tools of absolution. This allows the repentant person to reunite with the Church and to avoid eternal damnation after death.
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