Today is Shrove Tuesday or the last day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Great Lent. Shrove means ‘to shrive’ which is presenting oneself for penance and absolution. In many parishes around the world, it has been customary to have pancake suppers (a more English Catholic tradition) or ‘Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras’ parties. Revelry is in full swing and the idea is to party as much as possible before our penance filled 40 days of Lent. I get the sentiment, but the issue of ‘sinning more to repent more’ seems so joining in the ‘legal standing’ version of forgiveness rather than the medicinal viewpoint that Anglicanism shares with our Eastern brethren. Anglicanism has historically seen confession less as a legal ruling from the Church and more as an opportunity for spiritual direction.
What I do know is that a holistic faith takes into account our need of forgiveness because sin is a condition that we live with on a constant basis. For me, that’s why the Sacrament of Reconciliation is so important. Sin is holistic as much as forgiveness is– it effects our whole person including our relationship with others. The reason the Church offers private confession on top of our general confession we use every Sunday is that sometimes we need to hear those words of absolution that the Priest pronounces not only from God but from our fellow human that sins just like us. We need to be reconciled to God. Our shared humanity needs to be reconciled to each other. For my sins, my failings, my ‘missing the mark’ moments not only affect MY spiritual well-being, but also the well-being of every member of The Church– we are all one body and each of our sins affect the other.
However, we all need to feast- to celebrate- the forgiveness that is given to us. So while we need to confess, to be reconciled to God and our brothers and sisters, we also need to celebrate, to feast, with God and our brothers sisters. For those of us who didn’t grow up in the Catholic tradition, feasting was limited to the potluck suppers once a month with the great southern sacrament of fried chicken and sweet tea. However, as I started walking the Anglican way, I discovered that the culmination of a feast isn’t the food we brought, necessarily, but the Spiritual Food that we find the Sacrament of His Body and Blood that is offered to us by Him through the Church.
So today, let us feast, let us shrive, let us come to a God that showers us with grace. You see, confession isn’t for the holy, confession is for all of us, the sinners and the saints, the broken and and the hurting. The same for feasting– it’s for all of us– as we remember, recall, and accept the gracious gift of our loving Father.