The centre point of of the Sistine Chapel ceiling is where God reaches out to humanity and humanity reaches out to God striving for connection. Michelangelo is celebrated as an artist, and often missed is the theology that infuses much of his art, and all the panels in the fresco in the chapel are about this striving for connection sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing. The east wall of the chapel repeats this story focussing on the Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus. The frescos in the chapel centre on the gospel theme of atonement (at-one-meant). This striving to connect is once and for all time accomplished in the person of Jesus where God and humanity are absolutely reconciled. Ultimately some part of our response needs us to acknowledge our part in contributing to the failure to connect.
The historic prayer books of the Anglican Church leant a certain dignity to confession as we declare that ‘we bewail our manifold sins and wickedness which we from time to time most grievously have committed’ (BCP General Confession – Holy Communion), and indeed it seemed that almost every time we gathered for worship some part of that time was devoted to declaring ourselves to ‘have strayed and wandered from thy ways like lost sheep’ (BCP Confession – Evening Prayer). There has been something of a trend in contemporary liturgy to celebrate more and reduce our focus on ‘sedition, privy conspiracy, and rebellion’ (BCP – The Litany) which is appropriate in the current age but runs the risk that we fail to make the connection.
The Anglican tradition sees confession at various levels. Firstly in our own private prayers were with God and God alone we say sorry and find peace. Secondly when we gather in community for the common worship we will generally take some time to confess our sins and hear the absolution declared by the priest in faithfulness to their ordination. For those who ‘cannot quiet his own conscience herein, but requireth further comfort or counsel’ (BCP Communion The Exhortation) they are urged to seek out a priest to open their grief, receive absolution and counsel. This threefold approach has lead to the Anglican maxim in relation to private confession ‘All May, Some Should, None Must’.
Reconciliation lies at the heart of the Gospel, and we urge you to spend some time in your prayers being aware of your own limitations, and when we gather to worship to celebrate and grow to recognise that we have not always made the mark, and if you feel the need to take the matter further you are welcome to make an appointment with the Rector to discuss the matter or simply for private auricular confession.
Remember always that God is reaching out to us.