“Father, forgive me for I have sinned. It has been two weeks since my last confession.” I fidget in my chair for a moment, playing with the black skirt of my postulant uniform, and glance up at the picture on the opposite wall. It is an extreme close up of one of my favorite bible passages, the unnamed penitent woman who interrupted the dinner at Simon’s house to anoint Jesus’s feet. The picture shows her holding Jesus’s foot right up to her face and weeping. The artist zoomed in on the scene, showing just a foot and the woman’s face. This scene fills the entire frame. The woman looks very young, almost like a child. I receive courage from her boldness.
“For the past few weeks I’ve been dwelling on past sins, and I-”
The priest interrupts me so abruptly that it almost feels like a slap in the face. “Have you confessed those sins?”
“Then they are gone. Jesus has washed you clean. Don’t think about them anymore.” He patiently, but firmly, reminds me, “Jesus is fiercely in love with you. Ask for the grace to love him just as fiercely.”
Just let it go
Although objectively speaking, all sin is washed away every time the priest says the words of absolution, it doesn’t always feel like that. This time though, is one of those rare grace filled confessions where God allows me to feel the grace. Every word drips with it.
“I absolve you from all of your sins in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Each word rushes over me like a waterfall, and I imagine each stroke of the sign of the cross crossing out my sins written dutifully in my journal. God’s unfathomable mercy actually erases those sins, but it would take more than this confession to convince me of that.
I did walk out of that room, which just happened to be the confessional on Wednesday afternoons, feeling lighter. The priest had almost shocked me into letting go of my sin and beginning to accept the Lord’s forgiveness. I told myself: “Victoria, you have been forgiven, now start living like it.”
Confession is not as scary as it looks
This conversation between Alsan and Jill in The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis is an amazing analogy for confession. Jill has just done something terrible, aka “sinned.”
“If you are thirsty, you may drink.”
“Are you not thirsty?” said the lion.
“I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.
“Then drink,” said the lion.
“May I – could I – would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill. The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.
“Will you promise not to – do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.
“I make no promise,” said the Lion.
Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.
“Do you eat girls?” she said.
“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.
“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.
“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.
“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”
“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.
Confession is necessary: there is no other stream
Like the woman at the well I don’t even know how thirsty I am until the living water is offered. Why was I afraid of this? The thirsty land of my soul soaks up the gift…”I absolve you.” This is a Mikveh, a bridal bath, the total cleansing, like baptism, that gives me the courage to get up and begin again. There is nothing but refreshment here. Here, I am filled; only here. I have been grasping, throwing myself into wells that do not satisfy, that are bone dry; losing myself in their depths; clinging to this bucket, the only way I know to find satisfaction. But Jesus is here now, and he has nothing to draw with unless I give him my bucket, my sins that will never satisfy.