Fridays with Benedict: Chapter 67, Ask the Prayers of All for Their Faults

Chapter 67 of The Rule of St. Benedict deals with how brothers are to be accepted back into the community after having been on a journey.

The problem is that brothers on a journey, being outside of the community and the structure of the Rule, would have seen things and did things that might have affected them spiritually.

In light of that damage and disruption when the brothers return Benedict says that they should "ask the prayers of all for their faults, in case they may have been caught off guard on the way by seeing some evil thing or hearing some idle talk."

There are lots of things I love about liturgical churches. And one of those things is this: having come out of the world--like those brothers on a journey--we begin worship with a confession of sins.

From the Episcopal Church:
Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor.

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.
The confiteor from the Catholic Church:
I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned,
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault;
therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.
During the lines of the confiteor "through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault" (Latin: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa) the breast may be struck three times.

Sadly, churches like my own don't have anything like this in our worship services.

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12 thoughts on “Fridays with Benedict: Chapter 67, Ask the Prayers of All for Their Faults”

  1. There is, at least in some circles, a teaching that since God has forgiven us of all our sins already, that we don't need to ask forgiveness. Do you think asking for forgiveness somehow changes God's mind toward us or changes our mind toward Him?

  2. I'm a newbie to Episcopal liturgy, but I find it very helpful, calming, and highly catechetical. The confession of sins orients me to the reality that I'm easily influenced by things and ideas that don't conform with Christ and his Kingdom. By acknowledging and recognizing that truth I'm thus better enabled to go out into the world in "peace" and service.

  3. Christ was sacrificed "before the foundations of the Earth", so our sins have been taken care of well before we are even born. I confess my sins because I need to, not because God is waiting for me to confess before he'll forgive.

  4. My question would be, why do you need to if you have come to the conclusion that it is a done deal. The Jews only did it once per year.

  5. I think it changes our mind about ourselves. It makes me recognize how I've victimized others, in small ways and large, in action and in inaction. My moral journey beings there--over and over--with a hard, hard look in the mirror.

  6. Thanks and I agree. I listened to Walter Brueggemann a few days ago and he "seemed" to indicate that our prayers caused God to eventually come around. I could be wrong however about what I thought he was saying.

  7. I have a provocative post coming out next week about this topic, the notion that God's forgiveness is conditional upon our forgiving others (as seen in the Lord's Prayer).

  8. I have been an Episcopalian since college, and yes, the weekly confession helps to remind me that I am not perfect, and not to be self-righteous. When I was sworn in as a vestry member, the very first thing we did was to kneel for confession with the rest of the congregation -- an aid to humility.

  9. I attend churches in the Anglican Church of Canada, and I really do love the Confession. (It's the same as the Episcopal one.) I use it as a personal prayer sometimes (I replace the we's and us's with I's and me's), but there is something about saying it communally that I don't care to give up. I'm not sure why; I'll need to think on that. It has something to do with an attempt to re-orient a community, I think, and the strength you can get from experience a collective, rather than just individual, desire for positive change. But, on the other hand, there is something convicting about using it as a personal prayer which you don't get in the collective use.

    I suppose what you could do, if you get an opportunity, is try to introduce it at your own service sometime, just to try it out. If you aren't liturgical (someone at a church I once attended said that all churches are liturgical; some admit it, and some don't), wouldn't think mean you'd have opportunity to try new things, work them into the...program? Proceedings? What do you call liturgy when you don't call it liturgy? Further, you can always argue that it's Biblical: we are supposed to reconcile with our neighbour before approaching the altar.

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