Saturday, November 13, 2004
Penance: What is it Good For?
I am writing a paper on penance for my systematic theology class. The papers topic question given to us by the professor reads, "A parishoner says to you: 'If Jesus already died for our sins, why do we need to do penance?" My initial reaction to this topic question was, "You don't. Welcome to the Episcopal Church. Should you find that distressing, the Roman Catholic Church down the road is very nice." But, obviously, I cannot begin a paper with that, so I sat down to think about why I believed that and how I thought about penance. The BCP rubrics in the rite of Reconciliation of a Penitent point away from a theology of penance as punishment and point toward the doing of an act of thanksgiving, which is much more conducive to my belief structure that the original idea of penance - (gr) poena
, or punishment. I myself have never participated in Reconciliation of a Penitent becuase I've never felt the need to do so. I make my public confession weekly in the Sunday Eucahrist liturgy and sometimes daily in the Daily Office. I've never felt very strongly about the idea that priests can somehow grant something to us which we cannot get from God ourselves. And so I came to the conclusion that I don't believe in doing penance. That makes for a short paper, so I'll have to flesh that out a bit. What do you think about the idea of penance?
When one committs a murder, even though one seeks foregiveness, he must make repatation by serving the time if you will. If one damages anothers goods, all though he be forgiven, he must replace the goods. When we sin and damage a part of our souls or someone else's soul, all though we be forgiven, we must work to repair those damages. It's not about repaying God persay...its about working to make ourselves and those whom we have offended whole.