Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Conversion, Penance, Confession, Forgiveness, Reconciliation

Michel Marigny (1795-1849)
Saint Jean Nepomucène martyr du secret de la confession (esquisse)
Saint John Nepomucene, Martyr of the Secret of the Confession (esquisse)
Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, Petit  Palais, Paris

Johann Michael Fischer 1692-1766 and Johann Schmuzer 1642-1701
Benedictine Abbey Church 
Ottobeuren, Bavaria

Adolf Seel (1829-1907) 
The Confession 
Oil on canvas 
94 x 77 cm 
Private collection

Louis d'Anthoine (1814-1852)
Confession du Giaour 
Confession of the Giaour
Oil on canvas
128 x 165 cm
Musée des beaux-arts, Nantes

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres 1780  - 1867 
La Confession publique à Saint-Pierre de Rome 
Public confession in St Peter`s, Rome
1814 - 1820
19.3 x  19.2 cm
Musée Ingres, Montauban

At one time Confession and the Confessional were two of the hallmarks of Catholicism and being a Catholic

The above images record that fact

St. John Nepomucene (about 1340 - 20 March 1393) is the Czech martyr saint hailed as the first martyr of the Seal of the Confessional and  a patron against calumnies 

He refused the order of the Czech King Wenceslas IV to divulge the confessional secrets of the Czech Queen. He was put to death for this stand

The Bavarian baroque church illustrates the importance of the place where the Confession or Sacrament is to take place. Reconciliation takes place within the locus of the Church or Church building. It is a permanent fixture protected by the Church

Both images underline the inviolability and impregnability of the Christian conscience properly formed
It symbolises man in his examination of conscience before God. If this is not be unassailable, what is ? What would then be the content of a civil right to the freedom of religion and of conscience ?

That is why the Irish Government`s proposal to compel priests to break the seal is so obnoxious

Seel was part of the Düsseldorf School of Painting a school which was distinguished by its religious and allegorical themes

The painting exudes a rather mysterious air as well as the hesitancy of the penitent. The troubled conscience - will there be Reconciliation ?

"The Giaour" is a poem by Lord Byron first published in 1813 

In the painting, the Giaour (a Turkish word for an infidel or nonbeliever)  is on his deathbed and is being confessed by  monk who is pointing to the sky. It is the last confession before death, an attempt at reconciliation with God in extremis

As a historical record Ingres` drawing is interesting. The drawing was executed while the artist was in Rome and was one of the sketches leading up to his painting on the theme of The Sistine Chapel

It seems to be based on real life, on one Good Friday, the day of the Crucifixion, the Great Sacrifice for the sins of all mankind.  The annotation reads:
à st Pierre le vendredi saint le Cardinal / de Gregorio grand penitencier confesse un / individu publiquement 
This may have been Cardinal Emanuele de Gregorio whose image is here

The sacrament does not have one name but at least five
Conversion, Penance, Confession, Forgiveness, Reconciliation.
All these names correspond to different elements of the Sacrament

Many myths and errors abound about this sacrament especially among non-Catholics. The same errors and more are also evident amongst Catholics too

The Catechism states:
1441 Only God forgives sins. Since he is the Son of God, Jesus says of himself, "The Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins" and exercises this divine power: "Your sins are forgiven." Further, by virtue of his divine authority he gives this power to men to exercise in his name.... 
1442 Christ has willed that in her prayer and life and action his whole Church should be the sign and instrument of the forgiveness and reconciliation that he acquired for us at the price of his blood. But he entrusted the exercise of the power of absolution to the apostolic ministry which he charged with the "ministry of reconciliation." The apostle is sent out "on behalf of Christ" with "God making his appeal" through him and pleading: "Be reconciled to God." ... 
1448 Beneath the changes in discipline and celebration that this sacrament has undergone over the centuries, the same fundamental structure is to be discerned. It comprises two equally essential elements: on the one hand, the acts of the man who undergoes conversion through the action of the Holy Spirit: namely, contrition, confession, and satisfaction; on the other, God's action through the intervention of the Church. the Church, who through the bishop and his priests forgives sins in the name of Jesus Christ and determines the manner of satisfaction, also prays for the sinner and does penance with him. Thus the sinner is healed and re-established in ecclesial communion. 
1449 The formula of absolution used in the Latin Church expresses the essential elements of this sacrament: the Father of mercies is the source of all forgiveness. He effects the reconciliation of sinners through the Passover of his Son and the gift of his Spirit, through the prayer and ministry of the Church

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