Friday, November 21, 2008

Forgotten Prayers: Act of Contrition

Confession of our sins to a priest is the means that Christ instituted to forgive us and restore us to God's grace. John 20:19-23 says:
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you." And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
Although only God can forgive sins, He also has the authority to delegate this power; here, He is clearly doing exactly that. It would not be possible for the Apostles or their successors to forgive or retain sins without knowing what the sins are; therefore, it must be necessary for them to hear confessions. As the picture below illustrates, the Church teaches us that it is Christ Himself Whom we encounter in the confessional, through His priest.

Naturally, to be forgiven for our sins, we must be sorry for them and resolve to avoid them in the future, so at the end of every confession, we make an Act of Contrition. (Probably doesn't hurt to make Acts of Contrition outside of Confession, either.)

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of Heaven, and the pains of Hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.

I don't find an exact translation of this Act of Contrition in Latin, but here is a slightly different one for Latin fans:

Deus meus, ex toto corde poenitet me omnium meorum peccatorum, eaque detestor, quia peccando, non solum poenas a Te iuste statutas promeritus sum, sed praesertim quia offendi Te, summum bonum, ac dignum qui super omnia diligaris. Ideo firmiter propono, adiuvante gratia Tua, de cetero me non peccaturum peccandique occasiones proximas fugiturum. Amen.

1 comment:

  1. It's not forgotten to me! When I came back to the Church over 3 years ago, it took me awhile but I found this version of the prayer (newer versions are slightly different). It is the version I memorized many years ago. I say it frequently now, both after Confession (obviously) and typically when I kneel to pray before Mass.