Reconciliation: The Sacrament


Institution of the Sacrament

As Jesus went through the Crucifixion in order that we might be forgiven, so the first thing he did after the Crucifixion, when he was raised from the dead, was to give us the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Penance).  “If you forgive the sins of any,” he said to his Apostles, “they are forgiven them; if you retain (refuse to forgive) the sins of any, they are retained” (NRSV, John 20:22,23).

Ordination of priests

So today priests have been given the power and authority to pass on God’s forgiveness to those who come and confess their sins, or make their Confession, as we say.  This power is given when the priest is ordained.  In the Prayer Book Ordination Service, as the Bishop lays hands on those being ordained priest, he says what Jesus himself said to the Apostles: “Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained”. (1) In the Common Worship Service, after the Bishop has laid hands on all those being ordained priest, he says a prayer which includes these words:

“May they declare your blessings to your people;
may they proclaim Christ’s victory over the powers of darkness,
and absolve (forgive sins) in Christ’s name those who turn to him in faith…” (2)

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