I understand that the idea is that when God forgives us there is no need to earn it after it has been given… so the penance is more for our benefit rather than to earn absolution…
I’ve heard that penances used to be a lot more severe, maybe even years worth of penance. And the other thing I’ve heard is that after confession…just using this example… a person may once have received a penance that was long lasting… and was not given absolution until the penance was ‘paid’. they were not allowed to partake in any part of the service, they would have attended the service and simply sat there.
Is any part of this true?
Why have things changed so drastically within the church if it is?
As I understand it, when I go to confession and receive absolution, I am receiving absolution for my sins. But that doesn’t mean I am free and clear. I am given penance to remove the temporal punishment of that sin; the eternal punishment is forgiven in the absolution. Then, I have to make reparations for the sin I committed and I must amend my life. If I committed an atrocity, like murder, then I could go to confession, receive absolution for the eternal punishment levied against my soul, and then I’d receive my penance, and then I’d have to make reparations by subjecting myself to the consequences of murder here in society: turning myself in for the murder, going to prison, apologizing to the grieving families, etc. And I must amend my life.
Some penances could be long, but I cannot answer that without a reference to look at.
People who have sins on their conscience can participate in the Mass, hear the readings, take home the spiritual message of the homily. They just aren’t supposed to participate in the Eucharist, which is mandated in the Bible. St. Paul warns us in his letter to, (I forgot)I think, the Corinthians, that “those who eat the flesh and drink the cup unworthily reap eternal damnation upon themselves.” Basically, those persons who have sins on their conscience should not go to Communion because that in itself is a mortal sin. Who among us is worthy enough to participate in the Eucharist? Those who have just received absolution, hence the reason priests used to hear confession prior to the Mass. (:mad: One of my pet-peeves is that they no longer do that, at least at my church.:mad: )
Yes, around the 4th and 5th centuries, and even later. (Remember Henry II, whose outburst of temper led to 4 of his knights murdering St. Thomas a Becket at the Canterbury Cathedral? Henry’s penance involved some very public–and painful–things, including a whipping, creeping on his knees to the church, etc. This was in the 12th century).
You had, at the same time, heretical groups who taught that once a person had sinned, they ‘could not be’ forgiven or readmitted back to the church. Possibly the ‘stiffer’ penances were given both as a warning (by those inclined to this heresy) or as an example of sincere repentence meaning that after this suffering the person should and could be readmitted (by those who fought against the heresy).
If a person was under excommunication (which is a separate topic although often excommunication led to the person seeking penance and absolution so as to be fully reconciled to the Church) not only couldn’t he ‘just sit there’, nobody could ‘serve’ him. (Another reason why Henry went along with the penance rather than have his subjects put in the position of having to defy the law if they persisted in serving him–especially since he had several sons who were already rebelling against him. . .). However, for those who had the long penances, it is not really so different from today. A person who remarries after a divorce, without receiving a decree of nullity, is ‘free’ to attend Mass, but since he or she has not fully completed all necessary to be reconciled, he or she cannot ‘fully participate’.