Friday, July 02, 2010

How the Confiteor "Really" Goes

You know the Confiteor, right?  The prayer in which we acknowledge our sins in preparation for the Liturgy at the start of Mass?  Of course you do:

I confess to almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and words, in what I have done and have failed to do, and I ask the blessed Mary, ever Virgin, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.
But wait - did you know that that's not really the whole thing?  This is actually only a shortened version that was introduced into the Liturgy with the release of the reformed Missal in the early 1970s.  The version of it that is said in the Extraordinary Form (the "old Tridentine Mass") is longer, richer, and in my opinion more beautiful.  It also really makes you feel guilty for your sins - in a good way.  In other words, it at least makes me recognize more fully that yes, my sins are in fact bad - they're sins - and not simply flaws or imperfections.  Of course, the point isn't to be riddled with guilt or to become scrupulous, beset with anguish over my many tiny sins.  Rather, the point is to realize that I am responsible for my sins and that I have a true need for repentance. This is the "full" version - go ahead and try to recite it without starting to recognize that, hey! - I should take repentance more seriously:

I confess to almighty God, to blessed Mary ever Virgin, to blessed Michael the Archangel, to blessed John the Baptist, to the holy apostles Peter and Paul, to all the saints, and to you, my brethren, that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed (strike the breast 3 times), through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault. Therefore, I beseech blessed Mary ever Virgin, blessed Michael the Archangel, blessed John the Baptist, the holy apostles Peter and Paul, all the saints, and you, brethren, to pray for me to the Lord our God. Amen.
 Wow!  Here's another question for you: have you ever gone home and actually prayed for the congregation's sins after Mass?  Have you ever even made a quick mental prayer for them all in the moment after the Confiteor is recited?  If so, then very good for you indeed!  I would suspect, however, that most of us have not.  I confess to personally never thinking about it again after this part of the Mass has moved on.  After all, praying for an entire congregation of people we don't know is not only hard to remember, but if we wanted to pray for everyone individually, as we ask in the prayer, it would take quite a while.

The original form of this was actually a little different, and it may shed some light on this whole subject.  You see, originally this Confiteor above was said only by the priest.  He asked the congregation to pray for him, both in general, and as he began the holy work of offering the Mass.  Then, after this, a second Confiteor was said asking the priest to pray for the people, this time replacing "brethren" with "Father."

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