Confession Essay

This essay has a total of 715 words and 4 pages.


Confession




con·fes·sion
“Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.” This simple phrase from Roman Catholic dogma
conjures up images of famous Hollywood confessions and dramatizations, but the real root
of the phrase has a much more obscure past. Not only found in modern Catholicism, the
confession of sin, along with the confession of faith, can be seen in religious practices
throughout the world. The simplest definition Webster gave the confession of sin is “a
written or oral statement acknowledging guilt, made by one who has been accused or charged
with an offense” (Bookshelf). However, Webster also recognizes the less thought of
definition of the confession of faith as “an avowal of belief in the doctrines of a
particular faith; a creed” (Bookshelf).

The double-edged meaning of the word “can be partially explained by the etymology” (Eliade
1). The word confession derives from the Latin word confiteor which means to “confess a
sin or fault,” but in a more general since the word can also mean “to acknowledge or
avow.” Thus, with the understanding of the Latin root, one may speak of the sinner who
confesses his sin, or of the martyr who confesses his faith. Regardless of which usage is
being applied, the religious rules of the confession must be followed. It must take place
in front of a recipient, or one who hears the confession. “In many cases, it is preformed
in the interest not only of the one confessing but also of the community to which both the
confessing person and the recipient belong” (Eliade 1). With an understanding of the
underlying meanings of the confession one may begin to explore the development of the
phenomenon and its function in modern religion.

A common way to view the confession of sin is as one part of the entire sacrament of
penance. The confession along with the elements of prayer, sacrifice, and penance lead up
to the act of absolution or forgiveness ( Gentz 280). In early Christian religion the
confession began as a “ritualized group avowal of sin as part of Sunday worship;”
moreover, in Judaism it developed into the annual congregational confession of sins known
as Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement (Gentz 290). Both examples of early confession
resemble today’s modern idea of publicly professing one’s faith and acknowledging one’s
sins before a recipient, in this case being the congregation as a whole, but it wasn’t
until later in Eastern and Western Christianity that the individual confession emerged.

The exact origin of the confession is unknown, but there are many theories surrounding the
development of this institution. One approach conceived by Raffaele Pettazzoni states
that the confession originated from forms of magic, specifically the magic of the spoken
word. A ritual intended to expel or eliminate a sin by means of its verbal expression,
“it was conceived of as a kind of substance that was charged with destructive or
obstructive power” (Elaide 2). This theory, however, elicited “scholarly objections”
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