Bishop Eric Menees
I write this Bishop’s Note while taking a class on the Ministry of Pastoral Care at Wheaton College. This is not an Anglican class but they are using the 2019 BCP for their worship and workshops. We just concluded a teaching on accepting forgiveness and the speaker used the absolution form the 2019 BCP. I find this significant because it is confirmation that Christians as a whole are discovering the beauty and power of this book.
Last week in our examination of the service of Morning Prayer in the BCP, we studied the confession of sin. This week as we continue our examination we look at the pronouncement of absolution. Webster’s Dictionary tells us that absolution is a noun and means, “(1) The formal release from guilt, obligation or punishment. (2) An ecclesiastical declaration of forgiveness of sin.”
You’ll remember from my previous Bishop’s Note that the service of Morning Prayer can be led by clergy or lay people and that it literally brought worship and scripture into the homes of lay men and woman in addition to the church. Thus, we have three forms for pronouncement of absolution:
The first form is drawn from the 1662 BCP and reminds us that the desire of God is that we as sinners may turn from our sin and live. It further speaks to the role of priest, speaking in “persona Christi” as Christ himself, pronouncing that forgiveness of sin to the truly repentant sinner. In addition, the priest exhorts God to grant us His Holy Spirit giving us the grace to live into the forgiveness provided which transforms lives and assists us in godly and holy living.
The second form is a more direct and straightforward pronouncement of absolution and remission of sin. This combination with “remission” is an important one. Too often, we associate this word with illness. “The cancer is in remission” is a phrase we hear. However, that gives the sense that it may come back. In the theological sense, remission is synonymous with exculpation. Again looking to the dictionary: “To exculpate means to find someone not guilty of criminal charges.” Exculpate comes from two Latin words: ex- meaning "from," and culpa meaning "blame." Exculpate is similar in meaning to exonerate. When you exonerate someone, you clear a person of an accusation and any suspicion that goes along with it. Not only are we forgiven, we are also released from blame and guilt!
The third form is meant for a deacon or layperson who bids God to grant repentant sinners “pardon and peace.” How beautiful to be reminded that God will indeed grant pardon and peace at the bidding of any one of his adopted children. Like “absolution and remission,” “pardon and peace” speaks to not only the forgiveness of the sin or crime of which we are guilty, but in addition, the peace that comes from the Holy Spirit which allows us to rest in Christ, free of guilt and shame.
The 2019 BCP reminds us not only of the importance of the confession of our sin but also of the promise of forgiveness that God offers. The two go together hand in hand.
The Priest alone stands and says
Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, desires not the death of sinners, but that they may turn from their wickedness and live. He has empowered and commanded his ministers to pronounce to his people, being penitent, the absolution and remission of their sins. He pardons and absolves all who truly repent and genuinely believe his holy Gospel. For this reason, we beseech him to grant us true repentance and his Holy Spirit, that our present deeds may please him, the rest of our lives may be pure and holy, and that at the last we may come to his eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Almighty and merciful Lord grant you absolution and remission of all your sins, true repentance, amendment of life, and the grace and consolation of his Holy Spirit. Amen.
A Deacon or layperson remains kneeling and prays
Grant to your faithful people, merciful Lord, pardon and peace; that we may be cleansed from all our sins, and serve you with a quiet mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I pray you all a very blessed day!