Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Finding a confessional attitude

You can find an index of all the 31 Days of Encountering Judaism here.

I didn't expect to find Judaism helping me out with my rule as an Associate of the Order of Holy Cross.

But as the first Yom Kippur service of the morning began, I found myself taken by the sung prayer of confession. An alphabetical list of sins. In the prayer book "Gates of Repentance" that is used in Reformed congregations for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, it is summarized in English as:
"Who among us is righteous enough to say: 'I have not sinned'? We are arrogant, brutal, careless, destructive, egocentric, false, greedy, heartless, insolent, and joyless. Our sins are an alphabet of woe."
Except I'm pretty sure we sang all the letters not just the first part, and with each word, tapped our heart with a fist, in a move that's reminiscent of mea culpa.

It is a thousand ways more better (more better?) than the vague confession found in the Episcopal Sunday morning liturgy: "for things we have done and have left undone".

It is more better because these are concrete, vivid words. Words that can bring to mind a past action or thought.

I'm not sure I could do this every day or every week or indeed, once a month, because the litany of sins would be pretty depressing but once a year seems about right.

The music captivated me as well. In reading Wikipedia (I was looking for the list of all the sins--could only find them all printed in a book, alas), I came across this:
It is traditional that both Ashamnu and Al Cheyt are chanted in a somewhat upbeat melody ... This may seem unusual, as one might have expected a confession of sins to be chanted as a dirge. But an uplifting melody is common in all Jewish traditions.[11] One explanation is that by this confession, "the worshipper is stimulated to a mood of victory and a sense of hopeful living in the face of an unknown and unpredictable future."[12] (Wikipedia, the footnote numbers will take you directly to the footnotes on the Wikipedia page)

In confessing the sin, there is hope. I didn't get Yom Kippur before I experienced the services, but now, I think, I'm starting to get it. And may even participate more fully (what's with me and "more adverb" tonight?).

Oh and my rule? I'm supposed to review my day, Ignatian-style, and look at what I did well and where I failed in being a Christian. It feels more like a building self-awareness way than a penitential thing. In any case, it's been a very shallow review of the day, more cheers than jeers, you might say, not very intentional at all.

I must have grown up in a church where there was absolutely no mention of confession, or the one time we had a fire and brimstone preacher it pissed me off so much, I just completely wrote it off as ridiculous.

Now ... now, I see the potential good in confession.

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