“Sleepwalking ” by Yarmonsky (2013)
There come those moments when “the veil” is pulled aside for brief time and we see ourselves not in the self-serving, self-glorifying light of our own egos but in the cold hard light of true reality, the reality that is God’s. When that happens we experience a jolt similar to that experienced by the Ghosts in the Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. Each and every one of us desperately wants to be “good”. That is, at least, we want to appear to be good. We want to be perceived by others, and ourselves, as a person who is upright, righteous and full of integrity. We want to live in Heaven but we think that in doing that we can bring along with us a certain portion of Hell because that certain portion of Hell speaks to our baser needs, our creature comforts, and our addictions. We delude ourselves, as those Ghosts did, into believing that this marriage of Heaven and Hell is o.k., all right, and perfectly normal. After all don’t I deserve a little fun to go along with all that dull work of maintaining my uprightness, don’t I have the “right” to certain pleasures, and am I not entitled to my own opinion about what is right and what is not. The confrontation of fantasy and truth can be a devastating experience and an ego which has been cultured and trained in the ways of the “me first” let me be satisfied mind set of modern culture becomes so hardened it tends to shatter into a million pieces as a result.
Recently, I have had such a confrontation and while it was, and is, not pleasant I see it as a Godsend quite literally. In Much Ado about Nothing the bard recounts the rebuilding of a reputation by using a false banishment. The Friar presiding at a wedding learns of accusations of dishonor against the bride, Lady Beatrice, and advises that she feign death for a time to bring about a form of “resurrection”. The priest advises:
“Come, lady, die to live: this wedding day
Perhaps is but prolong’d; have patience and endure
From Much Ado About Nothing, Act IV: Scene I
So Paul will not be comfortable for a while but to a greater end. As in the end he will be healed. At least he will be healed for a time. In the meantime, he must beg forgiveness from those he has wronged, or even inconvenienced a little. This tells me that the practice of private confession before a priest has a very practical as well as spiritual purpose. We all delude ourselves, but when we speak plainly to the face of another our deepest and darkest transgressions there is no hiding, no delusion. We are cornered in our own treachery. We can see the reaction and hear the thoughts of the one to whom we speak who brings to bear the light of God’s truth and receive from them the assurance that once confronted, and renounced, our sins are no longer lethal, but rather banished, and rendered harmless.
Does this mean I am now free of sin and death? No! I will, as all human creatures do, continue striving to live in the great divorce of Heaven and Hell always trying through my own delusion to drag some portion of Hell along with me justifying it as I go. But, through steady self-examination, confession, and amendment of life I will confront it and force it to rear its ugly head so as to bring it to heal and be gone.
I think the venerable words of the Penitential Rite as said by the priest in the Roman Canon of the Mass summarizes these thoughts well:
I confess to almighty God,
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have sinned through my own fault
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done,
and in what I have failed to do;
and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin,
all the angels and saints,
and you my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.
From The Roman Missal, ©1973 ICEL Text.