The Value of the Ancient Language

"Almighty God,
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
maker of all things, judge of all men:
We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness,
which we from time to time most grievously have committed,
by thought, word and deed, against thy divine Majesty,
provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us.
We do earnestly repent,
and are heartily sorry for these our misdoings;
the remembrance of them is grievous unto us,
the burden of them is intolerable.
Have mercy upon us,
have mercy upon us, most merciful Father;
for thy Son Jesus Christ's sake,
forgive us all that is past;
and grant that we may ever hereafter
serve and please thee in newness of life,
to the honor and glory of thy Name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

So reads the confession from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, Rite One. The language is awkward and cumbersome, but with a dignified poetry to it. The value of the ancient language is that it is hard to read without thinking about the words.

If confession-- if worship-- is easy to recite, soon it's just flowing out of our mouths straight from our habit, and not from our minds. The point of confession is that we honestly remember the things we've done wrong and honestly ask for forgiveness of them. This is such a special task that it requires special words.

What we owe to our students is to teach them what the words mean, and what they are asking when they say them. The answer to the question of how to engage people in worship is not to simplify it to the point that anyone can mumble it, but to educate people so they know the power of their request to God.

Almighty: nothing is more powerful.
Acknowledge and bewail: when I realize what my sins are, I can't even describe them with words. I want to start sobbing because they are so hurtful.
Manifold: I have done every kind of sin, even ones I don't think I'm capable of.
Grievously: I have done these things on purpose, even though I know they hurt God and damage myself.
Indignation: I have tried to take away God's dignity, to make him look stupid, to make him see he was wrong about giving me anything.
Remembrance: Even though I try to forget them, the terrible things I've done won't leave my mind.
Intolerable: I cannot live with my sins in my life anymore.
Mercy: Don't give me what I deserve.
Hereafter: Here (as I confess) and after (when I am out in the world and tempted).
Newness: Washed and polished and shining with God's love for me.
Amen: Let this be so, and leave the door open for me when I come again!

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