- I don’t have anything much in common with eOR (an onomatopoeia-esque name, or more precisely, echomimetic), except when he entirely almost honestly tries to be humble, kind of. That’s me, always tempted to be self-congratulatory. eOR, my friend. I pray? No. I flip that first letter up and I just bray. In fact, I make a thing of it, singing my braying as if that were something meritorious:
- Saint Nick, or Santa Claus, or Saint Nicolas, or Sinterklaas, that is, Νίκη-λαός (Conqueror of the People) was a Roman Catholic Bishop in Myra in Asia Minor, modern day Demre, Turkey. The modern day Saint Nick still sports the red vestments of the original saint. The canonized Saint Nicolas lived way back in the days of the early Roman Empire (270-343 A.D.). His feast day on the liturgical calendar is the day he died, December 6. He’s famous for gift giving, and over the centuries was mixed up with the gift-giving wise men at the cave in Bethlehem at the birth of the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Prince of the Most Profound Peace whom they had traveled so far to bow down and offer homage. Then Epiphany, when the wisemen showed up, was confused with Christmas day itself, so that Saint Nick or Santa Claus became the iconic gift giver at Christmas, basically the whole world being Catholic. In these days of absolute idiocy today – some 16 and 17 hundred years later, we would do well to remember what the great saint’s gifts were way back in the day. He rescued three girls from being pimped out by their fathers into prostitution by tossing a little sack of gold coins through their windows so that their proper dowries could be paid. But what I equally like about him is the account of his physically smashing down the horrific heretic of heretics, the priest Arius, during the First Council of Nicaea. Hahaha. That must have been a great show. Hahaha. That’s a great gift to the Church! I love Saint Nicolas the Conqueror of Arius.
- It used to be that Christmas was a time for the joy of giving gifts. Imagine seeing the joy of the girls whose dowry was paid, so that they could marry the love of their lives instead of being smashed down and surely killed off after a short time in the ever violent and hellish world of prostitution. But it’s also not about us “getting something out of it, you know, that fuzzy warm feeling. It’s about real charity, helping someone up out of love of God and neighbor. Here’s the essential of it: We’re not supposed to look to our heroes like Saint Nick for the gifts they give us, but rather for how they give an example which we strive to imitate: love God and neighbor!
- But now it’s all about entitlement in receiving gifts. Hmmm. That ain’t no good. In that case, we end up like eOR above, trying to brag about how good we’ve been and not naughty, conniving to look cute as we go from “I’ve been good” to “better than most” to “not as bad as some.” Doesn’t cut it.
Here’s the deal: Unlike eOR, the saints have it that they themselves are the worst sinners of all, for God loves us also individually and Jesus has stood in our place, the Innocent for the guilty, also individually, so that only I have sinned against Him and therefore only I can be the absolute worst sinner of all before Him. He loves me… and I myself offended Him. When Jesus lays down His life for us, He doesn’t do that because we’ve somehow successfully proven to Him, to society and to ourselves that we’re already wonderful, that we don’t need Him to lay down His life for us so as to have the right in His own justice to save us. He does this because He love us before we have loved Him. When we realize this we are stricken with awe, with love, with thanksgiving, much like the soldier on Calvary who thrust his sword into the side of Jesus, only then saying: “Truly this Man was the Son of God.”
When it comes to Confession, not to Santa Claus but to Jesus in the Confessional, we’re simply just to make a Confession that has four aspects starting with the letter “C”:
- Complete – all mortal sins in kind and number and important circumstance (so that a young man who kills and old man is a grave sin, but that old man is the young man’s father, that’s an important circumstance that needs to be confessed as it involves yet another mortal sin against honoring one’s parents). Thus, an act of impurity is a mortal sin, but it is worse if this is done with another, leading another into sin, and yet still worse if one or both are married (thus adultery), and so on.
- Concise: DON’T give unimportant details. Priests don’t want to hear it. Don’t tell the priest the sins of others. This is a terrible abuse of the sacrament. Priests don’t want to hear it. Don’t tell the priest all your excuses, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Seriously: priests don’t wan’t to hear all this blather. Look, when you go before the judgment of the Lord, you will not be able to give any excuses or blame anyone else for your sin. It’s much better to confess now, honestly, and go to heaven, than to trick the priest now (which you don’t) and then go to hell later.
- Contrite: Be sorry for your sins at least at the level of imperfect contrition, wherein you dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell. Try to have perfect contrition, by which your sorry for having offended God’s love for you, for He is worthy of all of our love. We have to have a firm purpose of amendment of life to be truly sorry in whatever way for our sins. We can’t intend to sin again. We have to have hope. We have to desire not to sin again. Confessing is to be done in the past tense: “I blasphemed God five times. I’m sorry to God.” Confessing is not to be done in the present or future tense: “I do blaspheme God and I will continue to do so.” That doesn’t make sense, does it? No. Neither does shacking up with someone, not being repentant of that, but wanting absolution for one’s own feelings so that one can feel holy and self-congratulatory and self-righteous in going to Holy Communion, but only ending up, as Saint Paul says, eating and drinking one’s own condemnation. So: “I resolve to amend my life. Amen.”
- Clear: “I did something bad.” Nope. Just say it. Jesus already knows, but He want’s us to be reconciled to God and neighbor (the priest represents all others through his ordination to Jesus’ Priesthood) at the same time:
- If we love, we love the whole Body of Christ, Jesus the Head of the Body and neighbor the members of the Body. It’s one act of love for the whole Body of Christ. We don’t decapitate Him and say we love God!
- If we sin, we sin against the whole Body of Christ, Jesus the Head of the Body and neighbor the members of the Body. It’s one act of sin, however public or however private, against the whole Body of Christ. We don’t decapitate Him and say we love God because we only sinned against ourselves or our neighbors. It’s the whole Body of Christ that we offend.
- If we are reconciled, we are reconciled with the entire Body of Christ, Jesus the Head and we the members. We say we’re sorry to the whole Body of Christ, through the priest who represents all others and gives us the absolution of Jesus, of God, in the first person singular: “I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son ✚ and of the Holy Spirit.” Just as with love and sin, reconciliation is brought about in one only act for the entire Body of Christ.
And this is what brings one such great joy when one has actually made a good Confession, an integral, honest Confession. We stand forgiven. We’re on our way to heaven. We are filled with great joy. This is the joy of the Holy Spirit who was sent among for the forgiveness of sins. The forgiveness is brought about by the Holy Spirit flooding us with sanctifying grace. There’s no room for the guilt. We are then tabernacles of the Holy Spirit. We bear in our mortal frame the presence of the Most Holy Trinity. We are now eager to live love: “If you love me, keep the commandments” says Jesus to each of us, each of us, also to me, to you. Chaste lives, self-giving lives, honest lives, lives in which Jesus Himself shines out, His goodness, His kindness, His truth.
When we suddenly realize the greatness of the Lord’s majesty, the love and truth behind the wounds also on His risen body, that He will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire, we also instantly recognize just how far away we ourselves have been, perhaps enough that we reject the cuteness of eOR above, and actually find ourselves on our knees for a good Christmas Confession.
So… eOR… we might ride eOR to the Confessional, contemplating as we go our rationalizations, but then when we get into the Confessional, much better not to sing like eOR, composing scenarios and operettas, but instead just laying it out our sins, simply, in all humility, before Jesus, with those wounds upon Him, Jesus, ever so good, ever so kind, always the Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception. Amen.