Von Speyr’s theology of Confession from her book Confession places the sacrament within the divine relations of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I have never met a more profound, accessible, important theology of confession anywhere else.
I begin my discussion with this central quotation:
“There is no mission that is not determined decisively by one’s confessional attitude” (Confession, p. 208)
As you follow my discussion of the confessional attitude and how it relates to mission, you will also need these quotations below from Adrienne’s book Confession (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1985).
1. “In all events which are not inevitable and in whose course freedom and inclination can intervene, a person usually searches for a solution or a way out and often for a reason or cause as well. … Only when this success fails to materialize according to his wish does he look for the causes behind the failure, and it is in this search that he first encounters the question concerning the state of his own life. … Yet it is precisely when he justifies himself and concludes that he is innocent that his deeper discomfort—the feeling of a hidden guilt—begins” (11).
2. “Ultimately, only the Creator of the human soul will be able to treat it so that it becomes the soul he needs. Only he can heal it, and he does this in ways that only he knows and discloses and prescribes for healing. … the decisive way of God—confession—is based on obedience: more specifically, on the obedience to God” (15).
3. “If a person … comprehends himself as standing before God, and if he knows that he, like Adam, was created by God and redeemed by Christ and that Christ opens for him the way to the Father and the doors of heaven, then … he will expect confession with a kind of necessity” (16).
4. “As long as a person is not confessing, he feels free to speak or keep silent about whatever he wishes. What he then hates in confession is not the humbling experience of revealing himself, and not the fact that he is a sinner—he already knows that somehow—but the necessity of capitulating before and within total confession, the fact that the freedom of selection has been withdrawn and that the only choice remaining is to reveal everything or nothing. He is sick as a whole person and must be healed as such, and not eclectically. That is the first humbling experience. The second is that he is only one of many and has to accept the same conditions as do the others … [he experiences] the elimination of all external differentiation … merely one penitent in the line of other sinners. The peculiarities of my particular ‘case’, which made it seem so interesting to me and which I would so gladly have explained to the listener, do not matter at all any more” (18).
5. “Whoever would learn how to confess must first look at the life of the Son of God” (20).
6. “God stands before God in the attitude that is fitting for God. Analogously, we can designate this as the attitude of confession, since it is the attitude in which God shows himself as he is. … When the Son institutes confession at Easter, he does so to bring this divine attitude closer to human beings, to mediate to them part of the trinitarian life” (21).
7. “One can say that the Lord lives on earth before the Father in the same condition in which the perfect penitent should live before his own confessor, before the Church and before God: in complete openness, concealing nothing, always ready in every moment to expect the intervention of the Holy Spirit, drawing security from the Father and his Spirit instead of from within himself. The Son lives in perpetual contact with the Father, and the expression of this contact is his word, ‘Not my will, but thy will be done’” (23).
8. “Anyone who has recognized, in confession and in the prayer belonging to it, the possibility not only of ridding himself of his own sins through the grace of the Lord but also of helping others at the same time will suddenly realize that there is a place where confession and mission encounter and permeate one another to the point of coincidence” (206).
9. “There is no mission that is not determined decisively by one’s confessional attitude” (208).
I hope that you enjoy this discussion. Please leave your comments below.
NB: If you want to read more, chapter eleven of Confession, which is on the confession of the saints, can be found here.