During last year’s Lent, I had a series of posts on the Seven Deadly Sins. Those posts were a way for me to examine my heart, repent and explore alternative practices. This year I will look at the Seven Penitential Psalms. These psalms (Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 142) were designated the Penitential Psalms in the 7th Century (though four of them were known as such much earlier). because of how suitably they expressed repentance. In the Middle Ages they were recited after Lauds (Morning Prayer) on Fridays through Lent and were used in Medieval confessions.
These psalms help us pay attention to the way sin feels in us. When I looked at the Seven Deadly Sins, I was exploring how habitual sin affects us. These reflections are somewhat different. The Psalms name the reality of sin in our lives and express sorrow for it. They also talk about what sin does to our heart, our minds, our bodies and our soul. So I invite you to read these Psalms along with me and trust that through Christ Jesus the grace of God extends to our sin-sick-souls.
The Penitentials are an invitation to be clean, to be whole, and fully restored. When I compose my reflections on each of these Psalms I will not ask you to do anything. Instead I want to hold out the mercy of God. The Psalms utter our longings for wholeness and freedom. They also instruct us in way of freedom.
But I want to be honest with you. Confession is good for the soul but it is also hard. It is much easier to ignore your sin, shrug it off as no big deal than to take a long hard look at the way Sin stains our best efforts. I am a sinner but a poor penitent. Absolution comes to those who confess but first we have to take a hard look at ourselves. I do not know where these reflections will take me (us?) but I hope we will have the courage to repent and turn our hearts to God.
One thought on “Confession is Good for the Soul: an Introduction to the Seven Penitential Psalms”
I’m excited about this, James! Hard yes. Needed yes. Extremely good idea for Lent yes.