The Confession, Absolution & Comfortable Words
In light of our sinfulness, perhaps the sin of disunity of which we were convicted of through the prior Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church, we are called to enter into a period of confession through the Call to Confession (see liturgy bulletin, pg. 14).
Notice this confession is focused on those who are prepared to truly and earnestly repent and are already in love and charity with their neighbors. The bulk of our preparation needs be made before this moment; this isn't a catch all confession that is intended to cover all our bases but is rather an act of contrition through which we ensure we are prepared. Up to this point we have already acknowledgement the standard of God (through the summary of the law) and have requested Divine mercy through the Kyrie. This general confession, therefore, is the culmination, not the sole act, of our preparation.
The congregation then prays together the Confession (see liturgy bulletin, pg. 15). This prayer is said in acknowledgement of our, "manifold sins and wickedness." While it is all inclusive it specifically references those sins committed "from time to time." Inherent in this confession is an understanding that we are not recklessly sinning without a thought to our moral condition. If a person, therefore, is in a condition in life wherein this general confession does not address the full extent of the sinfulness in their life, or that the general pardon is felt to be insufficient to address the guilt they are experiencing, the church provides the Sacrament of Reconciliation through which the weightier matters an individual is facing can be addressed.
Following the prayer of confession, the priest issues the absolution. You will notice the priest starts by facing the altar, signifying that is representing the congregation as he recounts to God His promise of great mercy and forgiveness to those with hearty repentance and true faith. The priest then turns to the people, visually signifying a transition from representing the people before God to representing God before the people as the absolution is given. This pardon and absolution is offered through, not apart from, Jesus Christ.
Having proclaimed pardon in the absolution, the priest then recites the comfortable words, which are intended to provide comfort and assurance that God desires to forgive sins. He is not inclined to hold a grudge against us but wants those who are heavy laden to come to him to be refreshed, for He loved the world and gave his Son, Jesus Christ the Righteous, to save sinners. These words are intended to provide reassurance that God's forgiveness is not partial but is complete and total so that when we approach the Heavenly altar we can do so boldly and with confidence, for God has provided His grace and mercy to prepare us to be worthy recipients of His presence.
(As published in St. Luke's Sunday Bulletin, 7/8/18)