O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of heaven: come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.
Those who experience the weight of their sins, the burden and guilt of decisions made and actions done, know that the word absolution is more than a metaphor.
Many people mistakenly believe that when they celebrate the Sacrament of Penance with a priest, the priest “forgives” their sins. This is entirely wrong. God forgives our sins, the priest, as a minister of the church grants absolution, which is not forgiveness as such but a “freeing” or “releasing” one of guilt, consequences, or penalties tied to the sin. The literal meaning of the word comes from its Latin origins, meaning “to break the chains.”
If one listens closely to the prayer of absolution in the sacrament, the priest acknowledges God’s act of forgiveness as the work of the Trinity and then grants absolution on behalf of the Body of Christ, which is the Church.
God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.
- Today’s O Antiphon refers to the messianic title “key of David,” which is applied to Jesus Christ. As we prepare for the coming of the Lord at Christmas, we are reminded of how it is through the Incarnation that the Lord not only frees us from our sins, but by his death and resurrection reconciles the whole world back to God. Earlier this week we recalled the kinship of all creation, and today we are reminded in the prayer of absolution of how all creation is united in God’s saving act of reconciling everything in Christ.
In what ways do we recognize God’s saving act of reconciliation in our own lives? Do we pause to reflect on the unconditional gift of God’s forgiveness? Do we recall that the opportunity to be released from the prison of guilt and the burden of sin comes through the saving work of God in Christ Jesus?
As Christmas draws ever nearer, may we celebrate the gift of our freedom from the prison of sin and follow Christ with renewed appreciation for God’s unconditional love and mercy. May we share what we have been given, and love one another as God loves us.