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|§ 94 Thanne shal man looke and considere that if he wole maken a trewe and a profitable confessioun, ther moste be foure condiciouns. First, it moot been in sorweful bitternesse of herte, as seyde the kyng Ezechias to God: "I wol remembre me alle the yeres of my lif in bitternesse of myn herte." This condicioun of bitternesse hath fyve signes. The firste is that confessioun moste be shamefast, nat for to coyere ne hyden his synne, for he hath agilt his God and defouled his soule. And herof seith Seint Augustyn: "the herte travailleth for shame of his synne; and for he hath greet shamefastnesse, he is digne to have greet mercy of God." Swich was the confessioun of the publican that wolde nat heven up his eyen to hevene, for he hadde offended God of hevene; for which shamefastnesse he hadde anon the mercy of god. And therof seith Seint Augustyn that swich shamefast folk been next foryevenesse and remissioun. Another signe is humylitee in confessioun; of which seith Seint Peter, "humbleth yow under the myght of God." The hond of God is myghty in confessioun, for therby God foryeveth thee thy synnes, for he allone hath the power. And this humylitee shal been in herte, and in signe outward; for right as he hath humylitee to God in his herte, right so sholde he humble his body outward to the preest, that sit in goddes place. For which in no manere, sith that Crist is sovereyn, and the preest meene and mediatour bitwixe Crist and the synnere, and the synnere is the laste by wey of resoun, thanne sholde nat the synnere sitte as heighe as his confessour, but knele biforn hym or at his feet, but if maladie destourbe it. For he shal nat taken kep who sit there, but in whos place that he sitteth. A man that hath trespased to a lord, and comth for to axe mercy and maken his accord, and set him doun anon by the lord, men wolde holden hym outrageous, and nat worthy so soone for to have remissioun ne mercy. The thridde signe is how that thy shrift sholde be ful of teeris, if man may, and if man may nat wepe with his bodily eyen, lat hym wepe in herte. Swich was the confession of Seint Peter, for after that he hadde forsake Jhesu Crist, he wente out and weep ful bitterly. The fourthe signe is that he ne lette nat for shame to shewen his confessioun. Swich was the confessioun of the Magdalene, that ne spared, for no shame of hem that weren atte feeste, for to go to oure lord Jhesu Crist and biknowe to hym hire synne. The fifthe signe is that a man or a womman be obeisant to receyven the penaunce that hym is enjoyned for his synnes, for certes, Jhesu Crist, for the giltes of o man, was obedient to the deeth.||§ 94 Then shall man look and consider that if he will make a true and a profitable confession, there must be four conditions. First, it must be in sorrowful bitterness of heart, as said the king Hezekiah to God, "I will remember all the years of my life in bitterness of my heart." This condition of bitterness has five signs. The first is that confession must be made with a sense of shame, not to cover nor hide his sin, for he has sinned against his God and befouled his soul. And hereof says Saint Augustine, "The heart suffers for shame of its sin"; and because he has great sense of shame, he is worthy to have great mercy of God. Such was the confession of the tax-collector that would not heave up his eyes to heaven, for he had offended God of heaven; for which sense of shame he had straightway the mercy of God. And thereof says Saint Augustine that such shame-fast folk are nearest to forgiveness and remission. Another sign is humility in confession, of which says Saint Peter, "Humble yourself under the might of God." The hand of God is mighty in confession, for thereby God forgives thee thy sins, for he alone has the power. And this humility shall be in heart and in outward sign, for just as he has humility to God in his heart, just so should he humble his body outward to the priest, that sits in God's place. For which in no manner, since Christ is sovereign, and the priest agent and mediator betwixt Christ and the sinner, and the sinner is the last by way of reason, then should not the sinner sit as high as his confessor, but kneel before him or at his feet, unless illness disturb it. For he shall not take note of who sits there, but in whose place that he sits. A man that has trespassed against a lord, and comes to ask mercy and make his reconciliation, and set him down at once by the lord, men would consider him presumptuous, and not worthy so soon to have remission nor mercy. The third sign is how thy confession should be full of tears, if man can, and if man can not weep with his bodily eyes, let him weep in heart. Such was the confession of Saint Peter, for after he had forsaken Jesus Christ, he went out and wept very bitterly. The fourth sign is that he cease not for shame to show his confession. Such was the confession of the Magdalene, that spared not for any shame of them that were at the feast, for to go to our Lord Jesus Christ and acknowledge to him her sin. The fifth sign is that a man or a woman be obedient to receive the penance that to him is assigned for his sins, for certainly, Jesus Christ, for the guilt of one man, was obedient to the death.|
|§ 95 The seconde condicion of verray confession is that it be hastily doon. For certes, if a man hadde a deedly wounde, evere the lenger that he taried to warisshe hymself, the moore wolde it corrupte and haste hym to his deeth; and eek the wounde wolde be the wors for to heele. And right so fareth synne that longe tyme is in a man unshewed. Certes, a man oghte hastily shewen his synnes for manye causes; as for drede of deeth, that cometh ofte sodeynly, and no certeyn what tyme it shal be, ne in what place; and eek the drecchynge of o synne draweth in another; and eek the lenger that he tarieth, the ferther he is fro Crist. And if he abide to his laste day, scarsly may he shryven hym or remembre hym of his synnes or repenten hym, for the grevous maladie of his deeth. And for as muche as he ne hath nat in his lyf herkned Jhesu Crist whanne he hath spoken, he shal crie to Jhesu Crist at his laste day, and scarsly wol he herkne hym. And understond that this condicioun moste han foure thunges. Thi shrift moste be purveyed bifore and avysed; for wikked haste dooth no profit; and that a man konne shryve hym of his synnes, be it of pride, or of envye, and so forth with the speces and circumstances; and that he have comprehended in hys mynde the nombre and the greetnesse of his synnes, and how longe that he hath leyn in synne; and eek that he be contrit of his synnes, and in stidefast purpos, by the grace of God, nevere eft to falle in synne; and eek that he, drede and countrewaite hymself, that he fle the occasiouns of synne to whiche he is enclyned. Also thou shalt shryve thee of alle thy synnes to o man, and nat a parcel to o man and a parcel to another; that is to understonde, in entente to departe thy confessioun, as for shame of drede; for it nys but stranglynge of thy soule. For certes Jhesu Crist is entierly al good; in hym nys noon imperfeccioun; and therfore outher he foryeveth al parfitly or never a deel. I seye nat that if thow be assigned to the penitauncer for certein synne, that thow art bounde to shewen hym al the remenaunt fo thy synnes, of whiche thow hast be shryven of thy curaal, but if it like to thee of thyn humylitee; this is no departynge of shrifte. Ne I seye nat, ther as I speke of divisioun of confessioun, that if thou have licence for to shryve thee to a discreet and an honest preest, where thee liketh, and by licence of thy curaat, that thow ne mayst wel shryve thee to him al alle thy synnes. But lat no blotte be bihynde; lat no synne been untoold, as fer as thow hast remembraunce. And whan thou shalt be shryven to thy curaat, telle hym eek alle the synnes that thow hast doon syn thou were last yshryven; this is no wikked entente of divisioun of shrifte.||§ 95 The second condition of true confession is that it be hastily done. For certainly, if a man had a deadly wound, ever the longer that he delayed to cure himself, the more would it corrupt and hasten him to his death, and also the wound would be the worse to heal. And right so fares sin that long time is in a man unconfessed. Certainly, a man ought hastily show his sins for many causes; as for fear of death, that comes often suddenly, and no certainty what time it shall be, nor in what place; and also the continuance of one sin draws in another; and also the longer that he delays, the farther he is from Christ. And if he abide to his last day, scarcely can he confess himself or remind himself of his sins or repent himself, for the grievous illness of his death. And forasmuch as he has not in his life listened to Jesus Christ when he has spoken, he shall cry to Jesus Christ at his last day, and scarcely will he listen to him. And understand that this condition must have four things. Your confession must be prepared before and deliberated; for wicked haste does no profit; and that a man should know how to confess himself of his sins, be it of pride, or of envy, and so forth with the species and circumstances; and that he has comprehended in his mind the number and the greatness of his sins, how long that he has lain in sin; and also that he be contrite of his sins, and in steadfast purpose, by the grace of God, never again to fall into sin; and also that he dread and watch out for himself, that he flee the occasions of sin to which he is inclined. Also thou shalt confess thyself of all thy sins to one man, and not one part to one man and one part to another; that is to understand, in intent to divide thy confession, as for shame or fear, for it is nothing but strangling of your soul. For certainly Jesus Christ is entirely all good; in him is no imperfection, and therefore either he forgives all perfectly or else not a bit. I say not that if thou are assigned to the priest who assigns penance for a certain sin, that thou art bound to show him all the remnant of thy sins, of which thou hast been confessed by thy curate, unless it pleases to thee of thy humility; this is no division of shrift. Nor I say not, where I speak of division of confession, that if you have license to confess thee to a discreet and an honest priest, where it pleases thee , and by permission of thy curate, that thou canst not well confess thyself to him of all thy sins. But let no stain of sin be behind; let no sin be unconfessed, so far as you have remembrance. And when thou shalt be confessed to thy curate, tell him also all the sins that you have done since you were last confessed; this is no wicked intention of division of confession.|
|§ 96 Also the verray shrifte axeth certeine condiciouns. First, that thow shryve thee by thy free wil, noght constreyned, ne for shame of folk, ne for maladie, ne swich thynges. For it is resoun that he that trespaseth by his free wyl, that by his free wyl he confesse his trespas; and that noon oother man telle his synne but he hymself; ne he shal nat nayte ne denye his synne, ne wratthe hym agayn the preest for his amonestynge to lete synne. The seconde condicioun is that thy shrift be laweful, that is to seyn, that thow that shryvest thee, and eek the preest that hereth thy confessioun, been verraily in the feith of hooly chirche; and that a man ne be nat despeired of the mercy of Jhesu Crist, as caym or Judas. And eek a man moot accusen hymself of his owene trespas, and nat another; but he shal blame and wyten hymself and his owene malice of his synne, and noon oother. But nathelees, if that another man be occasioun or enticere of his synne, or the estaat of a persone be swich thurgh which his synne is agregged, or elles that he may nat pleynly shryven hym but he telle the persone with which he hath synned, thanne may he telle it, so that his entente ne be nat to bakbite the persone, but oonly to declaren his confessioun.||§ 96 Also the true confession requires certain conditions. First, that you confess thyself by thy free will, not constrained, nor for public shame, nor for illness, nor such things. For it is reasonable that he who trespasses by his free will, that by his free will he confess his trespass, and that no other man tell his sin but he himself; nor he shall not disclaim nor deny his sin, nor anger himself against the priest for his admonishing to abandon sin. The second condition is that thy confession be lawful; that is to say, that thou that confesses thyself and also the priest that hears thy confession be truly in the faith of holy church, and that a man be not in despair of the mercy of Jesus Christ, as Cain or Judas. And also a man must accuse himself of his own trespass, and not another; but he shall blame and reproach himself and his own malice of his sin, and none other. But nonetheless, if that another man be occasion or enticer of his sin, or the state of a person be such through which his sin is aggravated, or else that he may not completely confess himself unless he tell the person with whom he has sinned, then may he tell it, provided that his intent be not to backbite the person, but only to declare his confession.|
|§ 97 Thou ne shalt nat eek make no lesynges in thy confessioun, for humylitee, peraventure, to seyn that thou hast doon synnes of whiche thow were nevere gilty. For Seint Augustyn seith, if thou, by cause of thyn hymylitee, makest lesynges on thyself, though thow ne were nat in synne biforn, yet artow thanne in synne thurgh thy lesynges. Thou most eek shewe thy synne by thyn owene propre mouth, but thow be woxe dowmb, and nat by no lettre; for thow that hast doon the synne, thou shalt have the shame therfore. Thow shalt nat eek peynte thy confessioun by faire subtile wordes, to covere the moore thy synne; for thanne bigilestow thyself, and nat the preest. Thow most tellen it platly, be it nevere so foul ne so horrible. Thow shalt eek shryve thee to a preest that is discreet to conseille thee; and eek thou shalt nat shryve thee for veyne glorie, ne for ypocrisye, ne for no cause but oonly for the doute of Jhesu Crist and the heele of thy soule. Thow shalt nat eek renne to the preest sodeynly to tellen hym lightly thy synne, as whoso telleth a jape or a tale, but avysely and with greet devocioun. And generally, shryve thee ofte. If thou ofte falle, ofte thou arise by confessioun. And though thou shryve thee ofter than ones of synne of which thou hast be shryven, it is the moore merite. And, as seith Seint Augustyn, thow shalt have the moore lightly relessyng and grace of God, bothe of synne and of peyne. And certes, oones a yeere atte leeste wey it is laweful for to been housled; for certes, oones a yeere alle thynges renovellen.||§ 97 You shall also not make any lies in your confession, for humility, perhaps, to say that you have done sins of which you were never guilty. For Saint Augustine says, "If thou, by cause of thy humility, makest lies on thyself, though thou were not in sin before, yet art thou then in sin through thy lies." Thou most also show thy sin by thy own proper mouth, except if thou be grown dumb, and not by any letter; for thou that hast done the sin, thou shalt have the shame therefore. You shall not also paint thy confession by faire subtle words, to cover the more thy sin; for then beguilest thou thyself, and not the priest. You must tell it flatly, be it never so foul nor so horrible. You shall also confess thyself to a priest who is discreet in giving thee counsel; and also thou shalt not confess thyself for vainglory, nor for hypocrisy, nor for any cause but only for the fear of Jesus Christ and the health of thy soul. Thou shalt not also run to the priest quickly to tell him easily thy sin, as whosoever tells a joke or a tale, but deliberately and with great devotion. And generally, confess thyself often. If thou often fall, often thou arise by confession. And though thou confess thyself more often than once of sin of which thou hast been confessed, it is the more merit. And, as says Saint Augustine, you shall have the more easily forgiveness and grace of God, both of sin and of pain. And certainly, once a year at the least way it is lawful to be given communion, for certainly, once a year all things renew themselves.|
Now have I toold yow of verray Confessioun, that is the seconde partie of Penitence.
Now have I told you of true Confession, that is the second part of Penitence.|
From The Parson's Tale, paragraph 99-102:
Satisfaction, the third part of penitence, and prayers