As we head into deep Lent we also should prepare for Deep Confession.
It is a special time of the year for the Grace of interior light that sheds illumination on what further we need to purge and take to the confessional.
It doesn't hurt to dedicate a Rosary or more, perhaps over several days, for that enlightenment, pleading to know the reaches of past transgressions: the imperfections that have been hidden and forgotten; the blotches on our spirits from not just yesterday but yesteryear -- not just actions but thoughts as well; not just blatant sins but imperfections.
If previously unrecognized "darknesses" emerge, these we can log and take to a priest as we also dedicate Lent to correcting our failings -- not only those sins recognized as "cardinal" or "mortal" but blotches such as impatience, anger, criticism, harshness or indifference ("sloth"). "Hear the word of the Lord," was the reading earlier in the week (Isaiah 1:10). "Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before My eyes."
When we are honest about what's wrong, we open ourselves to release it. A breeze blows through. We leave the residue of iniquity. Sin becomes ash. The ash is taken windward.
Many ask whether during the review of life -- at the end of our time on earth -- those sins we have confessed will still be shown, and no one can quite know but one can say with confidence that most relate seeing every single act, word, and thought in order to learn from each though we also can say that once confessed and not repeated, sins are not "held against" us.
There is also the aspect of expiation, which saints spoke about: how a sin confessed can no longer condemn us, but may have left a residue that needs to be purged through some form of sacrifice or suffering. Evil attaches to sin and while it is often dismissed upon Confession, sometimes it takes more than a single one, in the same way that it can take more than one exorcism to release those afflicted outrightly by a dark entity.
"In the second purgatory are the souls of those who died with venial sins not fully expiated before death, or with mortal sins that have been forgiven but for which they have not made entire satisfaction to the Divine Justice," says the famous "unpublished manuscript on purgatory."
Expiation occurs through something else that is special to the Lent: fasting, which bleaches out the stains in our robes. Fasting is voluntary suffering. Suffering "washes" our innermost existence. If we have not done it ourselves -- whether fasting or almgiving or however the Spirit has led us -- then God in His mercy may send suffering to lessen or eliminate our purgatory.
Deep Confession should be followed by deep cleaning through the depth of a solid fast or other means of atonement. We cleanse with His Blood. "And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). Also, to be forgiven, we must forgive.
"Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward evil actions we have committed," says the Catechism (1431). "At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one's life, with hope in God's Mercy and trust in the help of His Grace."
While we can never be certain where we will go in the afterlife -- Heaven or purgatory (even Padre Pio fretted toward the end of his own life) -- we know that discipline is another definition of Lent and that through discipline we can teach ourselves to love without condition and that love covers over a multitude of sins. Love itself expiates. Live each moment as if it is your last and you are on the way to Heaven.
It is common sense. There is no need for theological exegesis. The Bible will do. The teachings in the Catechism are clear. "Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church (1458). Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit."
And so it is time to arrange a solid Confession, a rare Confession, a "life reconciliation" based on sins never previously confessed. Deep Confession.
With this we will feel peace because the soul knows it is ready for whatever any day might bring.