“It’s the Little Differences”

By Kevin Laskowski

I was born, raised, baptized and confirmed Roman Catholic. I was officially received into the Episcopal Church a little more than two years ago. Between the indelibility of my upbringing and the relative novelty of my chosen denomination, I’m still surprised by the little differences.

For instance, I screw up the Nicene Creed about 50 percent of the time. If you listen closely, I still pronounce the “catholic” in “one holy catholic and apostolic church” with a capital C. (All Catholics are trained to communicate capitals vocally for this exact purpose.) I still say “in fulfillment of the Scriptures” instead of “in accordance with.” Then again, that’s not really a doctrinal difference. It’s just a matter of how you prefer to translate the original.

Still, after the Vestry meeting the other night, I was reminded of another of these little differences. Every Vestry meeting ends with the Order of Compline, which includes confession:

Almighty God, our heavenly Father; we have sinned against you, through our own fault, in thought, and word, and deed, and in what we have left undone…

It’s the same thought expressed in the Confession of Sin during Holy Eucharist:

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone…

All this is very lovely because, as a child, I learned the original take on this. The above is based on the Latin Confiteor (“I confess”), and it starts like this:

I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do…

I suppose I could dismiss this difference as a matter of preferred translation. The Latin phrase is “cogitatione, verbo, opere et omissione.” Strictly speaking, you confess to sinning “in thought, word, deed, and by omission.” But there’s a world of difference between translating “omissione” as “what we have left undone” or “what I have failed to do.” It gets me every time.

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