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by Simon
Lien-yueh Wei

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Rituals and Means of Dealing with Sins in Christianity before the Reformation

 

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The rituals and other means before the Medieval Ages

If a person commits sins before joining the community, the person¡¦s sins are forgiven through Christ in the ritual of baptism, including immersion, anointing and Eucharist. 

If a person commits sins after joining the community, there are two different situations to deal with the person¡¦s sins:

(1) Commit sin against humans

If a Christian commit sin against humans, and the sin is not serious, such as lying, the rituals and other means for forgiveness are:
1. the kiss of peace before sharing the bread and cup in Eucharist
2. prayer for forgiveness
3. fasting and almsgiving  

If a Christian commit sin against humans, and the sin is serious, such as murder or adultery, the person should:
1. acknowledge the sin before the community,
2. not join the communion for a period of time
3. kneel or lie at the door of the church within the assembly
4. perform actions of self-denial that indicated a sincere repentance for the sin,  such as fasting and withdrawing from the pleasures. 
5. plead the community to intercede with God for the forgiveness of the sin.
6. be readmitted to communion through the imposition of hands by a bishop.
7. be allowed to commit the sin only once in the life-time  

(2) Commit against God

If a Christian commit sin against God, such as idolatry, the person:
1. ,in some communities, do penance for twelve years before being readmitted to communion and was offered communion if death approached.
2. ,in some communities, do penance for the remainder life and throws himself/herself on Christ¡¦s mercy after death.
3. could ask the martyr who is in the prison to intercede for forgiveness. If the person gets martyr¡¦s insurance, then he was readmitted to communion by some bishops.
4. was allowed to commit the sin only once in the life-time.
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The rituals and other means of the Medieval Ages

(1) Purgatory

A Christian might die with sins forgiven but assigned penance incomplete. However, the person has to complete the satisfactory work before God could justly allow the person into heaven. Hell is inappropriate and unjust for the person. Heaven can be enter only when penance is completed. Hence, the person is given the opportunity to complete the satisfactory work in purgatory. At first, the person goes to and suffers in purgatory after death. After Satisfactory penance is completed in purgatory, then, the person can be allowed into heaven. 
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 (2) Indulgences

An indulgence is to link the satisfactory works of the past to a particular satisfactory work in the present. For example, a Christian can receive the satisfactory work of a past saint into his own satisfactory work. Since many saints had done more good and penitential work than was necessary for penance, Their excess works were available for other Christians. On the other hand, the pope also claimed, as the representative of Peter and Christ, that he was able to access the satisfactory works of the saints. Thus he can transfer the satisfactory work from past saint to a present Christian. Through indulgences, it is possible for a Christian to keep up with the amount of satisfactory work which was necessary for the person to complete.
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Bibliography

Burns, Patout, Lectures of ¡§The Formation of Christian Tradition¡¨ in Vanderbilt Divinity school, 2004 Fall.

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