One of the interesting things about reading Augustine’s Confessions is the way it makes one reflect on what the practice of confession means in a full theological sense. Clearly Augustine’s act of confessing in his account includes what we normally think of, namely the public admission of sin. However it is clearly much, much more than that for Augustine. All throughout the Confessions the language is saturated with longing, prayer, inquiry, exultation, sorrow, joy, and hope. In short, the language of the Confessions is the language of the pslams, or more generally, of prayer.
Put even more succinctly, for Augustine, confession ultimately is centered in speaking the truth about God and creation in all its dramatic complexity and contingency. “Confession” means something like profession of the fullness of our faith, proclamation of the gospel in all its dimensions. Confession is the passionate commitment to speak the truth in all its beauty in the face of our own manifest slavery and contradiction. However for Augustine this task is not one of sheer moral resolve, let alone humiliation, rather it is an exercise of joy in God.
To boil it all down, confession must ultimately be seen as the articulation of our own doxological transformation. In confession we recount how we have been and continue to be caught up into God’s radical love which draws us away from sin and futility and towards the fullness of life and joy in sharing in the triune life. In short, confession is doxology. In confession we are drawn to speak (or sing) the truth of God’s intrusion into our lives of sin and slavery out of the excess of the joy that comes from knowing God and knowing ourselves and our neighbors in God.
Confession is not a difficult moral duty. Rather it is an exercise of doxological delight in the beauty of how God has seized in Christ and through the Spirit given us a share in the very life of the Trinity.