You don't think the prayers of general confession right before Communion address those sins?
I find that every week (except the week after I confess), I approach the chalice with a little bit of guilt over small sins....mostly thoughts.
I must say, I am quite attracted to that custom of confessing before every communion.Why?
I would think that the prayers for preparation are a form of confession. However, if one really believes that what they are praying is true, would they not want the absolution from the Priest? When it comes to Confession, my repentance and tears came before I confessed to the Priest. It is the sacramental absolution that I believe to be important for being prepared for communion.
Can we for a moment consider the Priest himself? He does not have recourse to private confession every week and yet he undoubtedly sins between communions. You might think that a priest is somehow different and I will agree with you. I will say that his "job," his vocation, gives him the opportunity, as a practical matter, to pray more, self-audit more, confess and correct more. But, he is equal to anyone before the chalice and thus is accountable to the Lord for his relationship with Him, to include being prepared properly for communion. Please note that the key is proper preparation. We all know what that means and the Church does help us to stay on course--whatever several variations may be. So, all these differing approaches to preparation are one thing, and the severe difference between the laity and the clergy is another thing.
I think that the practice of confession/absolution/communion cycle is actually the easier way for the lay person. It takes away the personal responsibility to pray, self-audit, confess and correct--just like a priest. After all, you can mess up as much as you can, it does not make a difference because just before taking communion you can go to the priest, confess and receive absolution! And, the only thing that you would have to do is to keep your act clean until communion! And, suppose that you do not keep yourself completely sinless until communion. Why, you can have recourse to the prayers before communion, which are said most conveniently just before communion.
I know that these words will grate on some folks' nerves. I have purposely used sarcasm to make my point that our main task is to have a relationship with the Holy Trinity. Put another way, it is most important to act like a fully formed Christian and not as a lamb that must be directed by the shepherd and his dogs (I know that this is a most unfortunate imagery but I was thinking of a NOVA show on dogs where it showed how utterly impossible it would be raise sheep in Scotland without the dogs). In any case, this posting is proof positive why I am such a poor communicator in these matters.
Father Alexander Schmemann of blessed memory looked at our Holy Mystery of Penance/Communion and saw something in it that most folks kind of overlook. To Father Alexander it was a scandal that (a) when he had confessed an entire congregation, not one of them actually confessed a sin to him, and (b) only the priest took communion. He knew that in the the early Church everybody took communion, as attested to by the Church Fathers. He also knew that this Holy Mystery was used primarily as a Sacrament of Reconciliation for those Christians who had lost their relationship with the Lord and His Body for serious sins/shortcomings. After all, everybody sins and yet for most, preeminently the priests and bishops, the pre-communion preparations (of course starting earlier than the pre-communion prayers just before communion) were sufficient; most folks did not confess to a priest and receive absolution from him prior to communion--just like the priest himself!
Of course, there are good reasons for somebody to require the confession/absolution/communion cycle. For some folks, it may be impossible or very hard to observe a daily rule of prayer, go to services during the week, to attend the services of Sunday (starting with Vespers or Vigil, than to go the Matins or Hours just before the Divine Liturgy), self-audit constantly, and confess and correct constantly. BTW, I have just described what I have figured that that I need to keep on a somewhat even keel. I must confess however that I go through some difficult periods. In any case, I do go the confession at least once every six to eight weeks as prescribed by my priest but I do go to confession as soon as I can after I fall short in those areas that my Priest has specified and those that I think are serious enough to warrant reconciliation. In any case, in an ordinary Sunday I do approach the chalice, as unworthy as I am, after putting my heart and mind into preparing myself ahead of time. For me at least, going to Vespers on Saturday, going through my weekly self-audit wrap up, and attending the Hours lead to the Divine Liturgy that in my experience has been one continuous conversation/prayer with the Holy Trinity. I tell the Lord many times, and particularly during the pre-communion prayers that the clergy as well as we say, that I am sorry, that I will do better, that I pray that He will help me do that. Lest anyone think that I am any good, I must tell you that I am such a big sinner that I need all of this.
So, we come down to what happens during the Mystery of Confession/Penance/Reconciliation. If anyone has been paying attention, we confess our sins, shortcomings to the Lord, who then absolves us, all the while the Priest acting only in the role of spiritual father, witness, representative of the Church. The main interaction is between the penitent and the Lord; how is this materially different from what we are supposed to be doing every day of our lives?