Atonement is not a word I often hear, yet, when I do, it feels significant. The Oxford dictionary defines it as reparation for a wrong or injury. It also notes that in religious contexts, it is a reparation or expiation for sin. Lastly, it informs that in Christian Theology, it is the reconciliation of God and humankind through Jesus Christ.
The origins of the word come from early 16th century England. At-one-ment, the unity or reconciliation between God and man, resonates with me. It implies a personal relationship between God and the individual—being right and at one with the Spirit.
People of faith observe the ritual of atonement in many different ways. In the Catholic tradition, in which I was raised, Confession – now called the Sacrament of Reconciliation – gives one the opportunity to confess ones sins. The absolution of sin and the penance assigned serves as a means of atonement. The holiest day of the Jewish year is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Adherents have the opportunity through fasting and prayer to reflect and atone for the transgressions that have occurred over the course of the year. Followers of the Buddha also practice a ritual of atonement. Practitioners recognize they may have engaged in behavior that was harmful to another. Once acknowledged, one resolves to make whole-hearted efforts to amend.
The process of atonement can be an opportunity for people to reflect on their lives, forgive themselves for transgressions, modify behaviors to become better human beings, and be at one with the Spirit.