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THE COMMINATION SERVICE.
THE word penance, used in the preface to
this office, is another form of the word penitence, or repentance, and sometimes is taken in the same sense; as in the exhortation which follows, bring forth worthy fruits of penance,' and in Wyclif's Bible: sometimes it denotes the humiliation or punishment which was undergone by persons professing penitence, as a token of their sincerity, and a means of their reconciliation and re-admission to the ordinances of the Church. In this latter sense it occurs here in the preface, were put to open penance.' The nature of the public discipline inflicted on great and notorious sinners in the third century may be gathered from Tertullian's treatise de Poenitentia; in the ninth chapter of which it is mentioned under the name of exomologesis (confession), as a discipline requiring the penitent to sit in sackcloth and ashes ('sacco et cineri incubare'), to defile his body and to afflict his soul. The sackcloth and ashes were probably derived from the Jewish custom of mourning so frequently referred to in the Old Testament.
The mode of inflicting penance in the 12th century is recorded in the following passage of Gratian, a monkish writer of that age. Bingham 'On Ash Wednesday, or the first day of Lent, 457. (In capite Quadragesima) all penitents, who either then were admitted to penance, or had been admitted before, were presented to the bishop before the doors of the Church, clothed in sackcloth, barefooted, and with countenances dejected to the earth, confessing themselves guilty both by their habit and their looks. They were to be attended by the deans or arch-presbyters of the parishes, and the penitential presbyters, whose office was to inspect their conversation, and to enjoin them penance according to the measure of their faults by the degrees of penance that were appointed. After this they bring them into the church: and then the bishop with all the clergy, falling prostrate on the ground, sing the seven penitential psalms with tears for their absolution. After this the bishop, rising from prayer, gives them imposition of hands; sprinkles them with holy water; puts ashes upon their heads; and then covers their heads with sackcloth; declaring with sighs and groans, that as Adam was cast out of Paradise, so they for their sins are cast out of the Church; then he commands
the inferior ministers to expel them out of the doors of the church: and the clergy follow them, using this responsory, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread; for dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return." In the end of Lent, on the Thursday before Easter, called "Cœna Domini," the deans and presbyters are to present them before the gates of the church again.' In after times this discipline of penitents became extinct, both in the Eastern and Western Churches: and the office was applied indiscriminately to all the people, who received ashes, as a token of humiliation, and were prayed for by the bishop or presbyter. The English churches have long used the office nearly as we do at present.
The prayer, O Lord, we beseech thee,' &c. is from the Sacramentary of Gelasius:
Exaudi, Domine, preces nostras, et confitentium tibi parce peccatis: ut quos conscientiæ reatus accusat, indulgentiæ tuæ miseratio absolvat.
Prior to the reign of Charles II. the Prayer Book ended with the ComminationService. The Psalter and the Ordinal were separate volumes. The Forms of Prayer to be used at Sea were added at the last review.