THEO 681 - Penance and Penitence
Discussion Summary 9/17/96

I. Christological Hymns
Presenter: Michael S. Driscoll

Phil 2:6-11 yields a structural interpretation; vv. 6-8 depicts Christ's descent as a humbling hominization while vv. 9-10 exalt the same Christ in his risen glory. The titles in v. 11 recapitulate the hymn by identifying Jesus as both anointed messiah and as Lord, thus denoting this humanity and divinity, respectively. Heresy arises when one departs from this Christological balance of the human and divine. The Christological hymn in Col. 1"15-20 contains a chiastic structure. Vv. 15-16 treat Christ as principle of creation while vv. 19-20 associate his death with reconciliation. In vv. 17-18, ecclesiological language strikes the theme of unity as joining all things on a span from creation to death, with the latter the point of reconciliation.

II. Justification and Reconciliation in the Patristic Period (150-700 CE)
Presenter: Craig Satterlee

Early (150-300), Shepherd of Hermes' seminal remarks are followed by Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria and Origen; they attest piecemeal rituals for post baptismal reconciliation after sins of the tria capitalia. Ecclesial questions arise at this time; Can the church forgive certain serious sins? What is the role of the episkopos and of the community? In early 4th c. and through the 6th c. the order of penitents evolved. Members wore distinct dress and were differentiated by grades. They were dismissed from Eucharist. They were made to do permanent abstinence and barred from clerical life. The early councils focused on individuals within the order of penitents, such as clerics, erstwhile virgins and recidivists. They discouraged youths from joining the order of penitents. Early liturgical texts describe such rites as laying on of hands, excommunication, the deacon's petition for reconciliation on the penitents' behalf, and prayers offered for one who has died without laying on of hands.

III. Tariffed Penance
Presenter: Michael S. Driscoll

Tariffed penance was not a sacrament per se but a pious practice which arose in parallel to canonical penance and was current until the 13th c. With roots in the monasteries of Great Britain and Ireland, the practice provided a commensurate response to sin through penance based upon fasting, prayer and almsgiving. Such penances were given in a context of spiritual direction, and later recorded in penitential books which correlated sin and penance. Said books, however, often retained a director's nuances regarding interiority and change of heart. Also, the books are to be considered alongside contemporary penitential texts such as the precum libelli (prayer book) and specula. The penitential books were successful inasmuch as they avoided rigorism, remained practical and practicable and evoked the monastic ethos then in vogue. The books are rightly criticized inasmuch as they led to commutation of penance (for the wealthy) and inconsistencies in rigor for certain sins. The books' growing popularity led to lay authorship by the likes of Dhuoda and Alcuin, who maintained the monastic ethos of the genre while addressing sin and penance in the world.