Abstract and Keywords
The study of penance in the early church can be challenging because of the variety of opinions among scholars; it can also be difficult because of the apparent diversity in penitential practices among the Christian communities in the first 600 years. Studies of penance have often described it in terms of its severity, rigour, or laxity. Hence, the terminology for this period should stay as close to the texts of that time as possible, so as to allow frameworks and descriptions to be the result of careful study. Some interpretations of the history of penance have presumed an individualistic appreciation of the penitential experience. Liturgy, however, was a significant dimension of the earliest Christian experience, and the communitarian and liturgical contexts for Christian penance need to be given greater importance than they have yet received.
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