3. Of Penitence there are three species. The first is solemn; the second, common; the third, private. Of solemn penances there are two sorts: the first is to be excommunicated by Holy Church in Lent—as is done for the murder of a child or some such horrible offence; the second occurs when the sin to be expiated was openly done and a matter of public talk. Then the Church decrees a public penance. Common penance is that which priests regularly enjoin in certain cases, as for example to go on pilgrimages barefoot. Private penance is what we do daily for the sins which we confess privately and receive private absolution.
4. We may liken Penitence to a tree, of which the root is Contrition and hideth in the heart. From this root springs a stalk that beareth branches and leaves of Confession and fruit of Satisfaction. This is what Christ meant when in His gospel He said, “Bring forth worthy fruit of Penitence,” and to this too He referred when He said, “By their fruits shall ye know them,” for as the root is hidden in the heart so by its fruits alone may you judge of true Penitence. If in truth we bring forth worthy fruits of Penitence, alms, and prayers, and bodily pain, whether it be by watching, or fasting, or scourging, or the wearing of hair garments, borne in cheerfulness—if as I say in this life we bring forth noble fruits of Penitence, then we may look for our reward in the life to come, even eternal bliss in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. There shall be no sorrow nor sighing, for the Lord shall wipe all tears away. On earth have the righteous sorrow; in Heaven are all at peace. Whereas on earth the body is dark and full of sin, there is it clear as the sun and clad in shining raiment; here are we sick and weak and mortal, there shall we be strong and enjoy the life immortal. There is no hunger nor thirst, for the grace of God feedeth them; and if we would attain to this blissful life, then must we here below prepare ourselves by humility of life and mortification of the flesh, and so win to rest through toil; to plenty of joy, by hunger and thirst; and eternal life, by death and the mortification of sin.
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As the Parson’s droning voice ceased, the sun was setting and we saw the two tall towers of Canterbury Cathedral flushed with red-gold light. We rode on silently. Peace hung in the blue-grey mists over the valleys of the country-side, and calm joy entered our hearts as we beheld the goal of our journey and the end of all our pilgrimage. Slowly we entered the tall gates in the wall, solemnly we dismounted and retired to rest at the inn in the city square, prepared to do penance on the morrow at the shrine we had come so far to seek.
THE AUTHOR TAKES LEAVE OF HIS READERS
I pray all those that read this little book that for all that pleases them therein they thank our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom proceedeth all goodness. If there be anything that displeases them, I pray them lay the blame therefor on my ignorance, for had I the knowledge I would willingly have done better.