The Commination is a substitute for the Reconciliation of Penitents on Ash Wednesday, a rite associated with the Medieval practices of auricular confession, priestly absolution, and acts of penance. The 51st Psalm, the suffrages, and the two collects that follow them, are taken from the Mediaeval form, which dates from about the 12th century, and did not apply to penitents in particular, but to all the faithful, upon whose heads ashes were placed, up till the Reformation. The opening part of the Commination, which forms the rest of the service, was added in the 1549 Prayer Book. The service is appointed to be said immediately after the Litany. The service was revised in the 1662 Prayer Book and the language altered.
The Commination is a service that has been subject to misinterpretation and misunderstanding. The following article from A Protestant Dictionary and accompanying excerpt from Dyson Hague’s The Protestantism of the Prayer Book address common misunderstandings and misinterpretations.
To read more, click here.