Jungmann, Josef A., S.J. "Chapter Nineteen: Baptism and Penance." The Early Liturgy to the Time of Gregory the Great. (translated by Francis A. Brunner, C.S.S. R., Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1959, pp. 240-252.
Baptism and Penance are especially important to Jungmann, as it is through baptism that converts enter the Church and therough penance that they are restored to their baptismal faith (Jungmann 1959, 240). Jungmann observes that baptism is spoken of much more in the fifth and sixth centuries. However, he considers Tertullian's De Poenitentia to be a work addressing Penance (Jungmann 1959, 241). I observe that Jungmann's understanding of Tertullian may be reading a later, more sacramental, view onto an earlier work. it addresses poenitentia primarily as the start of faith, then hesitates to consider it later in the Christian life due to the aversion to sin which the Christian should naturally have. As a sacrament, Jungmann sees penance as a practice used sparingly for dealing with particularly grave sins (Jungmann 1959, 242). It was essentially equated with a declaration of a fall from the Christian faith and a need for renewed repentance and faith. The liturgy is not very clear. However, Jungmann pieces an understanding together based on the evidence he can find.
The penitent would report to the bishop, either of his own volition or at others' urging. He would be formally excommunicated in a public way, and considered more like a catechumen (Jungmann 1959, 242). The penitent was not allowed to bring offerings or to be present to receive communion. However, he would receive a blessing from the bisohp, and would be required to be present each time the church met throughout the period of penance. At the end of the term of penance, there would be a formal reconciliation and imposition of hands as a sacramental act (Jungmann 1959, 243). This would typically take place in Rome on Maundy Thursday, a significant date for reconciliation and welcoming a saint into the communion fellowship. The Sacramentarium Gelasianum provides a rite of reconciliation dating back to the sixth century, summarized by Jungmann (Jungmann 1959, 244).
Jungmann notes that the penitent would normally not be enrolled in the process until after Pentecost, as the Easter season was not to be a time of penitence (Jungmann 1959, 245). Later, Lent became an official season of penitence, which was particularly fitting to the process.
Different cases were assigned different periods of penance. Regardless of the nature of the sin, the process was one of public confession intended to lead to reconciliation. It did include humbling oneself in very significant ways (Jungmann 1959, 246). Jungmann also notes that the process of penance was to be used no more than once in a lifetime (Jungmann 1959, 247). This led some to postpone penance until the end of life.
Jungmann does note that during the fourth to sixth centuries the Church considered the fact that people enter into sin and have a need for confession and forgivenss, but not necessarily for the process of excommunication and restoration. For this reason, the practice of private or semi-private confession and absolution arose (Jungmann 1959, 247).
A second way of dealing with our sinful nature, by the fourth century, was delay of baptism. Because catechumens were largely accepted as Christians, some shose to remain in that state until late in life (Jungmann 1959, 248). This was not a practice widely accepted by bishops, who advocated infant baptism. For adult converts, a relatively brief period of catechesis was the rule, normally during Lent (Jungmann 1959, 249).
Jungmann concludes the chapter by observing that infant baptism, originally quite simple in form, because a more complex rite (Jungmann 1959, 250). Though applied to infants, there was a time of catechesis, an imposition of hands, presentation of salt, an exorcism, and an oration. Sponsors or parents would affirm the faith and receite the Creed and the Our Father (Jungmann 1959, 251).