Prefaces (Immolatio; the Gallican Contestatio missae; the priest's witness to the vere dignum of the people; the Mozarabic and Gallican illatio or inlatio), certain short occasional forms in the communion-service of the Church of England, which are introduced in particular festivals, more especially Christmas, Easter, Ascension, and seven days after; also Whit-Sunday and six days after, together with Trinity-Sunday. They are introduced by the priest immediately before the anthem beginning, "Therefore with angels, archangels," etc. "This anthem is a song of praise, or an act of profound adoration," says dean Comber, "equally proper at all times; but the Church calls upon us more especially to use it on her chief festivals, in remembrance of those events which are then celebrated. Thus, on Christmas-day, the priest, having said 'It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto thee, O Lord [Holy Father] Almighty, everlasting God,' adds the proper preface which assigns the reason for peculiar thankfulness on that particular day, viz.: 'Because thou didst give Jesus Christ, thine only Son, to be born as at this time for us; who, by the operation of the Holy Ghost, was made very man, of the Virgin Mary his mother, and that without spot of sin, to make us clean from all sin; therefore, with angels,' etc.
"The antiquity of such prefaces may be estimated from the fact that they are mentioned and enjoined by the 103d canon of the African code, which code was formed of the decisions of many councils prior to the date of 418. The decay of devotion let fall the apostolical and primitive use of daily and weekly communions, and the people in the later ages did not receive but at the greater festivals; upon which custom there were added to the general preface mentioned before some special prefaces relating to the peculiar mercy of that feast on which they did communicate, the Church thinking it fit that, since every festival was instituted to remember some great mercy, therefore they who received on such a day, besides the general praises offered for all God's mercies, should at the Lord's table make a special memorial of the mercy proper to that festival; and this seemed so rational to our reformers that they have retained those proper prefaces which relate to Christmas, Easter, Ascension-day, Whit-Sunday, and Trinity-Sunday, so as to praise God for the mercies of Christ's birth, resurrection, and ascension, for the sending of the Holy Ghost, and for the true faith of the holy Trinity. On the greater festivals there are proper prefaces appointed, which are also to be repeated, in case there be a communion, for seven days after the festivals themselves (excepting that for Whit-Sunday, which is to be repeated only six clays after, because Trinity-Sunday, which is the seventh, hath a preface peculiar to itself); to the end that the mercies may be the better remembered by often repetition, and also that all the people (who in most places cannot communicate all in one day) may have other opportunities, within those eight days, to join in praising God for such great blessings." "The reason," says bishop Sparrow, "of the Church's lengthening out these high feasts for several days is plain; the subject-matter of them is of so high a nature, and so nearly concerns our salvation, that one day would be too little to meditate upon them, and praise (God for them as we ought. A bodily deliverance may justly require one day of thanksgiving and joy; but the deliverance of the soul by the blessings commemorated on those times deserves a much longer time of praise and acknowledgment. Since, therefore, it would be injurious to Christians to have their joy and thankfulness for such mercies confined to one day, the Church, upon the times when these unspeakable blessings were wrought for us, invites us, by her most seasonable commands and counsels, to fill our hearts with joy and thankfulness, and let them overflow eight days together." "The reason of their being fixed to eight days," says Wheatley (Book of Common Prayer), "is taken from the practice of the Jews, who by God's appointment observed their greater festivals, some of them for seven, and one— namely, the Feast of Tabernacles— for eight days. And therefore the primitive Church, thinking that the observation of Christian festivals (of which the Jewish feasts were only types and shadows) ought not to come short of them, lengthened out their higher feasts to eight days." These prefaces are very ancient, though there were some of them as they stood in the Latin service of later date. For as there are ten in that service, whereof the last, concerning the Virgin Mary, was added by pope Urban (1095), so it follows that the rest must be of a more remote antiquity. The Church of Rome holds that they were composed by Gelasius in memory of Christ's singing a hymn with his disciples after the Last Supper, the Jews at their Paschal supper singing seven Psalms (Psalm 113-119). Pope Sixtus added to them the Ter Sanctus. Pope Victor calls them capitula. From the 6th to the 11th century the Western Church had prefaces for every festival, but after that date they were reduced to nine, and are enumerated by pope Pelagius and Alexander as Easter, the Ascension. Pentecost, Christmas, the Apparition of Christ (Epiphany), the Apostles, Holy Trinity, Cross, and Quadragesima. The eucharist of Paul (1Co 14:16) and St. Justin is probably the germ of the Western preface and the long thanksgiving prayer corresponding to it in the Greek Church. Tile Greeks, by the way, use only one preface. The Church of England has retained five, and those upon the principal festivals of the year, which relate only to the Persons of the Trinity, and not to any saint. "In this preface a distinction is made between ceremonies which were introduced with a good design, and in process of time abused, and those which had a corrupt origin, and were at the beginning vain and insignificant. The last kind the Reformers entirely rejected, but the first were still used for decency and edification. Some well-disposed Christians were so attached to ancient forms that they would, on no account suffer the least deviation from them; others were fond of innovation in everything. Between these extremes a middle way had been carefully observed by the Reformers. Many ceremonies had been so grossly abused by superstition and avarice that it was necessary to remove them altogether; but since it was fit to use some ceremonies for the sake of decency and order, it seemed better to retain those that were old than to invent new. Still, it must be remembered that those which were kept rested not on the same foundation as the law of God, and might be altered for reasonable causes; and the English Reformers, in keeping them, neither condemned those nations which thought them inexpedient, nor prescribed them to any other nation than their own" (Carwithen, Hist. of the Church of England). See, besides the authorities already referred to, Walcott, Sacred Archeology, s.v.; Hook, Church Dictionary, S. V.