Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. VII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Catechetical Lectures of S. Cyril.: Special Preparation for Baptism.
Chapter III.—Special Preparation for Baptism.
§ 1. Penitence. The candidate for Baptism, having been duly admitted and registered, was required not only to be diligent in attending the course of Catechetical instruction 119 , but also to enter at once upon a course of strict devotion and penitential discipline. “Those who are coming to Baptism,” says Tertullian, “must be constantly engaged in prayers, fastings, kneelings, and watchings, together with confession of all past faults 120 .”
On these subjects Cyrils teaching is earnest, wise, and sympathetic: he seeks to lead to repentance by gentle persuasion, and pleads for self-discipline as needful for the good of the soul 121 . One whole Lecture is devoted to the necessity of thorough repentance for all past sins, and forgiveness of all offences 122 : another to the sure efficacy of repentance for the remission of sins 123 .
§ 2. Confession. ᾽Εξομολόγησις. Great stress is laid by Cyril on the necessity not only of sincere inward repentance, but also of open confession. The words ἐξομολογεῖσθαι, ἐξομολόγησις have a twofold meaning and a wide application.
(1.) In the Septuagint they occur very frequently, especially in the Psalms, in the sense of “giving thanks or praise” (Heb. הדוּה) 124 , a meaning which is also found in the New Testament 125 . Perhaps the earliest instance in an Ecclesiastical writer is in Hermas, Mandat. X. iii. 2: ἐξομολογούμενος τῷ θεῷ. I have not found any instance of this meaning in Cyril.
S. Chrysostom, commenting on the words, “I will give thanks unto Thee, O Lord 126 ,” says, “There are two kinds of exomologesis; for it is either a condemnation of our own sins or a giving of thanks to God.” The link between these two ideas is seen in Joshuas exhortation to Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and make confession 127 unto Him. R.V. Margin. Or, give praise.
(2.) In the sense of “confessing” sins, the Verb is not uncommon in the N.T. 128 , and in the early Fathers 129 . Tertullian adopts the Greek word, and calls exomologesis “the handmaid of repentance 130 ,” adding that it will extinguish the fire of Gehenna in the heart, being a second remedy for sin, after Baptism.
Again, speaking of the outward act of repentance, he says: “This act, which is more usually expressed and commonly spoken of under a Greek name, is ἐξομολόγησις, whereby we confess our sins to the Lord, not indeed as if He were ignorant of them, but inasmuch as by confession satisfaction is appointed, and of confession repentance is born, and God appeared by repentance. Accordingly exomologesis is a discipline for mans prostration and humiliation, enjoining a demeanour calculated to move mercy. With regard also to the very dress and food, it commands (the penitent) to lie in sackcloth and ashes…to know no food and drink but such p. xxvii as is plain,—to feed prayers on fastings, to groan, to weep and roar (mugire) unto the Lord God; to roll before the feet of the presbyters, and kneel to Gods dear ones, to enjoin on all the brethren embassies of intercession on his behalf. All this exomologesis does, that it may enhance repentance 131 , &c.”
In this highly rhetorical description of the ecclesiastical discipline so dear to Tertullian there are many features of extreme severity to which Cyril makes no allusion; yet he frequently and very earnestly insists on the necessity and the efficacy of confession. “The present is the season of confession: confess what thou hast done in word or in deed, by night or by day; confess in an acceptable time, and in the day of salvation receive the heavenly treasure 132 ” “Tell the Physician thine ailment: say thou also, like David, I said, I will confess me my sin unto the Lord ; and the same shall be done in thy case, which he says forthwith, and Thou forgavest the wickedness of my heart 133 .” “ Seest thou the humility of the king? Seest thou his confession?.…The deed was quickly done, and straightway the Prophet appeared as accuser, and the offender confessed his fault; and because he candidly confessed, he received a most speedy cure 134 .”
“Ezekias prevailed to the cancelling of Gods decree, and cannot Jesus grant remission of sins? Turn and bewail thyself, shut thy door, and pray to be forgiven, pray that He may remove from thee the burning flames. For confession has power to quench even fire, power to tame even lions 135 .”
The confession to which Cyril attaches so high a value, whether made in the privacy of solitude, or openly before the Ministers of the Church and the Congregation, is a confession to God, and not to man. “Having therefore, brethren, many examples of those who have sinned and repented and been saved, do ye also heartily make confession unto the Lord 136 .” Elsewhere he expressly disclaims the necessity of private confession to man: “Not that thou shouldest shew thy conscience to me, for thou art not to be judged of mans judgment; but that thou shew the sincerity of thy faith to God, who trieth the reins and hearts, and knoweth the thoughts of men 137 .” He also limits the season of confession and repentance to this present life: “Therefore the just shall then offer praise; but they who have died in sins have no further season for confession 138 .”
§ 3. Exorcism. One of the earliest ceremonies, after the registration of names, was Exorcism, which seems to have been often repeated during the Candidates course of preparation. “Receive with earnestness the exorcisms: whether thou be breathed upon or exorcised, the act is to thee salvation 139 .”
The power of casting out devils, promised by our Lord 140 , and exercised by Apostles 141 , and by Philip the Deacon and Evangelist 142 , was long regarded in the early Church as a direct gift still bestowed by the Holy Ghost, apart from any human ordinance. Justin Martyr 143 , Tertullian 144 , Origen 145 , all speak of exorcism as being practised by laymen, even by soldiers, and women, by means of prayer and invocation of the name of Jesus. Accordingly “an Exorcist is not ordained, for it is a gift of the spontaneous benevolence and grace of God through Christ by visitation of the Holy Ghost. For he who has received the gift of healing is declared by revelation from God, the grace which is in him being manifest to all 146 .” When the extraordinary gift was found to have been withdrawn, exorcists are mentioned among the inferior officers of the Church, after readers and subdeacons 147 . From an early period certain set formulæ, such as the Divine names, “The God of Abraham, and God of Isaac, and God p. xxviii of Jacob,” “The God of Israel,” “The God who drowned the king of Egypt and the Egyptians in the Red Sea,” were frequently invoked against demons and certain wicked persons 148 .
Accordingly, when an exorcist was ordained the Bishop was directed to give him the book in which the exorcisms were written, with the words, “Receive thou these, and commit them to memory, and have thou power to lay hands upon the Energumens, whether they be baptized or only Catechumens 149 .” Though this Canon speaks only of exorcising Energumens, or such persons as were supposed to be possessed by evil spirits, we must remember that the power of such spirits was believed to extend to the whole world outside the Christian Church. Thus all converts from Paganism and Judaism, and even the children of Christian parents were exorcised before being baptized. The practice was closely connected with the doctrine of original sin, as we see in many passages of S. Augustine, and is declared by him to be very ancient and universal 150 . In expounding the Creed to candidates for Baptism, he says: “Therefore, as you have seen this day, and as you know, even little children are breathed on and exorcised, that the hostile power of the devil may be driven out of them, which deceived one man in order that he might get possession of all men 151 .”
We find accordingly that Cyril enforces the duty of attending the Exorcisms on all the candidates alike, and from his use of the Plural (Exorcisms) we see that the ceremony was often repeated for each person. Thus in the Clementine Homilies Peter is represented as saying, “Whoever of you wish to be baptized, begin from to-morrow to fast, and each day have hands laid upon you 152 ,” the imposition of hands being one of the ceremonies used in exorcism 153 . From expressions in the Introductory Lecture, “When ye have come in before the hour of the exorcisms 154 ,” and again, “when your exorcism has been done, until the others who are to be exorcised have come 155 ,” it seems that before each Catechizing the candidates were all exorcised, one by one 156 , and that the earlier, after returning from their own exorcism, had to wait for those who came later. The catechizing was thus frequently delayed till late in the day, and Cyril often complains of the shortness of the time left at his disposal 157 .
At Antioch, the Catechizing preceded the Exorcism, as we learn from S. Chrysostom: “After you have heard our instruction, they take off your sandals, and unclothe you, and send you on naked and barefoot, with your tunic only, to the utterances of the Exorcists 158 .” Cyril says nothing of this unclothing, but mentions another ceremony as practised at Jerusalem: “Thy face has been veiled, that thy mind may henceforward be free, lest the eye by roving make the heart rove also. But when thine eyes are veiled, thine ears are not hindered from receiving the means of salvation 159 .” The veil may also have been a symbol of the slavery and darkness of sin, as S. Augustine regards the removal of the veil on the octave of Easter as symbolising the spiritual liberty of the baptized 160 . Of this meaning Cyril makes no express mention.
In the Greek Euchologion, as quoted by Kleopas, the act of the Exorcist is thus described: “And the Priest breathes upon his mouth, his forehead, and his breast, saying, Drive forth from him every evil and unclean spirit, hidden and lurking in his heart, the spirit of error, the spirit of wickedness 161 , &c.”
p. xxix Besides such invocations of the names of God, as we have mentioned above, the Exorcist used set forms of prayer “collected out of the Holy Scriptures.” Their effect, as described by Cyril, is to “set the soul, as it were, on fire,” and scare the evil spirit away; and his meaning may be illustrated by a passage of Tertullian, who says 162 : “All the authority and power we have over them is from naming the name of Christ, and recalling to their memory the woes with which God threatens them at the hands of Christ as Judge.…So at our touch and breathing, overwhelmed by the thought of those judgment-fires, they leave the bodies they have entered, at our command, unwilling and distressed, and before your very eyes put to an open shame.”
The Exorcisms were performed in the Church; where also the Lectures were delivered, Catechumens of the lower order being excluded, “and the doors looking towards the city closed 163 , while those which looked towards the Holy Sepulchre, from which the ruins of the ancient Temple, Golgotha, and the old city could be seen, were left open 164 .”
Procat. § 9: “Let thy feet haste to the Catechisings,” § 10: “Abide thou in the Catechisings: though our discourse be long, let not thy mind be wearied out.” Cf. Cat. i. 5.xxvi:120
De Baptismo, c. 20. Cf. Justin M. Apol. I. c. 61; Const. Apost. vii. 22.xxvi:121
Compare his teaching on Prayer, Procat. § 16; Cat. ix. 7: and on Fasting Cat. iv. 27, 37; xviii. 17.xxvi:122
Ps. 42:5, Ps. 43:4, 5 (ἐξομολογήσομαι); and Ps. c. 4 (ἐ? ἐξομολογήσει).xxvi:125
Matt. 11:25, Phil. 2:11.xxvi:126
Ps. ix. 1: ᾽Εξομολογήσομαί σοι, Κύριε.xxvi:127
Joshua vii. 19, Sept. ἐξομολόγησιν.xxvi:128
Matt. 3:6, Mark 1:5, Jas. 3:16.xxvi:129
Irenæus, I. xiii. § 5; III. iv. § 3; Clem. Alex. Protrept. ii. § 41: ἐξομολογοῦνται οἱ δαίμονες τὴν γαστριμαργίαν τὴν αὑτῶν.xxvi:130
De Pœnitentia, c. xii.xxvii:131
De Pœnitentia, c. ix.xxvii:132
Cat. i. § 5.xxvii:133
Ib. § 6.xxvii:134
Ib. § 11.xxvii:135
Cat. ii. 15. For similar statements, see Cat. i. 2; ii. 19, 20, &c.xxvii:136
Cat. ii. § 20.xxvii:137
Ib. v. § 2.xxvii:138
Ib. xviii. 14.xxvii:139
Procat. § 9.xxvii:140
Mark 16:17, Luke 9:1, Luke 10:17.xxvii:141
Acts 5:16, Acts 16:18, Acts 19:12.xxvii:142
Acts viii. 7.xxvii:143
Apologia I. §§ 6, 8; Tryph. lxxxv.xxvii:144
De Idolol. c. xi.; de Corona Mil. xi.; de Anima, lvii. de Spectac. xxvi.; de Præscript. Hæret. xli.xxvii:145
Contra Celsum, vii. c. 57.xxvii:146
Const. Apost. viii. 26.xxvii:147
Euseb. H. E. vi. 43; Syn. Antioch. in Encæniis, Can. 10: Syn. Laod. Can. 24.xxviii:148
Origen, Contra Cels. iv. c. 34 (p. 184).xxviii:149
Fourth Council of Carthage, Can. 7 (a.d. 398).xxviii:150
De Nupt. et Concup. II. § 33: de Pecc. Orig. § 45; contra aulian Pelag. VI. § 11; Op. Imperf. c. Julian. I. § 50; III. § 144, &c.xxviii:151
De Symbolo, § 2. Cf. Cat. xx. (Myst. ii.) § 2.xxviii:152
Hom. iii. c. 73.xxviii:153
Orig. in Josu. xxiv. § 1: “exorcistarum manus impositione.”xxviii:154
Procat. § 13.xxviii:155
Ib. § 14.xxviii:156
Aug. Sermo de Symb. ii. § 1: “ut ex locis secretis singuli produceremini.” This may possibly refer only to the final exorcism immediately before Baptism.xxviii:157
Cat. xiii. 8: xv. 33; xviii. 16, &c.xxviii:158
Ad Illuminandos, Cat. i. § 2.xxviii:159
Procat. § 9.xxviii:160
S. Aug. Serm. 376. “Hodie octavæ dicuntur Infantium; revelanda sunt capita eorum, quod est indicium libertatis. Habet enim libertatem ista spiritualis nativitas, propriæ autem carnis nativitas servitutem.”xxviii:161
Procat. § 14.xxix:162
Apologet. c. 23.xxix:163
Procat. § 9.xxix:164
Cat. xiii. 23: “Thou seest this spot of Golgotha? Thou answerest with a shout of praise, as if assenting.”
Next: Ceremonies of Baptism and Chrism.
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