Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. VII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Catechetical Lectures of S. Cyril.: Effects of Baptism and of Chrism.
Chapter VI.—Effects of Baptism and of Chrism.
§ 1. Baptism. When we try to ascertain the exact relation between Baptism and the Unction or Chrism which immediately followed, we find that Cyrils teaching on the subject has been understood in very different senses. By some he is thought to regard the Unction as being merely an accessory rite of the one great Sacrament of Baptism; to others he seems to draw a clear distinction between them, assigning to each its proper grace and efficacy.
The former view is stated by the Oxford editor, Milles, in his note on the words: “And in like manner to you also, after you had come up from the pool of the sacred waters, there was given an unction, a figure (ἀντίτυπον ) of that with which Christ was anointed; and that is the Holy Ghost 250 .” “It is evident,” says Milles, “from his words here, that the Chrism of which Cyril treats in this Lecture is not to be referred to the Unction which is administered by the Romanists in Confirmation. For every one sees that by Unction in this passage a ceremony of Baptism is indicated. The ancients employed two Unctions in Baptism, the first before the immersion in the water, of which he spoke in the preceding Lecture; the second immediately upon ascending from the water, of which he speaks in this Lecture.”
This opinion is elaborately discussed by the Benedictine editor, Touttée, Dissertatio iii. c. 7, who argues that the Unction described by Cyril is a Sacrament distinct from Baptism, that it has for its proper grace the gift of the Holy Spirit, and further that this gift is not conferred in Baptism. Of these assertions the first and second appear to represent Cyrils view correctly: the last is an exaggeration and a mistake, the tendency of which is to identify the Chrism of the Eastern Church with that which is used in Confirmation by the Roman Church, and to exalt the rite of Confirmation as a proper Sacrament distinct from Baptism, and even superior to it. A view differing in some respects from both of these has been recently put forward by a learned and devout writer of our own Church, who has fully discussed the teaching of Cyril and other Eastern Fathers, and gives the result of his investigation in the following “Summary 251 :” “For very many centuries the Christians of the East have never been forced to define to themselves at all clearly the position of a person baptized but unconfirmed. Their mode of administering Confirmation (Chrism?) by the hands of the baptizing Presbyter—though among the Greeks and some others with chrism prepared by the Bishop—relieves them from the necessity which weighs upon us Westerns, of teaching Christian children what their status is between the two rites. Confirmation (Chrism?) is for them, far more than it has been for a long while in the West, a factor in Baptism. Only p. xxxix a more or less conscious desire not to fall behind Western teachers in honouring the perfecting Unction can have led their later authorities to treat that Unction as a sacrament numerically distinct from Baptism. To all the early doctors of the East the two things are one, and Baptism culminates in the Unction. The tendency among Oriental Christians was, not to attribute to Baptism in our modern sense the gift of the Holy Ghost, but rather to consider Baptism by itself as a bare rite, benefiting the body alone, and dependent for its spiritual efficacy upon other actions, after and before. Not that this tendency has its full way. The Greek Fathers may be said certainly on the whole to trace the forgiveness of sins, the preparatory cleansing, to the baptismal Laver; the gift of the Holy Ghost, for the ordinary purposes of Christian living, they trace, like S. Chrysostom, to that act which comes “ immediately after Baptism, and before the Mysteries.”
When we come to inquire how far these several theories agree with the teaching of Cyril himself, we must in the outset put aside altogether the name Confirmation: for as applied to the Unction used in the Eastern Church it is only confusing and misleading. In the early ages of the Church Confirmation was not known even by name. In the Latin Church “neither Tertullian, Cyprian, Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, nor any of the Latin Fathers, makes mention of Confirmation in this sense. Nor have the Greeks any word to answer to this Latin term 252 .” So far, therefore, Milles appears to be perfectly right in refusing to connect the Chrism of which Cyril treats with the Unction used in Confirmation by the Roman Church.
We may add that in Cyrils account of Chrism it is wholly unconnected with Confirmation, both in its symbolic reference and in its outward form. Chrism, he says, is the antitype of the Unction of Christ by the Holy Ghost at His Baptism: Confirmation is universally admitted to have been a following of the Apostles in their laying on of hands. But in that Apostolic rite there was no unction, and in Chrism there was no such laying on of hands.
In several passages Cyril clearly distinguishes the outward form of Baptism from the spiritual grace.
“If thy body be here, but not thy mind, it profiteth thee nothing. Even Simon Magus once came to the Laver: he was baptized, but was not enlightened; and though he dipped his body in water, he enlightened not his heart with the Spirit: his body went down and came up, but his soul was not buried with Christ, nor raised with Him 253 .”
It is impossible here to regard “the Spirit” as referring to the grace of Unction: for (1) Baptism was not accompanied by Unction in the time of the Apostles, and (2) we should thus make a false antithesis between the outward part of the one rite (“he dipped his body in water”), and the inward part of the other. Here, therefore, Cyril attributes enlightenment of the heart by the Spirit to Baptism apart from Unction, and at the same time lays stress upon the difference between the worthy and unworthy recipient of the outward form.
The importance of this difference is further enforced throughout the next two sections, and at the close of § 4 the distinction between the outward sign and inward grace of Baptism, strictly so called, is again asserted, “though the water will receive thee, the Spirit will not accept thee.”
“Some might suppose,” it is said, “from these words that Cyril thought of water and the Spirit as the sign and the thing signified in Baptism respectively, and a passage in a later Lecture upon the subject of the Sacrament (of Baptism) at first confirms that impression 254 .”
To suppose that Cyril had any other thought in the former passage, seems to me impossible for any ordinary reader, and the later passage, not only at first, but more fully the longer it is considered, confirms that impression beyond all doubt. The whole quotation, including Cat. iii. §§ 3, 4, is too long to repeat here, but may be read in its proper place. p. xl It will be sufficient to give the passages which are of chief importance in the question before us, according to Canon Masons translation.
Cat. iii. § 3. “Do not attend to the laver as mere water, but to the spiritual grace given along with the water”…“the mere water, receiving the invocation of the Holy Ghost, and of Christ, and of the Father, acquires a power of sanctity. For since man is a two-fold being composed of soul and body, the cleansing element also is two-fold, the incorporeal for the incorporeal, the bodily for the body. And the water cleanses the body, but the Spirit seals the soul, in order that having our hearts sprinkled by the Spirit, and our bodies washed with pure water, we may draw nigh to God. When, therefore, you are about to go down into the water do not pay attention to the mere nature of the water, but expect salvation by the operation of the Holy Ghost. For without both it is impossible for thee to be perfected.”
No words could state more clearly the distinction between the outward sign and the inward grace of Baptism, and the absolute necessity for both. There is no possible reference to Unction, but “the operation of the Holy Ghost” in cleansing and sealing the soul is unmistakably connected with Baptism as “the grace given with the water” (μετὰ τοῦ ὕδατος), and below, as “the seal by water” (τὴν δι᾽ ὕδατος σφραγῖδα), the latter phrase shewing that Baptism by water is the signum efficax of the grace in question.
Cyril then quotes our Lords words, Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God, and explains them thus: “On the one hand he who is being baptized (βαπτιζόμενος) with the water, but has not had the Spirit vouchsafed to him (καταξιωθείς), has not the grace in perfection: on the other hand, even if a man be distinguished for virtue in his deeds, but does not receive the seal bestowed by means of water (τὴν δι᾽ ὕδατος σφραγῖδα), he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Canon Mason, whose translation I have followed, finds here a reference both to Baptism and to Unction as “the first baptismal act and the second,” and in support of this interpretation gives a second and more emphatic version: “He who is in course of being baptized with the water, but has not yet had the Spirit vouchsafed to him, has not the grace in perfection.” This introduction of the word “yet,” in order to represent a distinction between two separate acts, is not justified either by the reading of the older editions (οὐδὲ τῷ ὕδατι βαπτιζόμενος μὴ καταξιωθεὶς δὲ τοῦ Πνεύματος), nor by that of Codices Monac. Roe, Casaub. adopted by Reischl (οὔτε ὁ βεβαπτισμένος κ.τ.λ.), nor by the Benedictine text (οὔτε ὁ βαπτιζόμενος κ.τ.λ.). The obvious meaning of the passage, with either reading, is that “the man who in Baptism did not receive the Holy Spirit, has not the grace (of Baptism) complete.” The Benedictine Editor in his elaborate argument for regarding Chrism as a distinct sacrament 255 ”, does not even refer to this passage.
A statement which is important in this connexion is found in Mystag. ii. § 6: “Let no one then suppose that Baptism is the grace of remission of sins only, or further of adoption, as the Baptism of John conferred only remission of sins; but as we know full well that it cleanses from sins and procures a gift of the Holy Spirit, so also it is a counterpart (ἀντίτυπον) of the sufferings of Christ.”
Here besides “the remission of sins, which no man receiveth without the Holy Spirit 256 ,” we find “a gift of the Holy Ghost,” and the fellowship of Christs Passion distinctly attributed to Baptism.
If the “adoption” mentioned at the beginning of this passage were identical (as Touttée thinks) with the “gift of the Holy Ghost,” it would by no means follow that Cyril here means to include Unction in Baptism. For the grace which beyond all others is exclusively attached to Baptism, and not to Unction, is the new birth, and this is “the new birth into freedom p. xli and adoption 257 .” In fact Cyrils teaching on this point is in strict accordance with that of St. Paul in Gal. iv. 4-6, that we first receive the adoption of sons (υἱοθεσίαν), and then “because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” So again in Rom. 8:15, 16, he says, “Ye received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.” In both passages St. Paul clearly distinguishes two things, “the adoption” itself, and the witness of it by “the Spirit of adoption.” Cf. Bengel on v. 4: “Prius adoptionem, deinde Spiritum adoptionis accepimus;” and on v. 6: “Filiorum statum sequitur inhabitatio Spiritus Sancti, non hanc ille.” The adoption itself belongs to Baptism strictly so called, in which we are made children of God and joint heirs with Christ (cf. Cat. iii. 15): the witness of the indwelling Spirit of adoption is the special grace ascribed to Chrism in the Eastern Church, and to Confirmation in the Western. There are many other passages in which Cyril ascribes to Baptism itself, as distinct from Chrism, a gift of the Spirit, such as the following: “But He trieth the soul: He casteth not His pearls before the swine: if thou dissemble, men will baptize thee now, but the Spirit will not baptize thee 258 .”
“The Lord, preventing us according to His loving-kindness, has granted repentance at Baptism, in order that we may cast off the chief—nay, rather the whole burden of our sins, and having received the seal by the Holy Ghost, may be made heirs of eternal life 259 .”
Again, after speaking of “the invocation of grace having sealed the soul,” he adds: “Having gone down dead in sins, thou comest up quickened in righteousness. For if thou hast been united with the likeness of the Saviours death, thou shalt also be deemed worthy of His Resurrection 260 .” The benefits ascribed to Baptism in these several passages without any allusion to Chrism, are brought together with rhetorical effect in the Introductory Lecture, § 16: “Great is the Baptism that lies before you; a ransom to captives, a remission of offences, a death of sin, a new birth of the soul, a garment of light, a holy indissoluble seal, a chariot to heaven, the delight of Paradise, a welcome into the kingdom, the gift of adoption.”
From such language it is clear beyond question that in Cyril of Jerusalem, not to speak of other Oriental Fathers, the tendency is not “to consider Baptism by itself as a bare rite, benefiting the body alone, and dependent for its spiritual efficacy upon other actions after and before,” but as depending on the power of the Holy Ghost, and the sincerity of repentance and faith in man.
If further proof were needed, a glance at the Index under the word “Baptism” will shew the extraordinary richness, variety, and precision of Cyrils teaching, as to the gifts of the Holy Ghost conferred therein.
§ 2. Chrism. When spiritual blessings so many and so great have been ascribed to Baptism, in what light, it may be asked, does Cyril regard the Unction which follows? Does he treat it as being merely an additional ceremony subordinate to Baptism, or as having for its own proper grace some special gift of the Holy Ghost? We find no answer to this question in the earlier course of Lectures 261 . But that Chrism was not regarded by Cyril as a mere accessory to Baptism, as Milles thought 262 , may be safely inferred from the fact that in announcing the subjects of his Mystagogic Lectures, he mentions first Baptism, then “the seal of the fellowship of the Holy Ghost,” and then “the Mysteries at the altar of the New Covenant 263 :” and this inference is fully confirmed by his language elsewhere: “Ye have heard enough of Baptism, and Chrism, and partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ 264 .” A mere additional p. xlii ceremony of Baptism could not have been so independently placed between the two sacraments, and, as it were, in the same rank with them.
The importance thus attached to Chrism is further shewn in the fact that Cyril uses the very same language in reference to the consecration of the ointment of Chrism and of the water of Baptism, and of the Eucharistic elements. “The bread and wine of the Eucharist before the Invocation of the Holy and Adorable Trinity are simple (λιτός) bread and wine, but after the Invocation the Bread becomes the Body and the Wine the Blood of Christ 265 .” Regard not the Laver as simple (λιτῷ) water, but rather regard the spiritual grace that is given with the water 266 .” “The simple water having received the Invocation of the Holy Ghost, and of Christ, and of the Father, acquires a new power of holiness 267 .”
“But see thou suppose not this to be plain (ψιλόν) ointment. For as the Bread of the Eucharist, after the Invocation of the Holy Ghost is no longer simple (λιτός) bread, but the Body of Christ; so also this holy ointment is no longer plain (ψιλόν) ointment, nor, as one might say, common, after Invocation, but Christs gift of grace (χάρισμα), and is made effectual to impart the Holy Ghost by the presence of His own Godhead 268 .”
The spiritual benefits which Cyril ascribes to the Unction are set forth in the same Lecture. “This holy thing is a spiritual safeguard of the body, and salvation of the soul” (§ 7): it sanctifies all the organs of sense: “the body is anointed with the visible ointment, and the soul is sanctified by the Holy and Life-giving Spirit” (§ 3). After being anointed the Christian is now entitled to that name in its fullest sense 269 ; he is clothed with the whole armour of the Holy Ghost, that he may stand against the power of the adversary: he may say, “I can do all things in Christ who strengtheneth me” (§ 4).
In regard to the supposed identity of Chrism and Confirmation, it is important to notice carefully how Cyril speaks of the laying on of hands in the only passage where he mentions it 270 .
He first illustrates the freedom of the Spirit, and His independence of human agency, by the gift of prophecy to the seventy elders, including Eldad and Medad: he then refers to the gift of the spirit of wisdom to Joshua by the laying on of Moses hands 271 , and adds, “Thou seest everywhere the figure (τύπον) in the Old Testament, and in the New the same. In Moses time the Spirit was given by laying on of hands (χειροθεσίᾳ ), and Peter gives the Spirit by laying on of hands 272 : and upon thee also, who art to be baptized, the grace is about to come; but the manner (τὸ πῶς) I tell thee not, for I do not forestall the time.”
From this passage it has been inferred (i) that Cyril alludes to a gift of the Spirit by laying on of hands in immediate connexion with Baptism and Unction 273 , and (2) that he refers this gift of the Spirit not to Baptism itself, but to the laying on of hands, or to the Unction as a figure that answers to it 274 .
(1) The first of these inferences is opposed to the fact that Cyril neither mentions the laying on of hands as part of the actual ceremonial in Baptism or Unction, nor as the analogous rite in the old Testament, but on the contrary expressly says 275 that the symbol (τὸ σύμβολον) of this holy Chrism in the Old Testament lies in the consecration of Aaron to be High Priest, when Moses, “after the washing in water anointed him, and he was called anointed, evidently from this figurative unction (τοῦ χρίσματος δηλαδὴ τοῦ τυπικοῦ).”
(2) In support of the second inference the argument offered is as follows: “That the Spirit was to come upon them in the course of their Baptism is here again clearly stated; but that Cyril did not intend them to suppose that Baptism itself would convey the gift is equally clear. Again and again in earlier Lectures, as well as in the words actually before us, Cyril has taught them to expect the gift in Baptism; if therefore the immersion itself were to be the means of p. xliii receiving it, he has already told them his secret. Yet now he says that he will not tell them how they are to receive it. That remains for a future occasion 276 .” The mistake, as I venture to consider it, lies in the words which I have marked with italics. For of the mysteries which were to be concealed from the unbaptized (ἀμύητοι) the first was the manner of administering Baptism itself, and the second, the unction of Chrism; and in the preceding Lectures Cyril has no more told the secret of the one than of the other. “Baptism, the Eucharist, and the oil of Chrism, were things that the uninitiated (ἀμύητοι) were not allowed to look upon 277 .”
“We bless,” says S. Basil 278 , “both the water of Baptism and the oil of the Chrism, and moreover the baptized (βαπτιζόμενον) himself. From what written commands? Is it not from a secret (σιωπωμένης) and mystical tradition? Again, the very anointing with the oil, what word of Scripture taught that? And the dipping the man thrice, whence came it? And all the other accompaniments of Baptism, the renunciation of Satan and his angels, from what Scripture came they? Come they not from this unpublished and secret teaching, which our fathers guarded in a silence with which no prying curiosity might meddle, having been well taught to preserve the sanctity of the mysteries by silence? For how could it have been right to publish in writing the doctrine of these mysteries, which the unbaptized are not even allowed to look upon?”
As these secret ceremonies of Baptism and Unction are revealed by Cyril only in the Mystagogic Lectures, the supposed reason for saying, that in Cat. xvi. 26, the promised gift of the Spirit refers not to Baptism but only to Unction, at once falls to the ground.
The true state of the case is well expressed by Bingham 279 , “Though the ancients acquainted the Catechumens with the doctrine of Baptism so far as to make them understand the spiritual nature and design of it, yet they never admitted them to the sight of the actual ceremony, nor so much as to hear any plain discourse about the manner of its administration, till they were fitted and prepared for the actual reception of it,”—or rather, till they actually received it.
There is in fact no reason to exalt the benefits of Unction, or Confirmation, by robbing Baptism of its proper grace. “It was this Unction, as the completion of Baptism, to which they ascribed the power of making every Christian in some sense partaker of a royal priesthood. To it they also ascribed the noble effects of confirming the soul with the strength of all spiritual graces on Gods part, as well as the confirmation of the profession and covenant made on mans part 280 .” We may well be satisfied that the doctrine of the early Church has been so fully retained in essential points in our own Office of Confirmation, recalling as it does by the ratification of the baptismal vows the immediate connexion of the ancient Unction with Baptism, and in its Prayers invoking the same gifts of the Holy Spirit,—“Strengthen them, we beseech Thee, O Lord, with the Holy Ghost the Comforter, and daily increase in them Thy manifold gifts of grace; the spirit of wisdom and understanding; the spirit of counsel and ghostly strength; the spirit of knowledge and true godliness, and fill them, O Lord, with the spirit of Thy holy fear, now and for ever. Amen.”
Mystag. iii. § 1.xxxviii:251
A. J. Mason, D.D., The Relation of Confirmation to Baptism, p. 389. Though I find myself compelled to differ widely from my friend Canon Mason in the interpretation of Cyrils teaching on this subject, I cannot refrain from expressing my sincere admiration of the tone and purpose of his treatise, and of the learning and research which it exhibits.xxxix:252
Suicer, Thesaurus, Χρίσμα.xxxix:253
Procat. § 2.xxxix:254
Mason, ubi supr., p. 337.xl:255
Dissert. iii. c. 8.xl:256
Hooker, E.P.V. lxvi. § 6.xli:257
Cat. i. 2.xli:258
Ib. xvii. § 36.xli:259
Ib. iv. 37.xli:260
Ib. iii. § 12.xli:261
Upon the supposed allusion to Chrism in Cat. xvi. § 26, see below, p. xxxiv.xli:262
Note on Mystag. iii. § 1.xli:263
Cat. xviii. § 33.xli:264
Mystag. v. § 1.xlii:265
Mystag. i. § 7.xlii:266
Cat. iii. § 3.xlii:267
Mystag. iii. 3.xlii:269
Ib. iii. § 1.xlii:270
Cat. xvi. §§ 25, 26.xlii:271
Deut. xxxiv. 9.xlii:272
Acts viii. 17.xlii:273
Mason, p. 341, with note.xlii:275
Mystag. iii. 6.xliii:276
Mason, p. 341.xliii:277
Basil, apud Bingham, X. 5, § 4.xliii:278
De Spiritu S. c. xxvii.xliii:279
Ant. X. v. § 4.xliii:280
Bingh. XII. iii. § 3. Cf. Apost. Const. III. c. 17. “This Baptism therefore is into the death of Jesus: the water is instead of the burial, and the oil instead of the Holy Ghost; the seal instead of the Cross; the ointment is the confirmation of the Confession.” VII. 22: “that the anointing with oil may be the participation of the Holy Spirit, and the water the symbol of the death, and the ointment the seal of the covenants.”
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