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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Merits and Forgiveness...: Chapter 42

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 42.—Sanctification Manifold; Sacrament of Catechumens.

Our opinions on this point are strictly in unison with the apostle’s himself, who said, “From one all to condemnation,” and “from one all to justification of life.” 607 Now how consistent these statements are with what he elsewhere says, when treating of another point, “Else were your children unclean, but now are they holy,” consider a while. [XXVI.] Sanctification is not of merely one measure; for even catechumens, I take it, are sanctified in their own measure by the sign of Christ, and the prayer of imposition of hands; and what they receive is holy, although it is not the body of Christ,—holier than any food which constitutes our ordinary nourishment, because it is a sacrament. 608 However, that very meat and drink, wherewithal the necessities of our present life are sustained, are, according to the same apostle, “sanctified by the word of God and prayer,” 609 even the prayer with which we beg that our bodies may be refreshed. Just as therefore this sanctification of our ordinary food does not hinder what enters the mouth from descending into the belly, and being ejected into the draught, 610 and partaking of the corruption into which everything earthly is resolved, whence the Lord exhorts us to labour for the other food which never perishes: 611 so the sanctification of the catechumen, if he is not baptized, does not avail for his entrance into the kingdom of heaven, nor for the remission of his sins. And, by parity of reasoning, that sanctification likewise, of whatever measure it be, which, according to the apostle, is in the children of believers, has nothing whatever to do with the question of baptism and of the origin or the remission of sin. 612 The apostle, in this very passage which has occupied our attention, says that the unbeliever of a married couple is sanctified by a believing partner: “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband. Else were your children unclean, but now are they holy.” 613 Now, I should say, there is not a man whose mind is so warped by unbelief, as to suppose that, whatever sense he gives to these words, they can possibly mean that a husband who is not a Christian should not be baptized, because his wife is a Christian, and that he has already obtained remission of his sins, with the certain prospect of entering the kingdom of heaven, because he is described as being sanctified by his wife.



See Rom. v. 18.


Catechumens received the sacramentum salis—salt placed in the mouth—with other rites, such as exorcism and the sign of the cross; the Lord’s Prayer and other invocations concluding the ceremony. See Canon 5 of the third Council of Carthage; also Augustin’s De Catechiz. Rud. 50; and his Confessions, i. 11, where (speaking of his own catechumenical course) he says: “I was now signed with the sign of His cross, and was seasoned with His salt.”


1 Tim. iv. 5.


Mark vii. 19.


John vi. 27.


See below, Book iii. ch. 21; and his Sermons, xxix. 4.


1 Cor. vii. 14.

Next: Chapter 43

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