Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. VII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Catechetical Lectures of S. Cyril.: Ceremonies of Baptism and Chrism.
Chapter IV.—Ceremonies of Baptism and Chrism.
§ 1. Renunciation. We have seen that Cyrils last Catechetical Lecture was delivered in the early dawn of the Great Sabbath, Easter Eve. The additional instructions then promised 165 concerning the behaviour of the Candidates were given on the same day, probably in the evening, when they were all assembled immediately before the administration of Baptism. The most important parts of the Baptismal ceremony are described by Cyril in the first Mystagogic Lecture, delivered on the Monday of Easter week. Thus in § 1 he says, Let us now teach you these things exactly, that ye may know the significance of the things done to you on that evening of your Baptism.”
The first act was the renunciation of the Devil and all his works. This, as described by Tertullian, was done first in the Church “under the hand of the Bishop,” and again immediately before entering the water 166 . Cyril speaks of the latter occasion only. “First ye entered into the outer chamber of the Baptistery, and there facing towards the West (as the region of darkness) ye heard the command to stretch forth your hand, and as in the presence of Satan to renounce him 167 .” For the formula of renunciation in the Apostolical Constitutions, see note 2 on Mystag. i. § 8; it corresponds closely with Cyrils, except that this is addressed to Satan as if personally present: “ I renounce thee, Satan 168 , and all thy works 169 , and all thy pomp 170 , and all thy worship 171 .”
§ 2. Profession of Faith. After the renunciation of Satan the Candidate immediately turned to the East and said, “And I associate myself (συντάσσομαι ) with Christ.” Cyril does not give the words, but seems to allude to the custom, when he speaks of the Candidates “turning from the West to the East, the place of light 172 .”
Then, still facing the East, the Candidate was bidden to say, “I believe in the Father, and in the Son, and in the Holy Ghost, and in one Baptism of repentance 173 .” We have seen that in Cat. xviii. 22, 32, Cyril intimated to his Candidates that they would be required to profess publicly the Creed which he had delivered to them and which they had repeated after him. This public profession of faith (῾Ομολογία, “Redditio Symboli”) was in some Churches made on Holy Thursday, according to Canon 46 of the Synod of Laodicea: “Those to be baptized must learn the Creed by heart, and recite it to the Bishop or p. xxx Presbyters on the fifth day of the week.” But in the Apostolic Constitutions, c. xli., Candidate is required to recite the whole Creed immediately after the Renunciation: “And after his renunciation let him in his consociation (συντασσόμενος) say: And I associate myself to Christ, and believe and am baptized into One Unbegotten Being, the Only True God Almighty, the Father of Christ,.…and into the Lord Jesus Christ.…and I am baptized into the Holy Ghost,.…into the resurrection of the flesh, and into the remission of sins, and into the kingdom of heaven, and into the life of the world to come. And after this vow he comes in order to the anointing with oil.”
Such appears to have been the custom of the Eastern Churches in general and of Jerusalem in Cyrils time, although he mentions only those articles of the Creed which were commonly held to be indispensable to a valid profession of Christian belief.
Dr. Swainson 174 represents the matter somewhat differently: “When we come to the profession of his own personal faith which was made at Jerusalem by the Candidate for Baptism, we find that this was far briefer not only than the collection of necessary things (Cat. iv.), but also than the Creed of the Church of Jerusalem.” Then after quoting the short form in Cyril, Myst. i. § 9, “I believe in the Father, and in the Son, and in the Holy Ghost, and in one Baptism of repentance,” Dr. Swainson adds: “The words are clear and definite. In these words each answered the question of which we read elsewhere, Did he believe in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit? In this his reply the Candidate confessed what Cyril called the saving confession.”
It is evident that two separate parts of the Baptismal Service are here confused: the question to which Dr. Swainson alludes, and “the saving confession” of which Cyril speaks in Mystag. ii. § 4, belong, as we shall presently see, to a later stage of the ceremony.
§ 3. First Unction. On passing from the outer to the inner chamber of the Baptistery, the Candidate who had made his renunciation and profession barefoot and wearing his tunic (Χιτών) 175 only, now put off this inner garment also, as an emblem of putting off the man with his deeds 176 . A further significance is ascribed by Cyril to this unclothing of Candidate, as being an imitation both of Christ, who hung naked 177 on the Cross, and by His nakedness put off from Himself the principalities and the powers, and “of the first-formed Adam, who was naked in the garden, and was not ashamed.”
“Then, when ye were stripped, ye were anointed with exorcised oil, from the very hairs your head to your feet 178 .” The consecration of the “exorcised oil” is thus described 179 : “Now this is blessed by the chief-priest for the remission of sins, and the first preparation for Baptism. For he calls thus upon the Unbegotten God, the Father of Christ, the King of all sensible and intelligent natures, that He would sanctify the oil in the name of the Lord Jesus, and impart to it spiritual grace and efficacious strength, the remission of sins, and the first preparation for the confession of Baptism, that so the Candidate for Baptism, when he is anointed may be freed from all ungodliness, and may become worthy of initiation, according to the command of the Only-begotten.”
Binghams observation, that Cyril describes this first unction as used “between the renunciation and the confession 180 ” is not quite accurate: in fact it came between two confessions, the one made, as we have seen, immediately after the renunciation in the outer p. xxxi chamber, the other at the very time of immersion. Chrysostom 181 clearly distinguishes two Confessions, but places one before Baptism, and the other after: “What can be more beautiful than the words by which we renounce the devil? Or those by which we associate ourselves with Christ? Than that confession which comes before the washing? Or that which comes after the washing?”
This first unction is not mentioned by Tertullian, nor in any genuine work of Justin Martyr, but in the Responsiones ad Orthodoxos, a work which though still early is regarded as certainly spurious, we find the question put, “Why are we first anointed with oil, and then, having performed the before-mentioned symbolic acts in the Laver, are afterwards sealed with the ointment, and do not regard this as done in opposition to what took place in our Lords case, who was first anointed with ointment and then suffered 182 ?” And in the answer it is stated that “We are anointed with the simple oil that we may be made Christs (Χριστοί), but with the ointment in remembrance of our Saviour Christ, who regarded the anointing with ointment as His burial, and called us to the fellowship of His own sufferings and glory, typically in the present life but truly in the life to come.”
Cyril attributes to this “exorcised oil” the same power as to Exorcism itself, “not only to burn and cleanse away the traces of sin, but also to chase away all the invisible powers of the evil one 183 .”
According to the directions concerning this first unction in the Apostolical Constitutions 184 , the Bishop was first to anoint the head only, the anointing of the whole body being then completed by the Deacon or Deaconess.
§ 4. Baptism. After this anointing the Candidates were “led by the hand to the sacred pool of Holy Baptism 185 .” This pool (κολυμβήθρα) was supplied with water raised from the reservoirs, of which, as we shall see, the Bordeaux Pilgrim speaks in his description of the Basilica.
As great multitudes both of men and women were baptized at the special seasons, the Baptisteries were large buildings outside the Church, such as the Baptistery of the Lateran, said to have been originally built by Constantine. The font itself also was large enough for several persons to be baptized at the same time. In some places the men were baptized first, and then the women: in others different parts of the Baptistery were assigned to them, and curtains were hung across the Font itself 186 .
The consecration of the water is not mentioned in the Didache or Justin Martyr; but Tertullian thus describes its effect: “The waters after invocation of God acquire the sacramental power of sanctification; for immediately the Spirit comes down from heaven upon the waters, and rests upon them, sanctifying them from Himself, and they being thus sanctified imbibe a power of sanctifying 187 .”
In the prayer of consecration given in the Apostolic Constitutions the Bishop is directed first to offer adoration and thanksgiving to the Father and Son, and then to call upon the Father and say: “Look down from heaven, and sanctify this water, and give it grace and power, that so he that is to be baptized, according to the command of Thy Christ, may be crucified with Him, and may die with Him, and may be buried with Him, and may rise with Him to the adoption which is in Him, that he may be dead to sin, and live to righteousness 188 .”
Cyril ascribes the like effect to the consecration of the water, as imparting to it a new power of holiness by “the invocation of the Holy Ghost, and of Christ, and of the Father 189 .”
While standing in the water the Candidate made what Cyril calls “the saving conp. xxxii fession 190 .” The whole Creed having been already recited (Redditio Symboli) in the outer chamber immediately after the Renunciation, a short form was now employed containing only the necessary declaration of faith in the Holy Trinity, and in the Baptism of Repentance for the remission of sins.
§ 5. Trine Immersion. This short confession appears to have been made by way of question and answer thrice repeated. “Thou wast asked, Dost thou believe in God the Father Almighty? Thou saidst, I believe, and dippedst thyself, that is, wast buried. Again thou wast asked, Dost thou believe in our Lord Jesus Christ and in His Cross? Thou saidst, I believe, and dippedst thyself; therefore thou wast buried with Christ also: for he who is buried with Christ, rises again with Christ. A third time thou wast asked, Dost thou believe also in the Holy Ghost? Thou saidst, I believe, a third time thou dippedst thyself; that the threefold confession might absolve the manifold fault of thy former life 191 .” But Cyril of Alexandria, as quoted by Bingham 192 , “makes these answers not only to be a confession of the three Persons of the Trinity, but a triple confession of Christ; which implies a repetition of the Creed (the shortened form?) three times over.”
In which of these ways the threefold interrogation (“usitata et legitima verba interrogationis”) was made at Jerusalem, is not quite certain from Cyrils words: “Each was asked, Dost thou believe in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and ye made that saving confession, and went down thrice into the water 193 .” The Didaché 194 enjoins baptism simply into the names of the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity. Justin Martyr 195 adds a few words only to the names “of God the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit;” and Tertullian 196 observes that “Wherever there are three, that is, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, there is the Church, which is a body of three.” The trine immersion had reference not only to the Trinity, but was also a symbol of the three days of our Saviours burial 197 . The use of the three Holy Names was made more strictly indispensable as heresies were multiplied: thus the 49th Apostolic Canon, which, Hefele says, “must be reckoned among the most ancient Canons of the Church,” orders that “If any Bishop or Presbyter does not baptize, according to the Lords command, into the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, but into three Beings without beginning, or into three Sons, or three Comforters, he shall be deprived.”
We see here that the power of administering Baptism was not restricted to the Bishop: and Cyril speaks of it as possessed by “Bishops, or Presbyters, or Deacons,” assigning as the reason the great increase of believers, “for the grace is everywhere, in villages and in cities, on them of low as on them of high degree, on bondsmen and on freemen 198 .”
Thus the rule of Ignatius 199 , that “it is not lawful either to baptize or to hold a love-feast apart from the Bishop (χωρὶς τοῦ ἐπισκόπου),” must be understood to mean “without the authority and permission of the Bishop.”
Of certain minor ceremonies connected with Baptism, such as the “Kiss of peace,” and the taste of milk and honey administered to the neophyte 200 , no mention is made by Cyril.
§ 6. Chrism. The custom of anointing the baptized with consecrated ointment is regarded by Cyril as a sacramental act representing the anointing of Jesus by the Spirit at His Baptism. “As the Holy Ghost in substance lighted on Him, like resting upon like, so, after you had come up from the pool of the sacred waters, there was given to you an unction the counterpart (τὸ ἀντίτυπον) of that wherewith He was anointed, and this is the Holy Ghost 201 .” As “He was anointed with a spiritual oil of gladness, that is with the Holy Ghost, p. xxxiii called oil of gladness, because He is the author of spiritual gladness, so ye were anointed with ointment, and made partakers and fellows of the Christ 202 .” The ceremony was very ancient: there is probably a reference to it in the words of Theophilus of Antioch 203 (c. a.d. 170): “We are called Christians, because we are anointed with the oil of God.” Tertullian, a little later, after speaking of Baptism, says: “Immediately on coming out of the Laver we are thoroughly anointed with a consecrated unction 204 ;” and again, “After that, the hand is laid upon us in benediction, invoking and inviting the Holy Ghost 205 .” In another passage 206 he mentions also the sign of the Cross: “The flesh is washed, that the soul may be cleansed; the flesh is anointed that the soul may be consecrated, the flesh is signed [with the Cross] that the soul also may be guarded; the flesh is overshadowed by imposition of the hand, that the soul also may be illuminated by the Spirit.”
The consecration of the ointment is compared by Cyril to the consecration of the Eucharist; after the invocation of the Holy Ghost it is no longer simple or common ointment, but a gift (Χάρισμα) of Christ, and by the presence of the Holy Ghost is able to impart of His Divine Nature. And this ointment is symbolically applied to thy forehead, and thy other organs of sense 207 .”
The ears, nostrils, and breast were each to be anointed, and Cyril explains the symbolical meaning in each case by appropriate passages of Scripture 208 .
The consecration of the chrism could be performed by none but the Bishop, and he alone could anoint the forehead 209 , Presbyters being allowed to anoint the breast, but only with chrism received from the Bishop 210 . The several ceremonies are thus explained in the Apostolical Constitutions 211 : “This baptism is given 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 212 .”
In like manner the chrism is explained again, “The ointment is the seal of the covenants 213 ,” that is, both of Gods promises, and of the Baptismal vows.
The members to be anointed were not the same in all Churches, but everywhere the chief ceremony was the anointing of the forehead with the sign of the Cross. This is what Cyril calls “the Royal Sign 214 ,” and “the Royal Seal to be borne upon the forehead of Christs soldiers 215 ,” and again, “The Seal of the fellowship of the Holy Ghost 216 .”
These last were probably the very words pronounced by the Bishop in making the sign of the Cross on the forehead, for by Canon 7 of the Second General Council at Antioch (381), converts from heretical sects were to be “sealed or anointed with the holy ointment on the forehead, eyes, nostrils, mouth, and ears. And in sealing them we say, The seal of the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
An additional prayer to be said by the Bishop is given in the Apostolical Constitutions 217 : “O Lord God, the Unbegotten, who hast no Lord, who art Lord of all, who madest the odour of the knowledge of the Gospel to go forth among all nations, grant also now that this ointment may be efficacious upon him that is baptized (βαπτιζομένῳ), that the sweet odour of thy Christ may remain firm and stable in him, and that having died with Him, he may arise and live with Him.”
The whole ceremony was called by the Greeks “Chrism,” the “Unction” being regarded by them as the chief part. In the Latin Church the name Confirmation is of later date, and indicates that greater importance was then attached to the “Laying on of Hands” with prayer.
p. xxxiv Another ceremony, not alluded to by Cyril, was the saying of the Lords Prayer by the neophyte, standing up, and facing towards the East 218 , after which he was also to pray, “O God Almighty, the Father of Thy Christ, Thine Only-begotten Son, give me a body undefiled, a clean heart, a watchful mind, an unerring knowledge, the influence (ἐπιφοίτησιν) of the Holy Ghost for attainment and full assurance of the truth, through Thy Christ, by whom be glory to Thee in the Holy Ghost for ever. Amen.”
Cat. xviii. § 32,xxix:166
De. Cor. Mil. c. 3.xxix:167
Myst. i. § 2.xxix:168
§ 9, note 3.xxix:173
Compare xviii. 22: “One Baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.”xxx:174
Creeds of the Church, p. 17.xxx:175
Pseudo-Dionysius Areopag. Eccl. Hierarch. iii.xxx:176
Mystag. ii. § 2.xxx:177
This passage has recently (1891) acquired a special interest from the controversy concerning Mr. Calderons picture, representing St. Elisabeth of Hungary as kneeling naked before the altar. The word “naked” (γυμνός, nudus) is not in itself decisive, but here in St. Cyrils account of Baptism absolute nakedness seems to be implied; for though women sometimes wore an under-tunic (χιτώνιον), men had nothing beneath the tunic proper (χιτών), which is here said to be put off. According to Theophylact, on Matt. v. 40, the chiton was properly τὸ παρ᾽ ἡμῖν λεγόμενον ὑποκάμισοε. See Dictionary of Biblical Antiquities, “Baptism,” § 48.xxx:178
Ib. § 3.xxx:179
Const. Apost. vii. c. 42.xxx:180
Ant. XI. c. 9, § 1.xxxi:181
Ephes. i. Hom. i. § 3.xxxi:182
Mystag. ii. § 3.xxxi:184
Lib. iii. c. 15.xxxi:185
Mystag. ii. § 4.xxxi:186
Bingham, Ant. VIII. c. 7, § 2; XI. c. 11, § 3.xxxi:187
De Baptismo, c. iv.xxxi:188
VII. c. 43.xxxi:189
Cat. iii. § 3. See also Introduction, ch. vi. § 2.xxxii:190
Mystag. ii. § 4.xxxii:191
Pseudo-Ambros. de Sacramentis, II. c. 7.xxxii:192
Ant. XI. c. 7, § 11.xxxii:193
Mystag. iii. § 4.xxxii:194
Apolog. I. c.xxxii:196
De Baptismo, c. vi.xxxii:197
Mystag. ii. § 4, note 3.xxxii:198
Cat. xvii. 35.xxxii:199
Ad Smyrn. c. viii.xxxii:200
Bingham, Ant. XII. c. 4, §§ 5, 6.xxxii:201
Mystag. iii. § 1.xxxiii:202
Mystag. iii. § 2.xxxiii:203
Ad Autolycum, i.xxxiii:204
De Bapt. c. 7.xxxiii:205
Ib. c. 8.xxxiii:206
De Resurr. Carnis, c. 8.xxxiii:207
Ib. § 3.xxxiii:208
Myst. iii. § 4.xxxiii:209
Apost. Const. iii. § 16: “Let the Bishop anoint those that are baptized with ointment (μύρῳ).”xxxiii:210
See the authorities in Bingham, Ant. xii. c. 2, §§ 1, 2.xxxiii:211
Const. Apost. vii. c. 22.xxxiii:213
Ib. vii. c. 43. Cf. Cat. iii. 17.xxxiii:214
Cat. iv. § 14.xxxiii:215
Ib. xii. § 8.xxxiii:216
Ib. xviii. 33.xxxiii:217
vii. c. 44.xxxiv:218
Const. Apost. vii. c. 44.
Next: Eucharistic Rites. Liturgy.
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