Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Baptism in the Ancient Church
By the late second century an elaborate process had developed leading into baptism including:
1. Catechesis. This process included an intense period of instruction in the rudiments of the Christian faith, and often included a time of probation of seven years.
2. Fasting and Prayer. Since baptism often was done on Easter, the forty days prior to this event was dedicated to various spiritual exercises including fasting, prayer, and reading of Scripture.
3. Renunciation. When the time for baptism came, the candidate would be called upon to renounce the devil and all his pomp. Facing westward, direction the sun went down, he would exlaim "I renounce, thee O Satan, and all thy works", and then spit three times in the direction of darkness.
4. Credo. And turning eastward to the sunrise he would say, "And I embrace thee, O Lord Jesus Christ". And this point he would be baptized and recite a baptismal confession of faith often given the form of answers to questions and response with "I believe".
5. Disrobing. The candidate would remove all clothing and enter naked into the waters.
6. Immersion. In some churches the candidate would be immersed three times in the name of the Triune God.
7. New Robe. Coming out of the baptismal waters the candidate would be given a new rob symbolizing their putting on Christ.
8. Annointing. Each candidate would be annointed with oil symbolizing the presence of the Holy Spirit.
9. Laying on of Hands. This represented a sealing of the blessing given to each newly baptized Christian. It connoted a kind of commissioned to stand for Christ and his truth.
10. The Lord's Supper. Only those initiated into the church could partake of the Lord's Supper, and so the candidates would have an early morning supper with fellow Christians.
See Tertullian, De Baptismo; Hippolytus, Apostolic Constitutions; Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures; John Chrysostom, Baptismal Homilies.
Take from Timothy George, Galatians (NAC; Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1994), pp. 280-81.