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9. Rites connected with Baptism - Ceremonies after Baptism

Antiquities of the Christian Church
XIV. Of Baptism

9. Rites connected with Baptism - Ceremonies after Baptism

  1. The kiss of peace. This is mentioned as being usual on this occasion as late as the fifth century. But there is no evidence of the custom at a later period. It was given both to infants and adults. It appears to have been surperseded by the simple salutation, Pax tecum! Peace be with you! but at what time is unknown.
  2. Chrism. This anointing is still in use in the East. In the Western church it has been transferred to the rites of confirmation at a later period after baptism. 
  3. Clothing in white apparel. These garments were worn as emblems of purity, the putting away of former defilements, etc. Thus the young disciple was arrayed in the white robes, in which saints and angels appear in heaven. This practice was in common use in the fourth century. The dress was worn by the newly baptized from Easter-eve until the Sunday after, which was from this circumstance called Dominica in albis – the Sunday in white, Whitsunday, Whitsuntide. These garments were made usually of white linen, but sometimes of more costly materials, and were worn by the person who baptized, as well as by the subjects of baptism. 
  4. The burning of lighted tapers. These were placed in the hands of the baptized, if adults; if they were infants, in the hands of the sponsors. These tapers were emblematical of the illuminating power of this ordinance. 
  5. The washing of the feet. This was a favorite ceremony ia some countries, at various times. 
  6. The giving of presents, the wearing of garlands and wreaths of flowers, public thanksgivings, singing of hymns, and baptismal festivals, are all mentioned as festivities and rites connected with this ordinance.

The following extract may be interesting to the reader, as presenting a popular view of the attending rites of baptism which have been detailed above.

"The rite of baptism was originally administered in a very simple manner – the apostles and their contemporaries contenting themselves with an appropriate prayer, and the subsequent application of the element of water. At an early period, however, a variety of ceremonies was introduced, with the pious, though mistaken view, of conveying a deeper and more solemn impression of the ordinance, and affording, by each of them, a sensible representation of the grand truths and spiritual blessings of which it is significant. The baptismal season having arrived, those catechumens who were ripe for baptism, and who were then called competentes, or elect, were brought to the baptistery, at the entrance of which they stopped, and then mounting an elevated platform, where they could be seen and heard by the whole congregation of the faithful, each, with an audible voice, renounced the devil and all his works. The manner in which he did this, was by standing with his face towards the west, and with some bodily gesture, expressive of the greatest abhorrence, declaring his resolution to abandon the service of Satan, and all the sinful works and pleasures of which he is the patron and author. This renunciation being thrice repeated, the candidate elect turned towards the east – the region of natural light, and therefore fit emblem of the Sun of Righteousness, – made three times a solemn promise and engagement to become the servant of Christ, and submit to all his laws. After this he repeated the Creed deliberately, clause by clause, in answer to appropriate questions of the minister, as the profession of his faith. It was deemed an indispensable part of the ceremony, that this confession should be made audibly, and before many witnesses; and in those rare and unfortunate instances, where the applicants for baptism possessed not the power of oral communication, this duty was performed through the kind offices of a friend, who, testifying their desire to receive the ordinance, acted as their substitute. In ancient history, an anecdote is told of an African negro slave, who, after having passed satisfactorily through the state of catechumen, and been entered on the lists for baptism, suddenly fell into a violent fever, which deprived him of the faculty of speech. Having recovered his health, but not the use of his tongue, on the approach of the baptismal season, his master bore public testimony to his principles, and the christian consistency of his conduct, in consequence of which he was baptized, along with the class of catechumens to which he belonged. The profession of faith being ended, and a prayer being offered, that as much of the element as should be employed might be sanctified, and that all who were about to be baptized might receive, along with the outward sign, the inward invisible grace, the minister breathed on them, symbolically conveying to them the influences of the Holy Spirit, – an act which, in later times, was followed by anointing them with oil, to indicate that they were ready, like the wrestlers in the ancient games, to fight the fight of faith.

The preliminary ceremonies were brought to a close by his tracing on the foreheads of all the sign of the cross – an observance which, as was formerly remarked, was frequently used on the most common as well as sacred occasions by the primitive Christians, – and to which they attached a purely christian meaning, that of living by faith on the Son of God. All things being prepared, and the person about to be baptized having stripped off his garments, the minister took each by the hand, and plunged him thrice under the water, pronouncing each time the name of the three persons in the Godhead. The newly baptized having come out of the water, was immediately dressed by some attendants in a pure white garment, which signified, that having put off his old corrupt nature, and his former bad principles and practices, he had become a new man. A very remarkable example of this ceremony occurs in the history of the celebrated Chrysostom. The con spirators who had combined to ruin that great and good man in Constantinople, resolved on striking the first blow on the eve of an annual festival, at the hour when they knew he would he alone in his vestry, preparing for his duty to the candidates for baptism. By mistake, they did not arrive till he had begun the service in the church. Heated with wine, and goaded on by their malignant passions, they burst into the midst of the assembly, most of whom were young persons, in the act of making the usual profession of their faith, and some of whom had already entered the waters of the baptistery. The whole congregation were struck with consternation. The catechumens fled away naked and wounded to the neighbouring woods, fields, or any places that promised them shelter from the massacre that was perpetrating in the city. And next morning, as soon as it had dawned, an immense meadow was seen covered all over with white, – on examining which, it was found to be filled with catechumens who had been baptized the night before, and who were then, according to custom, dressed in their white garments, amounting in number to three thousand. Those white garments, after being worn a week, were thrown aside, and deposited in the antechamber of the church, where, with the name of the owner inscribed on each, they were carefully preserved as memorials of baptism, ready to be produced against them in the event of their violating its vows. A memorable instance of this use of them occurs in the history of the primitive age. A Carthaginian, who had long been connected with the christian church of his native city, at length apostatized, and joining the ranks of its enemies, became one of the most violent persecutors of all who named the name of Christ. Through the influence of friends, he was elevated to a high civil station, the powers of which he prostituted to the cruel and bloody purpose of persecuting his former friends. Among those who were dragged to his tribunal, was a deacon, once an intimate friend of his own, and who had been present at his baptism. On being put to the rack, he produced the white garments of the apostate, and in words that went to the heart of all the by-standers, solemnly declared that these would testify against his unrighteousness at the last day.

Immediately after the baptism, the new-made members, in their snow-white dress, took their place among the body of the faithful, each of whom that was near, welcomed them as brethren with the kiss of peace; and, as being admitted into the family of God, whose adopted children alone are entitled to address Him as "Our Father," they were permitted, for the first time, publicly to use the Lord's Prayer and to partake of the communion." – Jamieson, p. 142.

Cyprian, Ep. 64 al 59.: Augustin. contra. Ep. Pel. iv. c. 8: Chrysost. Ser. 50. Util. Leg. Script.

Concil. Araus. c. 2: Innocent I. Ep. ad Decent. Eugub. Brenner. S. 97.

Cyrill. Hieros. Catech. Mystag. vi. § 8: Euseb. Vit. Const. 4. 62: Socrat. h. e. 5. 8: Sozomen, h. e. 7. 8: Gregor. Naz. Orat. 39: Paladius. Vit. Chrysost. c. 9: Jerome, Ep. 57, 78, 128. August. Serm. 232.

Gregor. Orat. 40: Baron. Annal. 401: Ambros. De Laps. Virg. Sacr. c. 5: Gregor. Turon. Hist. Franc, lib. v. c. 2.

Augustin. (Caesar Arelm.) Serm. 160. De Temp.: Assemani, Cod. Lit. lib. ii. p. 42: Mabillon. Mus. Ital. torn. i. Sacram. Gallic.


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