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A History of Christian Initiation. Ritual washings are common place in ancient religions Israel performed ritual purification rites for those considered unclean and unfit for religious worship Gentiles who wanted to become Jews were initiated by circumcision, baptism, and sacrifice

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a history of christian initiation
A History of Christian Initiation

Ritual washings are common place in ancient religions

  • Israel performed ritual purification rites for those considered unclean and unfit for religious worship
  • Gentiles who wanted to become Jews were initiated by circumcision, baptism, and sacrifice
    • Circumcision marked a male with the sign of covenant with God
    • Immersion symbolically joined them to the Israelites who passed through the Red sea
    • Sacrifice showed acceptance of the law given at Sinai
  • Essenes practiced regular ritual washings in order to purify and sanctify themselves
a history of christian initiation2
A History of Christian Initiation
  • Water-Baptism the ancient concept
    • Water first denotes formless abyss, chaos and death (Genesis 1)
      • Overtones of destruction death and burial
    • Water also denotes fruitfulness
      • The river
        • waters the garden,
        • delivers the Israelites,
        • Renews in the desert,
        • opens up the promised land
a history of christian initiation3
A History of Christian Initiation

What force takes the watery chaos and orders it? (Genesis)

  • Ruah - the breath, the wind, the Spirit
    • Spirit makes the difference between life and death
    • The breeze brings water, coolness, refreshment and welcome rain
    • The breath of the living is joined with the wind, spiritualized and developed into the concept of life-giving Spirit
    • Life-giving water is equated with the activity of the Ruah, the life-giving Spirit
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A History of Christian Initiation

John’s Baptism of death to sin and birth to new life

was pre-figured

Isaiah 44:3

Psalm 22

was different

  • It was a once-and-for-all call to repentance
  • Given immediately to any who asked, Gentile or Jew
  • Rigorous ethical demands were attached
  • A conscious ushering in of the “last times”
    • Ezekial 36:24
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A History of Christian Initiation

Jesus is the “new age”.

He is Baptized to make the water work

  • His Baptism is the Red Sea crossing
  • His 40 days in the desert is Israel’s 40 years desert
  • His three temptations resisted were Israel’s temptations surrendered
  • Where Israel failed he succeeded.
  • Where Israel grumbled he was obedient
  • Where Israel doubted, he put his trust in the Father
  • Where Israel worshiped idols, he worshiped none
  • While Israel was the figure, he was the reality of what God would do for His people

Jesus fulfilled the old and brought in the new.

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A History of Christian Initiation

So Jesus Baptizes the water

  • The Spirit descends like the wind, like the flutter a dove makes when its landing
  • Water and Spirit converge as The Father concretizes the relationship
  • Jesus conquers the desert temptation and immediately goes to Nazareth where he reads in the synagogue
  • “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; therefore he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and release to prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord.”

Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing (Luke 4:18-21)

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A History of Christian Initiation

Does Jesus Baptize? The jury is still out!

  • John 3:22-23; 4:1-3
    • Woman at the well

The Apostles do!

Peter’s Pentecost address Acts 2:14

  • Early Baptism was a repetition of the original Pentecostal experience of the Spirit
    • Revelations 22:1
  • Through the water of Baptism Jesus’ Spirit would be poured out.
    • Water and Spirit are interchangeable symbols
    • John 3:5-6
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A History of Christian Initiation

Early accounts

  • Samaritan men and women were Baptized
    • Acts 8:12-13
  • Gentile foreigners
    • Acts 8:36-39
  • Jewish converts
    • Acts 9:17-19
  • Entire families
    • Acts 10:44-48
    • Acts 16:28-34

Immersion in water was associated with forgiveness of sins

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A History of Christian Initiation

Imposition of hands was associated with the reception of the Holy Spirit

  • Acts 19:1-6; 8:9-24

What did Baptism mean? A dividing line:

  • Between old and new
  • Between waiting for the messiah and finding him
  • Between living with guilt and finding forgiveness
  • Between being in a community of law and a community of love
  • It was the beginning of the end times when God would come and establish his reign over the earth
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A History of Christian Initiation

Paul Christianity’s first major theologian

  • Baptism is death and resurrection into Christ
    • Dying to sin rising to to Christ
    • The power of sin is broken (Romans 6:1-11)
  • Christian Baptism was the Jewish circumcision
    • Stripped off the ways of the flesh and initiated into Christ
    • Colossians 2:11-13; Ephesians 2:1-6)
  • We are all animated by Christ’s one Spirit into a single body, clothed in Christ, washed clean of sin
    • I Corinthians 12:12-13; Ephesians 4:4-6
    • Galatians 3:27-28
    • I Corinthians 6:9-11; 10:1-4
  • But the gift requires change
    • (II Cor. 5:16-6:2; Col 3:1-4:6)
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A History of Christian Initiation

Paul and the Apostolic tradition

  • Jesus speaks of his death as a baptism
    • (Mark 10:38; Luke 12:50)
  • Being born again through water and the Spirit
    • (John 3:5)
  • Baptism brings salvation
    • (I Peter 3:18-22)
  • It is not just for the Jews but for the whole world
    • (Matthew 28:18-20)
  • Salvation through Baptism is not automatic and requires faith and good works
    • (Mark 16:15-16; James 2:14-26)
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A History of Christian Initiation

By the early second century change begins

  • The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (The Didache) A Defense of Christianity by Justin the Martyr (160)
    • Instruction in the Christian way of life was added to preaching of the good news
    • The water was sometimes poured
    • It was described more as washing and regeneration than death and resurrection
    • It concluded with prayers and the Lord’s supper

With each succeeding century

the rituals and practices surrounding them became more elaborate

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A History of Christian Initiation

Patristic practices Third century Roman Empire Christianity was still outlawed,

persecution still possible

  • Meeting places were not disclosed, little doctrinal teaching was done
  • A simple confession of faith no longer sufficed because the majority were unfamiliar with the Mosaic law
  • The early catechumenate (Greek “instruction”)
    • They first had to find a sponsor who would guide them in moral formation
      • Help find new professions for those that were questionable
      • Assure they were not an infiltrators
      • After two or three years present them to the community for Baptism
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A History of Christian Initiation

Patristic practices Third century Roman Empire

  • The time of Baptism moved
    • From immediately after conversion
    • To any Sunday just before Eucharist
    • To right before Easter Sunday or other special feasts like Pentecost
  • Good liturgically and safer but Theologically questionable
    • What about those who died before Baptism?
      • Hippolytus - Martyrdom was a Baptism of blood
      • Most taught a Baptism of desire was adequate for those seeking but who died in the process

By 200 entire families including children were Baptized

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A History of Christian Initiation

Patristic practices Third century Roman Empire

  • Variations existed but typically the catechumenate included
    • Catechumens chosen for annual Baptism entered an intensive study a few weeks before
    • They were presented to the Bishop or his representative
    • Their worthiness was attested to by their sponsor
    • The finality of baptism was explained (no second chance)
    • Doctrinal instruction was given and scripture explained
    • Weekly exorcisms of past evil spirits occurred
      • They were prayed over, blessed, touched, anointed and signed
    • The final week consisted of daily instruction
    • The were taught the Lord’s Prayer and given the apostle’s Creed
    • They fasted the last two days
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A History of Christian Initiation

Patristic practices Third century Roman Empire

  • Ignatius of Antioch - “The beginning of a union with Christ which became more intimate through participation in the Eucharist and was perfected in the death and resurrection of martyrdom
  • Irenaeus of Lyons - The renewal of all creation in Christ; receiving the Holy Spirit was the beginning of the divinization of mankind
  • Clement of Alexandria - We who are baptized wipe away the sins which like a fog clouded the divine Spirit and blocked his way.
  • Origen - Baptism is a fire which painfully consumes everything that is worldly and purifies the soul
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A History of Christian Initiation

Patristic practices Third century Roman Empire

  • Tertullian, On the Resurrection of the Body

“The body is washed so that the soul may be cleansed, the body is anointed so that the soul may be made holy, the body is marked with the sign of the cross so that the soul may be strengthened, the body receives the laying on of hands so that the soul may be enlightened by the Spirit, the body is fed by the flesh and blood of Christ so that the soul may be nourished by God”

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A History of Christian Initiation

Constantine’s Edict Fourth Century

  • No longer necessary to be secretive about worship or doctrine
    • Catechumens allowed to attend regular Sunday liturgy up to the scripture reading and homily
    • Baptisms and Eucharist were celebrated in public buildings rather than homes
  • Official religion of the empire 380
    • Difficult to tell if conversions were conviction or convenience so lengthy catechumenate remained
    • The intensive preparation time was shortened
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A History of Christian Initiation

Constantine’s Edict Fourth Century

  • Tertullian - “Anyone who realizes the importance of Baptism will be more hesitant to receive it than postpone it.”
    • Teaching about Baptism was taken literally
    • One time Baptism was the only avenue available for forgiveness of sins
    • Life after Baptism must then be exemplary
    • Penance for lapses in faith were severe
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A History of Christian Initiation

Two Extremes Fourth Century

Forgiveness of Sins

  • Converts often remained catechumens until their deathbed hoping for death-bed Baptism or that their desire would be enough
  • Some parents held their Children’s baptisms off until after the teen years when giving-in-to-temptation would be less likely

Doctrine of Necessity

  • Children who died were lost forever with no chance of salvation
  • High infant mortality rate prompted parents to want Baptism more often than annually
    • Northern Africa baptized within one week
  • Bishops saw moral danger in holding off Baptism

Baptizing infants became widely accepted

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A History of Christian Initiation

Why Babies? Fourth Century

  • Origen of Alexandria - If baptism is for remission of sins why baptize babies who have never sinned?
  • Cyprian of Carthage -(Romans 5:12-21) Baptism washes away the guilt contracted by the human race in Adam’s fall. That’s why we Baptize children.

How was the sin of Adam inherited?

  • 150 years later
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A History of Christian Initiation

Why Babies? Fourth Century

  • Donatists - Whenever a person sins they may be re-baptized.
  • Augustine - In baptism a person receives a spiritual seal which was the image of Christ. The seal was permanent
  • Western Church - The Holy Spirit is passed through the Bishop when he lays-hands on the recipient
  • Eastern Church - The Bishop calls the Holy Spirit on the water. Holy Spirit comes through the water
  • Augustine the minister of the sacrament was irrelevant because the Seal belonged to Christ not the minister
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A History of Christian Initiation

Why Babies? Fifth Century

  • Augustine - Without God’s grace received in baptism and the other sacraments people could not avoid falling into sin.
  • Pelagius - People were born “originally graced” and did required only “grace of pardon” from the sacraments. Children born innocent had no need of Baptism.
  • Augustine - Baptism is necessary for salvation. “Original sin” was in the soul from birth an inheritance from our first parents passed on to all generations
    • Un-baptized must go to limbo. (Never official teaching)
    • By the end of the century infant baptism is universal as soon as possible after birth.
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A History of Christian Initiation

Infant Baptism Sixth Century

  • Catechumenate gradually disappears
  • Doctrinal instruction fades away other than brief training during the rite
  • Exorcisms and anointing remain since they were believed to be effective even without the babies knowledge

But what about the faith needed for salvation?

  • Sponsors and Parents supplied the faith until the child was able on its own
  • They were responsible for seeing that the child received religious instruction

Now rather than the sponsor bring those converted for instruction the sponsor was instructing a child to assure conversion

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A History of Christian Initiation

Infant Baptism Sixth Century

  • Initially immersion rather than pouring became common place because it was easy with babies
  • In the west pouring gradually returned and became predominate
  • The agreed upon baptismal formula became Matthew 28:19
  • The entire ritual became something an individual did to the infant rather than a community experience
  • Eventually in Roman Catholicism initiation would split into distinct sacramental steps
    • Confirmation the anointing was done later by the bishop
    • Eucharist dropped completely out
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A History of Christian Initiation

Middle Ages 5th century

Rome Falls to Germanic tribes

  • Monks sent out as missionaries concentrated on tribal leaders
    • If the leader was Baptized the entire tribe was Baptized
    • Leaders were impressed by the advanced civilization which made them open to new religions
    • Often 100s converted at a time with no moral catechization or religious instruction
    • Little if any effect was felt from the minimal initiation ritual
  • Charlemagne, king of the Francs was baptized
    • Sends to Rome and bases all rites on Sacramental books of Rome
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A History of Christian Initiation

Roman Initiation Rite

  • Children received three exorcisms on the Sundays before Easter (scrutinies)
  • Holy Saturday the baptismal water and font were blessed
  • Children were dipped in three times while a confession of faith in the Trinity was said
  • A priest anointed their head with oil
  • The bishop laid his hands on them and made the sign of the cross on their forehead with another oil
  • They were given communion at the liturgy of the Easter Vigil
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A History of Christian Initiation

Roman Initiation Rite

  • Since the second anointing was limited to the Bishop they also had to wait for the Bishop to have their baptisms confirmed
  • Spain continued to have the second anointing done by the priest until the 13th century
  • Only Milan defended its right to preserve its own liturgical custom that dated back to the 4th century Bishop Ambrose which were just as ancient as Rome’s
  • Baptism became gradually known as just that part of the initiation rite which could be done by the local priest.
  • Rural areas often waited years for the bishop
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A History of Christian Initiation

Infant Baptism 11th century -

The Roman sacramental books provided an abbreviated rite for infants in danger of death

  • Bishops noted that infants were always in danger of death so infant baptism soon after birth was encouraged
  • By the 13th century infant baptism became allowed anytime during the year
  • In the 14th century it became canon law that an infant be baptized anywhere from a day to a week after birth to be protected from the perils of dying in original sin
  • The baptismal ceremony all but vanished from the Easter Vigil only the blessing of the water and the font remained
  • The ancient catechumenate was reduced to a short service at the door asking the child’s name
  • Immersion was totally replaced by pouring
  • The words of Christ in Matthew 20:19 were used
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A History of Christian Initiation

Other Changes in the Middle Ages

  • Eucharist was gradually eliminated from the rite of Baptism
  • Baptism was reduced to a water ritual and other attendant ceremonies of exorcism and anointing, administered without Episcopal confirmation and without Eucharist, to infants soon after birth,
  • Once Christianity became the sole religion of Europe adult baptisms became the rarity and special adaptations had to be made for them
  • The experiential concepts of the patristic Fathers explanations of the sacraments were lost
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A History of Christian Initiation

Other Changes in the Middle Ages

Limbo -A workable solution to a sticky problem

  • Augustine and others contended that infants who did without baptism suffered eternal damnation
  • Anselm of Canterbury agreed this was consistent with belief that baptism was necessary for salvation but wondered that God could be so cruel to the innocent
  • Logic deemed that he was not. Anselm proposed that the souls of unbaptized infants did not get to heaven but they were not tortured either; their only punishment was that they would never see God, other than that they were in a state of natural happiness.
  • Thy must be in a place on the border of heaven (in latin Limbo)
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A History of Christian Initiation

The Scholastic Period -

Cleansing the soul from sin

  • Peter Lombard - “a dipping or external washing of the body together with a prescribed formula of words”
  • Hugh of St. Victor - “water made holy by the word of God for washing away sins”
  • The sacramental reality (sacramentum et res) was that of washing the soul free of original sin
  • Aquinas - Baptism is a spiritual regeneration and incorporation into Christ, but it is a hidden regeneration occurring in the soul of the baptized infant which manifests itself only later in life, it was an incorporation into Christ which occurred through the reception of spiritual powers known collectively as the baptismal character
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A History of Christian Initiation

The Scholastic Period

Aquinas - Baptism was the first step in the Christian walk of life

  • It was normally given to infant but could also be given to adults
  • Its matter was the water. Its form was the words if either was lacking the ritual was invalid everything else was non-essential
  • Priests were the normal ministers but anyone could baptize in an emergency because of the necessity of the sacrament for salvation
  • Children should be baptized right away but adults should be instructed first and wait until Easter Vigil. If they died a Baptism of desire was sufficient because they accepted the message of Christ as adults
  • He regarded martyrdom as the most excellent form of Baptism
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A History of Christian Initiation

The Decline of Scholasticism

Post-Black Death

  • William of Ockham - 14th century Argued that none of the effects of Baptism, including the forgiveness of sins, could be proven philosophically
    • Baptism was just a name for what happened when the ritual washing was performed
    • What really happened depended solely on the authority of the Church
    • Baptism sank into the mire of magic
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A History of Christian Initiation

The Protestant Reformation

Protestants rejected the Catholic theology of Baptism as they knew it

  • Luther still felt sinful after Baptism and Penance. They lacked the advertised effect.
  • He did however feel forgiven after his own interior conversion in 1513
  • This experience fed his sacramental theology, what Baptism brought was not removal but forgiveness of sins
  • He rejected concepts of indulgences and penance and embraced ideas of grace and faith
  • Grace was a heart-felt confidence in God and His love not an intellectual conviction
  • Faith like grace is a gift from God in baptism which remains dormant until later life
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A History of Christian Initiation

The Protestant Reformation -

Anabaptists (Greek re-baptize)

  • Luther taught that when God’s forgiving grace was accepted in faith, they were justified in the sight of God
  • Anabaptists took pushed it further
    • The New Testament spoke only of baptism of adults a profession of faith was required
    • Infant baptism must be a Roman invention
    • The church was meant to be a place of the saved into which people came not by birth but by decision before Baptism
    • Baptism by pouring was unscriptural so only immersion was valid
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A History of Christian Initiation

The Protestant Reformation

  • John Calvin - Embraced predestination (Romans 8:28-34) to mean that God saved those whom he had elected, this was a direct work of the Holy Spirit and occurred whether one was baptized or not
    • The Bible made it clear that none could profess faith in Jesus as Lord except by the power of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 12:3).
      • A profession of faith then was enough to make one part of the elect.
    • Moral conversion worked hand in hand with a profession of faith.
      • Immorality was a sign of damnation.
    • Baptism was not a cause of conversion but a sign of it
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A History of Christian Initiation

The Protestant Reformation

  • Ulrich Zwingli - took Calvin’s theology further
    • Baptism is not an infallible sign of redemption nor does it have any effect after Baptism
    • It was merely a sign of faith that people brought to the sacramental ceremony
    • The Holy Spirit did not need to work with any ritual instruments and acted on people totally at God’s disposal
    • He saw Baptism simply as an expression of belief in Christ
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A History of Christian Initiation

Trent 1554, The Catholic Reaction

Original Sin -

It declared that through Adam’s sin

  • He lost his original justness and had been punished with death
  • that this sin was transmitted to the whole human race and put all under bondage of the devil
  • that Baptism removes this sin though it does not remove all inclination to evil.
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A History of Christian Initiation

Trent 1554, The Catholic Reaction

Justification -

  • “A passing from the state in which a person is born a son of the first Adam , to the state of grace and acceptance as sons of God through the second Adam , Jesus Christ our Savior.”
    • Even though the children of Adam must physically die, they could be spiritually reborn through baptism; and if they sinned mortally after being baptized, they could regain spiritual justness through the sacrament of penance
    • Justification was a result of God’s mercy, merited for mankind by the passion and death of the son and effected in men’s souls by the power of the Holy Spirit
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A History of Christian Initiation

The council based its conclusions in scripture and the general experience of the church and Catholics who tried to live morally just and upright lives in the church. It declared the following heretical:

  • that the roman church does not teach the true doctrine of baptism
  • that baptism is not necessary for salvation
  • that baptism administered by heretics is not a true baptism
  • that baptized persons can not lose God’s grace through sin but only through lack of faith
  • that those who are baptized may obey their own conscience rather than the laws of the church
  • that the grace of baptism covers sins the sins after Baptism and need only be remembered for a person to receive forgiveness
  • that anyone should be re-baptized or that infants should not be
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A History of Christian Initiation

Trent missed the point of most reformers

    • Sacraments had lost their effect
      • Trent implemented reforms in clergy hoping strong leadership could be a good foundation
      • Christian instruction was still to take place after sacraments
      • A catechism of official church teaching was published for education purposes
    • When missionaries entered the new world thousands were brought into the church with little or no education
    • Baptism as the magic key to salvation was the focus of “bringing the faith”
  • Only one change occurred during this missionary period
    • Baptism of desire came to mean a desire to lead a good and upright life, a desire to live like a Christian
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A History of Christian Initiation

Contemporary Catholicism

  • 1950s-60s - Theologians on both sides of the reform reexamined the scriptural and historical data
  • Catholics conceded New Testament spoke only of adult Baptism
  • Protestants conceded that infant Baptism dated as early as the 2nd century
  • Both sides realized baptismal practices were much different from modern rites
  • Both sides came to realize that New Testament theology of baptism differed drastically in richness and complexity from scholastic theology
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A History of Christian Initiation

The past was revealed in the 1960s through Vatican II

  • The council returned to the more scriptural and patristic approach to Baptism
    • Revised rite of infant baptism was written
    • A new rite of adult Baptism was composed
    • The catechumenate was reinstated
    • Baptismal themes became more predominate in the lenten season
    • It took a major step in reversing the necessity of Baptism