Joseph Martos
Part Three of the Course, First Assignment, Question 1
by Dr. Joe Martos - Friday, 17 February 2012, 1:52 AM
Reflect on the history of baptism and confirmation, and explain why you believe that various developments in theology or practice were either positive or negative. If possible, select at least one development from each of the following periods: the apostolic and patristic periods (AD 30-500), the medieval period (AD 500-1500), and the modern period (AD 1500-1960).
Picture of arnetta sims
Re: Part Three of the Course, First Assignment, Question 1
by arnetta sims - Monday, 6 August 2012, 5:10 PM

The sacraments of baptism and confirmation did not change, but the manner in which the ritual was carried out did. The theology of the sacraments increased because of a greater demand for the knowledge of the effects and operations. The historical developments evolved through the cultural influences on Catholicism.

The rite of baptism received its origin from ancient Jewish roots. Water was the most common staple used for bathing, purfication and other necessities. The ritual of baptism by immersion was symbolic of initation into Jewish religion. John the Baptist was a Jew who performed this rite from conversion to Christianity. In the Gospel of John we read accounts of the Greek influence of sacramental life of baptism. There is also Pauline accounts of being baptized in water and spirit. The rite of baptism signified a transitition from old to a new person.

The patristic period developed rituals and practices that were recorded as following:

1. confession of faith

2. sponsorship by a member of the community for moral formation

3. two or three years of preparations.

From the patristic period the terminology of catechumanenate was derived from the Greek to mean a time of preparation with instructions.The times for baptism changed as time progressed. Baptisms were held yearly and perfomed by the bishops. It was later changed from right after conversion to any celebbration of the Eucharist and right before Easter Sunday or special feasts(pg. 152).

Early Church Fathers gathered their theories from personal experiences. The general theories summarized baptism as the way to receive grace necessary for salvation. Within this period the great debate insued between Augustine and Pelaguis on infant baptism , necessity of baptism and original sin. Augustine prevailed and infant baptism became a universal practice.

The ritual of infant baptism was affected by changes during the patristic period. Ritual washing was done by one standing in a pool as water was poured over their head. Infants still experienced total immersion because it was simpilier, but the trend of immersion returned to be a common practice for baptism in the eastern church (pg.159).In the patristic period the Easter liturgy was known as baptism. Included was the rite of exorcisims and annointing with the washing in water and impositions of laying on of hands by the bishops, then the eucharist. In the east this rite still remains, but in the west baptism and the final annointing from bishops was seperated. First Communion was taken out of the initiation ritual. When Catholicism became the official religion in Rome the bishop's annointing became the sacrament of confirmation. Communion was understood to be an unoficial sacrament.

Baptism still remained seperated in the east and babies still received the eucharist. But in the middle ages this practice expired. It was later realized that babies were given sacred wine as an alternate. It was objected upon to give the babies a substitute for wine reflecting the thought that it was needed for salvation. The common practice begun where the laity could no longer receive both species. At the Council of Trent it was decided that infants were no longer obliged to receive the eucharist. I believe that this was a very wise decision by the Council being that babies could not digest, nor have an appreciation of this experience.

So far the historical developments were in a positive direction. All the changes satisfied the logic or proper reasoning to justify safeguarding the sacraments of baptism and confirmation. Aquinas established a formula for logic of sacramental theology. IHe believed that baptism is the core of the sacramental reality representing the spiritual seal as sacramental character.Most of our sacramental theology is the work of Aquinas in the formulations of rubrics and rudiments of the sacraments.

In reviewing baptism in modern times we study the impact of the reformers on Catholicism. We see issues raised by Luther, John Calvin and Zwingli who protested the function of baptism. The questions poised was not the institution of sacraments by Christ, but what was his intended purpose for them. The Church leaders accepted the need for sacramental reform. and adjusted the necessary components. " The council issued a catechism in which it outlined the beliefs that all catholics were obliged to hold" (pg.172).

In baptism in Contemporary Catholicism we learn of the term "baptism by desire." This desire was the desire to live a good upright life in Christianity(pg.174). Historically, the moral formation was not a strong force in baptism. It was the intent in the patristic period to have sponsorship of a catechumenate to ensure good moral background. With this renewal the development of RCIA was introduced and became mandatory in 1988 in the United States.

The sacraments of baptism, confirmation and eucharist was called sacraments of initiation. The theology implies "receiving' the sacraments, that which is received into the soul (pg.179). Today's theology speaks of one entering the church as a continued journey. Today we experience a more experiental and less metaphysical(pg. 180). We hunger and thrist for a more visible sign of God's presence in our everyday lives. We try to find meaning to what we feel and what will help us to enter into those doors of the sacred. The movements from one period to another in the historical developments of the sacraments is leading us back to the patristic period. One can only assume that the positive effects have help sustain the sacraments while the negative have given rise to a need for constant renewal.

GRADE 3 (Very thorough but some mistakes in facts and spelling. Also, few evaluations of the developments in ritual and theology.)

(Edited by Dr. Joe - original submission Thursday, 19 July 2012, 09:52 PM)

Picture of Eileen Rettig
Re: Part Three of the Course, First Assignment, Question 1
by Eileen Rettig - Monday, 6 August 2012, 5:05 PM

Some historians wonder if Constantine’s legalization of Christianity was the worst possible development for this new religion. It certainly appears that legalization and then Theodosius’ declaring Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire helped in the separation of the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation in the Western church.

During the apostolic age and the first part of the patristic age the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation developed together. The Apostles recognized the Jewish practice of baptism as a symbol of repentance and used it as a method of joining the new community of followers of Jesus. The practice of laying on of hands to invoke the blessing of God also can be found in the Jewish practices of the time.

The growing Christian communities used various methods of initiation but by the beginning of the patristic age the use of water baptism followed either preceded by or followed by anointing with oil and laying on of hands was the norm for those wishing to convert to Christianity. This ceremony was preceded by a period of several years in which the person desiring to join the Church was asked to demonstrate this desire by adopting a way of life consistent with Christian principles. This process usually took several years and the candidate was not admitted to any part of the Liturgy until the Baptism had occurred.

The Rite of Initiation normally occurred at the Easter Vigil and was most likely an awe inspiring affair. Men and women were separated, deacons helped the men and deaconesses helped the woman take off the clothes of their previous lives. They were then immersed in water with the words of baptism spoken over them. After the immersion they were in some areas anointed all over their bodies with oil, in other areas only their heads were anointed. The presiding bishop laid his hands over them invoking the Holy Spirit. The neophytes were dressed in white garments and welcomed into the community at the Eucharistic Liturgy.

During the latter half of the patristic age Christianity became legal in the Roman Empire and it became politically advantageous for people to convert. It was no longer practical to require a long period of period of examination of the lifestyle before Baptism. The bishops decided that the Baptisms could be celebrated and the education of the new Christians would occur later. While this had the advantage of allowing for large scale conversions, the disadvantage was that it was quite possible for a person to convert without having any intention of actually conforming their way of life to the principles of Christianity. Anointing with oil and laying on of hands continued to be the prevue of the bishop while the immersion in water was permitted to be done the deacon or presbyter (priest).

Another significant development of the later patristic age was Augustine of Hippo’s defining the concept of Original Sin, and the permanent character Baptism leaves on the soul of the baptized therefore baptism does not need to be repeated. Since Confirmation is the completion of the initiation begun at Baptism it too leaves a character on the soul and only needs to be celebrated once.

The Medieval period saw the reintroduction of Aristotelian philosophy, the growth of the cities, the development of a middle class, and a sense of stagnation in the development of the theology of Baptism and Confirmation. These sacraments were now totally distinct in the liturgy of Western Christianity. The scholastics whose prime example is Thomas Aquinas developed a very sophisticated theory of how the sacraments worked but the common people believed very simply a person needed to be baptized or they would go to hell. This belief led to the widespread practice of infant baptism as some sort of magical formula that kept a small child from eternal damnation if they died before reaching the age of reason.

The modern period saw growth in questions about many of the practices of the Roman Catholic Church. The stagnation of the late medieval period had led to many abuses of practice within the Church. Scholars like Luther, Calvin and Zwingli began to question the theology of the sacraments. The practice of infant baptism continued in several of the denominations but some delayed it until a person was old enough to acknowledge the commitment to the Christian way of life. The ultimate break with Rome had both positive and negative effects for the Catholic Church.

In 1545 the Council of Trent was called by the Vatican to deal with the issues raised by the Protestant movement. Its benefits included better education of the clergy and doing away with the abuses involving monetary exchanges for indulgences and bribery by bishops to increase their worldly holdings. But on the negative side, the concepts of Sacraments as a whole were frozen. The theology of Aquinas was the acceptable explanations for how sacraments worked. The Church and her Sacraments became walled in, frozen in time and began to lose relevance as different schools of philosophy grew along with their possible theological implications.

Grade 3.5 (Excellent descriptions but few evaluations.)

(Edited by Dr. Joe - original submission Wednesday, 25 July 2012, 09:19 PM)

Picture of Marvin Fitchett
Re: Part Three of the Course, First Assignment, Question 1
by Marvin Fitchett - Monday, 6 August 2012, 5:02 PM

The Church’s history is rich in documentation of the Catholic tradition. This rich history retained the evidence of how their theologians progressed and transitioned in their thinking concerning the sacraments of baptism and confirmation. The Catholic’s richness gave succeeding church leaders, theologians, and students an opportunity to see how they formulated their thoughts before framing their own thinking concerning baptism and confirmation. As I Initially handled the concepts of the sacraments of baptism and confirmation, I perceived them as doors to sacred, however after reviewing their history, it revealed human theorizing which lead to Catholic theology. The effort the Catholic scholars put forth in creating and maintaining this history is commendable. This reservoir of information allows for current knowledge seekers to use the data to progress in a discipline and not repeat the previous mistakes.

Apostolic/ Patristic Periods

During the Apostolic era, adults were the initial participates and once they completed the baptism rites they invited into the Christian community. The requesting adult made their public declaration, asked for forgiveness of their sin, next they were immersed in water, and community laid hands on the adult to receive God’s gift, the seal of the Holy Spirit. This pattern left by the apostles was inspired and set a clear model for the sacrament of baptism. With the passing of each century, the Church gradually steered away of the apostolic pattern of baptism. They arrived at a pivotal errant activity which separated the apostolic proceeding of the sacrament. The errant activity was the postponement and rescheduling baptism ritual to the Sunday prior to the Eucharist celebration. This type of decision postponing the immediate invitation into the community, made liturgically sense, however it deviate from the apostolic model. The adverse conditions were factual, however it deprived many desiring believers of their immediate fitual completion.

In regards to the sacrament of confirmation, and the apostolic era, the new adult’s confirmation was an integral part of the baptism initiation. The adult was confirmed once the seal of the Holy Spirit was received. However, during the patristic era confirmation became a topic of discussion. There were differing opinions as to when the seal was received. The early church initially debated the exactly when God sealed the believer. They agreed the adult received the seal of the Holy Spirit by the end of the initiation.

Medieval Period

During the Medieval Period, traveling monks were evangelizing the newly settled German tribes. The monks’ theorized, every time a German immigrant was baptized their souls would be washed of original sin, marked with Christ presence, and filled by the Holy Spirit. This theory introduced a shift in the meaning of salvation which altered the meaning of baptism. When the German converts participated in the sacrament of baptism, they theorized it would save them and relieved them from the punishment of committing other sins, instead of indicating a new life with Jesus Christ. In the monks’ zeal, they too strayed from the apostolic pattern.

Confirmation in the medieval era was centered on the bishop’s inability to perform the latter part of the baptism ritual, where the imposition of his hands was seen as significant to the ritual. This rite was constantly being postponed and delegated to the parish priest. Rome’s answer to this dilemma was to have two post-baptismal anointing. Then, Pope Innocent I and the Council of Orange authorized the delegation of the rite to the priest with stipulations. These solutions due to the bishop absence during baptism in rural parish were the beginning of the sacrament of confirmation. These actions were inconsistent, and presented an initiative to separate the confirmation action from the baptizing action of the ritual.

Modern Period

The Modern era introduce the reformers and their theories in opposition to Catholic sacrament theology. In particular, Martin Luther experience with the rite of baptism produced his contrasting view of baptism being ineffective. He postulated the initiation into the Christian community (a new spiritual reality) was based on the converts confessing their belief in God, God forgave their sins, and then they were immersed in water and raise into their new communal life. Luther’s theology resembles the pattern set by the apostles. Martin Luther theology was positive, his concepts move the rite of baptism from a mechanical to a spiritual experience. During the sacrament of baptism, the aurora of the rite engaged the adult’s whole heart, mind and body vice the mind and body.

The reformers’ position on the sacrament of confirmation was the sacrament another theory presented by the Roman Catholics which possessed no scriptural foundation, therefore it should not be considered Christian. Martin Luther referred to Catholic confirmation as a “medieval superstition”, but gave a concession for confirmation as a way to prepare children for the Eucharist. Luther’s concession has had an effect on Catholic confirmation. In spite of the positive result of Luther concession, it followed the Roman’s solution to maintain the sacrament of confession. Luther stand was bold initially, and it faded over time. This depreciation in his stands gave the appearance the Catholic hierarchy that their sacrament of baptism was valid.

The Catholic historical evidence is an unprecedented canon of the sacraments of baptism and confirmation. The historical canon allows contemporary theologians and students a reflective view of these sacraments and to decide if they will first accept them and second participate in them. Although the reformers and my reflections discerned the negativism imbedded in them, they are invaluable.

Grade 3 (Good evaluations based on biblical precedents, but some historical inaccuracies.)

(Edited by Dr. Joe - original submission Thursday, 2 August 2012, 05:22 PM)