ORDER OF THE CATECHUMENATE
The Enrolment (Reception) of a Candidate
38 In the early Church, an adult who desired to become a Christian was brought to the bishop (or priest) by his sponsor, i.e. a member of the local Christian community who could testify to the serious intentions of the candidate. The bishop (or priest) would interview the candidate himself. If he was convinced that the desire for Baptism was genuine and that the person was capable of living a Christian moral life, he(she) would be received as a catechumen, which means “learner,” literally, “one who listens.”
39 For the reception of candidates into the catechumenate (the order of catechumens), there existed, and continues to exist to this day, a separate, discernable rite, consisting of four symbolic actions.
і. First, some of the outer garments of the candidate were loosened or removed to signify that the person was ready to begin the process of “putting aside” the old self, in order to “put on” Christ.
іi. Then, the bishop (priest) would breath upon the face of the candidate three times, acknowledging that the Holy Spirit is already present, working in the life of that person and guiding him(her) to the Father.
іii. Next, the bishop (priest) would make the sign of the cross over the candidate, as the journey to Baptism begins.
іv. Finally, the bishop (priest) would place his hand upon the head of the candidatе to signify that Christ had already taken possession of this person. He would then recite the Prayer of Reception. His hand would be the hand of Christ Himself, blessing the new catechumen and inscribing his (her) name into the heavenly “Book of Life,” where all the names of those who are saved are recorded. Soon, the time would come, when the newly enrolled catechumen would be fully united to Christ and to the flock of God’s inheritance.
40 Today, this simple rite of receiving an adult catechumen continues to mark the beginning of the journey to union with Christ, not only for adults, but also for children. It normally takes place in the narthex of the church, which represents the world. Soon, the Mysteries of Baptism and Chrismation will bring the person from the world into the kingdom of God.
41 After being received as a catechumen, adults began their preparation for Baptism with regular catechetical instruction. The program focused on the following important areas:
і. Christian virtues and works of mercy;
- The Holy Scriptures and the History of Salvation;
iii. The Baptismal Creed or Profession of Faith;
- The Commandments of God and the Beatitudes;
- The Lord’s Prayer;
vi The Sacramental Mysteries.
42 The Great Fast has developed from the immediate preparation of catechumens for Baptism. In the time of St. John Chrysostom, those who wished to be baptized for Holy Pascha, submitted their names at the beginning of the Great Fast. For forty days, they underwent intense catechesis and were baptized on Holy Saturday, at the Vigil Service of Holy Pascha. Today, it is appropriate to have this preparation of catechumens extend over a longer period to time. It can begin, for example, on the Sunday before the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (in September), and after 7 to 8 months of weekly catechesis, conclude on Holy Friday.
43 Today, the Great Fast continues to be a season of intense preparation, both for catechumens and for the faithful. The catechumens complete their final preparation for Baptism, while the Church continues to pray for them. At the same time, the faithful prepare themselves for the renewal of their own Baptism, by reflecting upon their own commitment to Christ, renewing their baptismal vows, and by renewing their “baptismal garments” in the Mystery of Penance.
44 In the case of infants, the time of catechesis is not omitted; but only postponed. But a catechesis for the parents and godparents is nonetheless required. The Church agrees to baptize infants upon the faith of parents and godparents, but also upon the condition that the parents will assume the role of being the primary catechists, ensuring that their children will receive a proper formation in the Christian faith as they grow and mature into adulthood. At minimum, the faith of at least one of the parents is necessary for a child to be baptized.
45 To belong to God, one must be completely separated from Satan. The first act of Christian life is a renunciation, a challenge. No one can be Christ’s until he has first faced evil, and then become ready to fight it. The exorcisms mean this: to face evil, to acknowledge its reality, to know its power, and to proclaim the power of God to destroy it. The exorcisms announce the forthcoming Baptism as an act of victory.
46 By reading the prayers of exorcism over a catechumen, the priest asks God to “empower” the soon to be baptized Christian, to triumph over Satan and all his evil spirits.
47 For adults, during the time of the Great Fast, three prayers are recited over each catechumen in preparation for Baptism. These prayers may be repeated as often as needed or requested.
48 For infants and children, usually only one prayer is taken. It may be recited over the candidate in the narthex of the church, or in the family home, immediately after the rite of reception into the catechumenate.
Completion of the Catechumenate
49 The completion (conclusion) of the catechumenate and its preparation for Baptism is celebrated with a special rite in the narthex of the church. For adults, this rite would normally take place on Holy Friday, the day of Christ’s crucifixion and His final victory over sin, death and the dominion of Satan. In case of necessity, it may also take place on Holy Saturday, prior to the Baptism itself. For infants, this rite is usually taken on the same day of the Baptism, in the narthex or the baptistery, prior to the actual Baptismal Service.
50 The concluding rite consists of the following important elements: the beginning prayer; the renunciation of Satan; the oath of allegiance to Christ, the profession of faith, worship of the Trinity, the final blessing and prayer.
The Beginning Prayer
51 This is the final public prayer of exorcism over the candidate, for both adults and children. The priest prays, asking God to bind the life of the candidate closely to his guardian angel; that this angel of light be a life-long companion, a true friend, a faithful guide and protector from all evil.
Renunciation of Satan
52 The sponsor/s together with the candidate face toward the west. Since the sun sets in the west and its light is overcome by darkness, the west has served as a fitting symbol of evil. The west has also been known to be a symbol of death, for the ancient Greeks believed that the gates to Hades were located somewhere far in the west.
53 The exorcism prayers have given the candidate the freedom to renounce Satan, to challenge and to reject him. Further and deeper conversion to God now begins with a formal and public renunciation of Satan, a rejection of all darkness in order to face God Who is Light. Since infants cannot speak for themselves, godparents respond on their behalf.
54 The act of facing west and renouncing evil is an act of freedom, the first act of a person being liberated from the enslavement of Satan. St. Cyril of Jerusalem writes that, “When you renounce Satan, you utterly break all covenants (ties) with him.” One can be sure that Satan will not forget this renunciation and challenge. War has been declared and the spiritual battle begins.
55 During the renunciation, adult catechumens raise their hands and hold them outstretched in the form of a cross, as a sign of their imminent deliverance from the enslavement of Satan. After the Exodus, when Israel crossed the sea as if on dry land, “Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea . . . . The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen and all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not so much as one of them remained” (Ex 14:26-28). In the same way, with the act of rejecting Satan, all his works and his angels, the catechumen is now being freed from the power and influence of the enemy, in order to be united with Christ in the Mystery of Baptism.
The Oath of Adherence to Christ
56 The sponsor/s together with the candidate now turn to face the east, where the sun rises in glory and splendour. Thus the east is a fitting symbol of Christ Himself, Who is the “Light of the World” (John 8:12). The east is also a fitting symbol of Christ’s glorious return at the end of this age. “For as the lightning flashes from the east and is seen even to the west, this is how the coming of the Son of Man will be” (Mt 24:27). Finally, the east is also a symbol of Paradise and the kingdom of God, for the garden of Eden was planted by God somewhere in the east.
57 The act of turning towards the east is an outward sign of personal conversion to Christ. It expresses the candidate’s desire to be united with Christ and to worship Him alone, as King and God. It is also an expression of the desire to return once again to Paradise, to enter into the kingdom of God and to partake of the “Tree of Life” (Gen 2:9; 22-24).
58 The Oath of Adherence to Christ is a formal and public profession of personal attachment to Christ. It is an enrolment into the ranks of those who serve Christ, as their King and God. One could say that the oath is similar to the one taken by soldiers who professed their allegiance to their country and to their king.
59 Since infants cannot speak for themselves, godparents respond and profess adherence to Christ on their behalf.
Profession of Faith
60 By reciting the Symbol of Faith (the Baptismal Creed), the catechumen, or the sponsor speaking on behalf of an infant, now makes a public profession of faith in the one true God. In the recitation of the Creed, God is acknowledged as being one in essence, yet three in Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
61 This Symbol of Faith was accepted by the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea (325 AD) as the official Creed of the entire Universal Church. It was further expanded at the Second Ecumenical Council in Constantinople (381 AD) and is therefore known as the Nicenо-Constantinopolitan Creed, or simply, the Nicene Creed. It consists of twelve articles, which are foundational dogmas for the Christian faith.
Worship of the Trinity
62 Immediately after the Symbol of Faith, the Oath of Adherence is repeated once again. This repetition emphasizes the fact that the oath proclaimed is an unconditional commitment to Christ, a total surrender of one’s life to the Most Holy Trinity; an eternal covenant of faithfulness, obedience, love and service.
63 The oath is now confirmed with “the seal” of worship. Holding the child, the godparents bow in worship before the Most Holy Trinity, while saying: “†I bow down before the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the Trinity one in essence and undivided.” The act of “bowing down” is an immemorial and universal symbol of reverence, faithfulness and love.
Final Blessing and Prayer
64 With the final blessing and prayer, the catechumenate and its preparation for Baptism has come to a formal end. Now, everything is ready for the great act itself: the immersion into the very death and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
ORDER OF HOLY BAPTISM
65 The title “Order of Holy Baptism” or “Baptismal Service” always refers to the celebration of two Mysteries: Baptism and Chrismation together. In the context of one continuous service, Chrismation always follows immediately after Baptism.
66 The Baptismal Service for adults is normally celebrated on Holy Saturday, at the Vigil of Holy Pascha. The Vigil Service begins with the celebration of Vespers and concludes with the celebration of the Eucharist, the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great.
67 For infants and children, the Baptismal Service ideally takes place on any regular Saturday or Sunday of the liturgical year, with or without the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.
Procession to the Baptismal Font
68 Having assembled in the narthex (vestibule) of the church, the candidates and sponsors are led in a procession to the baptistery, a separate chapel, building or part of the narthex, dedicated specifically for all baptismal services. If there is no baptistery associated with the parish, then the procession moves directly into the holy place (the nave), where the baptismal font has been prepared.
69 This first procession to the baptismal font serves as a powerful sign and expression of what is happening at this time. The candidate has turned his back on Satan, on all evil and the world of sin. Having committed himself(herself) to Christ God, he(she) now proceeds to the baptismal font which provides the forgiveness of all sins and entry into the kingdom of God. It is a procession from sin to abounding grace, from death to eternal life.
Blessing of Water
70 The Order of Baptism begins with the blessing of water: as a symbol of life; a symbol of death and destruction; and a symbol of cleansing, purification and sanctification. All three symbols of water are important and integral in understanding the Mystery of Baptism. Blessed by the priest, the waters of the baptismal font shall become for the candidate: the waters of new life and rebirth; death and destruction; cleansing, salvation and sanctification.
A Symbol of Life
71 From the beginning of time, water has been an important source and symbol of life. Without water, life on earth would not exist. Where there is water, there is life.
72 According to the Book of Genesis, water was one of the first elements to be created by God: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters” (Gen 1:1-2).
73 The Father breathed His Spirit upon the face of the waters, imparting to them the ability to sustain life. In those waters God was about to create new life; and from them every living creature would emerge. To this day, every human being is created, formed in, and born out of the water of a mother’s womb; and continues to live upon earth because of water.
74 Now the moment of a new creation approaches. Remembering the first moment of creation, the priest again breathes gently upon the face of the waters and invokes the Holy Spirit to descend upon them, to sanctify them and to make them “life-giving,” so that the person immersed into them will be spiritually re-created as if in a womb; and born anew, as a new creation and child of God. As the waters are blessed, the baptismal font truly becomes a divine womb and a source of new life. With this understanding, baptismal fonts are often made in the form of a womb.
A Symbol of Death, Destruction and Salvation
75 Although water is life-giving, it can also be life-taking and destructive. Thus water is also a powerful symbol of death, destruction and salvation.
76 In the Book of Genesis (Gen 6-9), by means of water and the flood, God brought death and destruction to the wickedness of all mankind, which had filled the earth. For a short time, the world was cleansed of its sin; but the righteous were saved by means of an ark, a symbol of the future Church of Christ and the salvation of mankind. On board were the righteous Noah, together with his family and all the creatures that he had brought with him. By means of water, the righteous were saved, while sin and iniquity were destroyed.
77 In the Book of Exodus (Ex 14), water was used once again as an instrument of death, destruction and salvation. The winds blew all night and the Red Sea parted, allowing Moses and the people of God to cross to safety as if on dry land. Meanwhile, as Pharaoh’s army attempted to cross the sea, the winds changed and the waters returned, drowning and destroying the entire force of the enemy. By passing through the waters, the People of God were saved, while the enemy was completely destroyed.
78 In the Book of Psalms, water is specifically referred to as being a symbol of death. In Psalm 68, we find a prayer of a man who is suffering and on the verge of death: “Save me O God, for the waters have risen to my neck. I have sunk into the mud of the deep and there is no foothold. I have entered the waters of the deep and the waves have overwhelmed me . . . Save me from the waters of the deep lest the waves overwhelm me. Do not let the deep engulf me nor death close its mouth on me” (Ps 68:1-3, 15-16). The words of this psalm may have possibly been on the mind, heart and lips of the Lord Jesus Christ, as He died upon the cross and His soul began its descent into Hades.
79 With his hand, the priest traces the sign of the cross in the waters, so that they may become the waters of death, destruction and salvation; a means of entry into the Mystery of the Cross itself. Thus the person immersed into the waters shall be immersed into the Cross, the very death of Christ. Having died with Christ, he(she) shall be buried with Him, in order to rise with Christ in His Resurrection. As the waters are blessed, the baptismal font takes on further meaning. In addition to being a womb, it shall also be a tomb – a place of death, burial and resurrection.
A Symbol of Cleansing
80 Finally, since water is used daily for washing or bathing, it serves as a fitting symbol of cleansing, purification and sanctification.
81 In the Book of Exodus (Ex 38:8), a laver (washing basin) of bronze was made and set up between the altar and the tabernacle of testimony. Before serving at the altar or in the tabernacle, Moses, Aaron and all the priests were required first to wash their hands and feet with water from the laver.
82 As the priest blesses the waters, he prays that the Lord God will send upon them the grace of redemption and the blessing of the Jordan, so that empowered by the Holy Spirit, they may become waters of forgiveness, cleansing, healing, protection and holiness. Thus the person baptized by them shall be immersed into the love and mercy of God; for the forgiveness of all sins, the cleansing of the soul, for the healing of the spirit, and for the protection and sanctification of the whole person. As the waters are blessed, the baptismal font takes on a third level of meaning. In addition to being a womb and a tomb, it shall also be a fountain, or a laver, where sins are forgiven and a person is made holy in the sight of God.
It is important that water (and oil) be blessed at each Baptism rather than using water blessed at Theophany or some other occasion. This blessing at each Baptism — as prescribed by tradition — heightens our appreciation for the physical and material in God’s work of salvation. God’s presence in matter is frequently denied today and so this blessing is particularly relevant.
Blessing of Oil
83 After the water has been blessed, the priest now blesses some olive oil, which will be used to anoint the candidate in preparation for Baptism. It is a final confirmation of God’s reconciliation and peace, as well as His protection and deliverance from all evil.
84 In the Book of Genesis (Gen 8), we find the first mention of an olive tree branch. After the rains had stopped and the earth was completely covered by the flood, Noah decided to send forth a dove from the ark, to see if it would provide any evidence that the waters were beginning to recede. The dove returned with an olive branch in its beak (Gen 8:6-12), indicating that the waters were subsiding and that land would soon appear. But on a deeper level, the dove with the olive branch brought news of something much more important.
A Sign of Reconciliation and Peace
85 The olive branch offered to Noah by the dove was a sign of God’s reconciliation with mankind. The flood was over and the destruction of human sin and iniquity was complete. The olive branch announced a new beginning in mankind’s relationship with God and the establishment of a new covenant. God would no longer use the waters to destroy mankind, but only to save it.
86 As the dove with the olive branch in its beak hovered over the ark and alighted upon it, the experience of the sign brought forth joy and gladness to Noah and to all his family.
87 Тhe priest breathes upon the oil and signs it in the form of a cross. He then prays that the Lord God bless the oil by the power, action and descent of the Holy Spirit, that it become a sign of God’s reconciliation, bringing peace, joy and gladness to all who are anointed with it. Thus the oil is known as the “oil of gladness.”
A Sign of Deliverance
88 The olive branch offered to Noah by the dove was also a sign of God’s protection and deliverance from evil. Noah and all those in the ark had been saved by the goodness and providence of God.
89 As the priest makes the sign of the cross over the oil and blesses it, he prays that by the power and action of the Holy Spirit, it may become an “armour of righteousness” for protection and deliverance from all evil. Those who are anointed with this oil are assured that through Baptism they will be entirely freed from the dominion of Satan and united to God in the Holy Mysteries. Thus, the oil once blessed, is also known as the “oil of exorcism.”
A Sign and Foreshadowing of а New Covenant
90 The dove with the olive branch in its beak, hovering over the ark, was a sign of the covenant that God would establish with mankind through Noah. However, the hovering dove also became a foreshadowing of the New Covenant, to be established through Jesus Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
91 After the flood, God established a covenant with Noah and all the future nations of the earth. Further on in time, He would establish covenants with Abraham and his descendants, with Moses and God’s chosen people. All these covenants of old were but merely a preparation for the eternal New Covenant, which God had planned to establish with mankind, through the blood and the sacrifice of His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
92 Under the Old Covenant with Israel, the gift of the Holy Spirit was given only to a selected few. However, with the New Covenant, the gift of the Holy Spirit would be poured out upon all peoples and nations of the earth (Acts 2:1-21; Joel 2:28-32). Those who would respond to God’s invitation with faith and repentance would receive the fullness of the gift of the Holy Spirit in the Mysteries of Baptism and Chrismation; and thus become children of God and heirs of His kingdom.
93 As the priest signs and blesses the oil, he prays that by the power and action of the Holy Spirit, it will become a sign announcing God’s New Covenant and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Those who are anointed with this oil, are assured that their preparation for baptism is fulfilled and complete. They are ready to be baptized and to enter into the eternal New Covenant with God; a covenant which shall bestow upon them the gift of the Holy Spirit, the enlightenment of truth, the forgiveness of all sins and life everlasting. Thus, the oil once blessed, is also known as the “oil of catechumens.”
Anointing with Holy Oil
94 First, the blessed oil (of gladness, exorcism and catechumens) is poured out upon the baptismal waters in the form of a cross, as a confirmation that God’s blessing upon them is complete. This is to emphasize that while water can destroy life, in this case it graciously serves to give life. The waters of the baptismal font have truly become the waters of the Jordan: sanctified by the presence of Christ; delivered and protected from all evil; anointed by the power of the Holy Spirit in order to bring forth new life, immersion into the death and Resurrection of Christ, granting the forgiveness of all sins. In acknowledgement, all that can be said is simply this: “Alleluia,” which means, “Praise the Lord!” Blessed be God, Who illumines and sanctifies everyone who comes into the world.
95 The holy oil is then used by the priest to anoint the body of the candidate: his(her) forehead, breast, back, ears, hands and feet. According to St. John Chrysostom, the catechumens are “anointed with oil from head to foot, as athletes of Christ preparing to enter the spiritual arena, or as soldiers receiving spiritual armour against the enemy’s weapons.”
96 In ancient times, soldiers would put on their armour before battle, because the armour provided protection for their body during combat. Likewise, wrestlers and athletes would anoint their bodies before entering the arena of competition, so that they would not be easily grasped and overtaken by their opponents. In the same way, candidates for Baptism are anointed with oil as a sign that they are putting on God’s grace and protection, so that the enemy will have great difficulty taking hold and overtaking them in the arena of spiritual warfare.
97 All the senses are anointed with oil – spiritual and physical sight, smell, taste, hearing and human touch – that they may be open to God, while remaining closed to the influence of the evil one.
98 The essential rite of Baptism consists of immersing the candidate into the baptismal waters thrice (or pouring water over the head of the candidate thrice), while exclaiming: “The servant of God [name], is baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” The person who immerses the candidate or pours water, is the one who must say the words of Baptism. Immersion is historically and theologically the most authentic form of Baptism.
99 The person is immersed into water as if into a womb, in order to be re-created by God the Father, the Creator all things, to be born again (anew) from above as His beloved child, as a royal member of His household and thus, an heir to His kingdom.
100 The person is immersed into water as if into death and a tomb, in order to be united with God the Son, in His death upon the cross, and His burial, and Resurrection to a new life. This is the new and Holy Pascha, a passage (Pesach is Hebrew for “passage” or “Passover”) from sin to righteousness, from death to eternal life. This marks the death of the “old man” enslaved to sin, and the resurrection of a “new man,” free to live by the grace of God in the victory won by Christ Jesus. In the words of St. Paul: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. We know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For He Who has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him” (Rm 6:3-8).
101 The person is immersed into water as if into a fountain or a bath, in order to be cleansed and sanctified by God the Spirit, Who grants the forgiveness of all sins and clothes the newly-baptized person in a robe of light and righteousness. In the words of St. Paul: “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of God” (1 Cor 6:11).
102 When we make the sign of the cross we say, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” Note that the words are almost identical with the baptismal formula. Thus the sign of the cross is meant to be a daily reminder of the mystery of our Baptism. We were immersed into water and into God: in the name of the Father – to be born anew as a beloved child of the Father; in the name of the Son – to be immersed into His death on the cross, to be buried with Him and to rise with Him in His Resurrection to a new life; and finally, in the name of the Holy Spirit – to be sanctified by the Spirit and to become a temple of His in-dwelling presence.
Robe of Light
103 Before entering the baptismal waters to be immersed into Christ’s death and Resurrection, the garments of the candidate are removed, just as Christ was stripped of His garments before being crucified upon the cross.
104 The garments are removed and set aside, as a sign that the “old self” is being stripped away. That “old self” who was disobedient to God and a slave to sin is now being removed; and the former way of life is being set aside. The catechumen now enters the baptismal waters in order to die and to rise with Christ, to “put on Christ” (Gal 3:27), and to become a new person, risen in Christ.The catechumen also enters the waters in order to be born again (anew). The font becomes a “spirtual womb,” from which the newborn in Christ emerges, just like a newborn child emerging naked from his(her) mother’s womb.
105 Emerging from the font, the one baptized is immediately clothed in a white garment, as a sign that the person has “put on Christ” and has risen with Christ. It is an expression of the purity and brightness of the soul, which has been cleansed of all sin and sanctified by God’s grace. As the visible body is clothed in white, so the whole person has been invisibly clothed with the beauty of God’s grace, glory and light! In the words of St. John Chrysostom: “From the moment we are baptized, the soul, being cleansed by the Spirit, shines more brightly than the sun.”
106 The clothing in a “robe of light” is one of the links between the Mysteries of Baptism and Chrismation. We near the conclusion of the rite of Baptism, but we also prepare for what shall follow immediately – the rite of Chrismation. In the Old Testament, according to the Law of Moses, those who were to be consecrated as priests were first washed and cleansed in water; they were robed in white linen; and then consecrated as priests with the anointing of holy chrism oil (Ex 30:22-33). In the New Testament, consecration to the service of God as a member of the Royal Priesthood follows the same order: first, the divine cleansing of Baptism, the clothing in a white garment, and the final anointing with Holy Chrism.
107 In the early Church, the newly baptized (neophytes) wore their white baptismal garments for all weekday services following Holy Pascha, hence the name “Bright Week.”
108 After being clothed in a white garment, a lighted candle is passed on to the neophyte by the priest. In the case of an infant, the candle is passed on to the sponsor.
109 This simple action serves as a reminder that the Christian faith has been passed on to the neophyte by the Church and her members. The newly-baptized person is now responsible not only to keep this faith alive and growing within his(her) own heart, but also to pass it on to others. Faith is a gift that is received, in order to be shared.
110 The candle also serves as a reminder that the person has “put on Christ” and has risen with Christ to live a new life, in accordance with the Gospel. This means that the light of Christ’s presence must shine within and through the life of the newly-baptized person, bringing the light of truth into the darkness of the world. In the words of St. Paul: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ Who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal 2:19-21).
“For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. It is the same God Who said, ‘Let there be light shining out of darkness,’ Who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory, the glory on the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:5-6).
“God is Light and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the Blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn 1:5b-7).
111 The word “chrism” comes from the Greek word chrisma, which means “unction,” or “anointing.” Chrism, therefore, is a special “anointing oil.” It was used in the Old Testament to consecrate liturgical objects and priests for the service of God.
112 It was the Lord God Himself Who commanded Moses to prepare chrism oil and to use it in a special way. The Lord said to Moses: “Take the finest spices: of liquid myrrh . . . and of sweet-smelling cinnamon . . . of aromatic cane . . . of cassia . . . and of olive oil a hin; and you shall make of these a sacred chrism oil blended as by a perfumer; a holy chrism oil it shall be. And you shall anoint with it the tent of meeting and the ark of the testimony, and the table . . . and the lampstand . . . and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering . . . you shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy; whatever touches them will become holy. And you shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may serve Me as priests” (Ex 30:22-30).
113 As a perfumed mixture of oil and various aromatic spices, the chrism serves as a fitting symbol of the Holy Spirit and all His gifts. On Holy Thursday, bishops prepare and consecrate chrism oil, invoking the Holy Spirit to descend and empower it with His divine presence. The sanctified Chrism is then sent to all parishes, to be used by priests to seal the gift of the Holy Spirit upon those who have been baptized. This anointing with Chrism and the sealing of the gift of the Holy Spirit is called the Mystery of Chrismation.
114 According to St. Cyril of Jerusalem, the consecrated Holy Chrism must be treated with utmost respect. He writes: “Take care not to imagine that this Chrism is anything ordinary. In the same way as the bread of the Eucharist, after the invocation of the Holy Spirit, is no more ordinary bread, but the Body of Christ, so the Holy Chrism [after the epiclesis] is no longer ordinary . . . but the charism (gift) of Christ, made efficacious of the Holy Spirit by the presence of His divinity.”
Holy Chrismation (Anointing with Chrism)
115 The priest dips his thumb into the Holy Chrism. He then places his hand upon the head of the newly-baptized person and begins the anointing with Holy Chrism. The sign of the cross is traced over the body as the priest anoints the forehead, the nostrils, the mouth, the eyes and the ears, the breast, the hands and the feet, while saying the words: “The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
116 When Christ was baptized by John in the Jordan, as He came up from the water, the heavens were opened and the Spirit of God was seen descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And a voice was heard from heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3:16-17). In the same way, through Holy Chrismation, the person who has come up from the baptismal waters is sealed with the anointing of the Holy Spirit, while the Father looks down from heaven upon His new creation and announces: “This is My beloved son(daughter), with whom I am well pleased.”
117 Holy Chrismation is sometimes described as a personal Pentecost for those newly baptized. The Spirit of God, Who descended upon the apostles in tongues of fire on Pentecost, has descended upon the one who was baptized and now anointed with Holy Chrism. He comes invisibly, yet with no less power and reality.
118 The word “Christ,” comes from the Greek Christos, which means “anointed one.” In the Mystery of Chrismation, a baptized person becomes a “christ,” an “anointed one.”
Sealed by the Spirit
119 A “seal” is a special stamp, which acts as a signature. When a king sets his seal upon a letter or document, it means that it carries his signature, his approval and authority. It has truly been sent by the king, because it carries the imprint of his seal.
120 In Holy Chrismation, God the Father sets His seal, the Holy Spirit, upon the newly-baptized person. The imprint of the Holy Spirit leaves a permanent and indelible mark of God’s approval and authority. The person is marked as one who belongs to God, set apart for God, consecrated for the service of God.
121 Anointed with Holy Chrism, the person is now sent forth to serve the Lord: as a prophet, one who hears the word of God and proclaims it to the people; as a priest, one who offers a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; and as a shepherd, who leads others to God and His kingdom. Every Christian is a “christ,” an “anointed one,” who shares in the mission of Christ.
122 Those who are baptized and chrismated become members of a holy nation and a chosen people of God. In his first letter, the holy Apostle Peter writes: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Pet 2:9). The earthly nations to which we belong are seen for what they really are: temporal communities that can claim only relative allegiance.
123 As beloved sons and daughters of the kingdom, those who are anointed with Holy Chrism become royal members of God’s household and therefore, heirs to His kingdom. In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul writes: “When we cry ‘Abba, Father,’ it is the Spirit Himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided that we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him” (Rm 8:15-17).
124 Chrismation also consecrates the baptized as new members of God’s Royal Priesthood.
125 The Church therefore is a holy nation of priests, consecrated by God to serve a priestly role: to hear the Word of God proclaimed in the holy place (the nave) and to announce it to others in the world, to profess Christ as the High Priest and the Perfect Sacrifice; to teach the faith; to intercede for others in prayer; to worship God before the holy of holies (the altar or sanctuary), offering to God a perfect sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving in the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist. In sum, all members of the Royal Priesthood, and not just the ordained, are called to bring the world to God and God to the world. This is the wonderful role of the Royal Priesthood.
126 Immediately after Chrismation, a second procession of the newly baptized takes place while the faithful sing the Baptismal Hymn: “All you who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Alleluia” (Gal 3:27).
127 This procession celebrates the new life in Christ and serves as an outward sign that the way is clear for participation in the Divine Banquet. Baptism and Chrismation have transferred the person from the world (symbolized by the narthex) into the kingdom of God on earth (symbolized by the holy place). Now, the Most Holy Eucharist will transfer the person from earth to heaven itself. At the moment of Holy Communion, a person enters the true holy of holies and stands before the very throne of God in heaven.
128 If Baptism and Chrismation have taken place in a separate baptistery, then the newly baptized, robed in their white baptismal garments and carrying their candles, are led in procession from the baptistery into the holy place (nave) to join the faithful in the celebration of the Eucharist.
129 If the Baptism has taken place in the holy place (nave), the procession takes place around the baptismal font three times, forming a circle, which has a beginning but no end. This liturgical action symbolically conveys the reality that Baptism inaugurates an eternal unity with Christ.
130 The first reading is taken from the epistle of the holy Apostle Paul to the Romans (Rom 6:3-11). Here, St. Paul proclaims that we are no longer slaves to sin, because we have died to sin in order to live for God. In Baptism, we have been immersed into the death of Christ, we have been buried with Christ and we have risen with Christ to a new life for God.
131 The second reading is taken from the Holy Gospel according to the Evangelist Matthew (Mt 28:16-20). In the very proclamation of the Gospel, it is Christ Jesus Himself, risen from the dead, Who commissions the newly-baptized person to go forth as a disciple and a missionary of Christ: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you . . . .” The final promise given by Jesus is fulfilled in the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist: “Behold, I am with you all days, even unto the end of the world.”
132 After the reading of the Gospel, the Liturgy of the Word ends with intercessory prayer (Insistent Litany) and the final dismissal, if the Eucharist is not celebrated.
LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST
133 The Greek word charis means “grace” or “gift.” The Greek prefix ev denotes something good. So the word ev-charis would literally mean “good gift,” or “good giving.” Today, the Greek word evcharisto means “thank you” and the word evcharistia means “thanksgiving.”
134 The Liturgy of the Eucharist is a perfect way of saying “thank you” to God for everything. By remembering the Mystical Supper, the Sacrifice of Christ upon the Cross, His Death, Resurrection, Ascension and Second Glorious Coming, these saving moments become truly present to the faithful, as the gifts of bread and wine are transformed by the Holy Spirit into the Precious Body and Blood of Christ. As these moments of salvation become present realities now, the faithful worship God the Father “in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:23), offering a perfect sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving through Christ Jesus.
135 The Liturgy of the Eucharist is also God’s way of completing the baptismal covenant and renewing His perfect and infinite gift to those who receive Him. That gift is the very Life of God. In Holy Communion, the baptized receive the Risen Lord Jesus Christ Himself, God-man, His most precious Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. They receive the Holy Gifts as Life; for it is not the dead Body and Blood, but the living Body and Blood of the Resurrected Christ, given as everlasting Food. Partaking of a portion of the Holy Gifts, the person enters into the eternal and divine life of the Most Holy Trinity. The greatest treasure of the Church is the Most Holy Eucharist.
136 In accordance with Canon 697 (CCEO), “the Divine Eucharist is to be administered after Baptism and Chrismation with Holy Myron as soon as possible.” This applies to adults and children.
137 For adults, Baptism and Chrismation at the Easter Vigil is immediately followed by the celebration of the Eucharist and the reception of Holy Communion. For infants and children, Baptism and Chrismation is also immediately followed with the reception of Holy Communion, with or without the celebration of the Eucharist. In the words of St. John Chrysostom, “As a mother will not deny her children food until they understand what they eat, so too the Church will not deny the spiritual food of the Eucharist until a person understands.”
138 The full participation of infants in the Divine Liturgy is a sign of the wholeness of the Body of Christ. As Christ Himself commanded: “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Lk 18:16).
139 From the day of their Christian Initiation, children should usually receive Holy Communion every Sunday and on all feast days. However, they approach together with their parents, who act as their guides and moral conscience.
Solemn Holy Communion
140 As reason and moral conscience develop over time, around the age of seven or eight, children are ready to reflect upon their own actions and behavior and to identify what is right and what is wrong. With proper catechesis at home and at the church, children are prepared to make their first solemn confession in the Mystery of Repentance.
141 Having made their first confession thereby renewing their baptismal garments, children are now ready to approach Holy Communion on their own, without their parents. This is the moment popularly called “Solemn Holy Communion.” Of course, every reception of Holy Communion is profoundly solemn, but the term is used because of the unique spiritual preparation as well as festivity surrounding it. From that time on, children assume responsibility for themselves: to regularly examine their conscience, to approach the Mystery of Repentance (Confession) when necessary, to follow the Eucharistic Fast, to spiritually prepare for celebration of the Divine Liturgy, to receive Holy Communion in a worthy manner and to conclude with prayers of thanksgiving.
142 As people of the Resurrection, the faithful gather every Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist. Sunday is the first and eighth day of the week. It is the day on which the Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead and appeared to His Apostles. With the weekly celebration of the Divine Liturgy, from Sunday to Sunday the faithful proclaim the victory of Christ’s Paschal Mystery, His death and Resurrection, until He returns in glory at the end of this age. At every celebration of the Eucharist, the Lord Himself, Risen from the dead, appears to His disciples under the veil of bread and wine.
143 It is the solemn obligation of every true Christian to take part in the Divine Liturgy on Sundays and Feast Days. This, however, should not be seen as an imposed obligation, but as a privilege. Indeed, it is an act of love, an expression of faithfulness, loyalty and love for God. The Church invites and strongly encourages the faithful to receive Holy Communion every Sunday, on feast days, and if possible, even on weekdays, though one should never approach the Chalice as a matter of simple routine or only because others are doing so.
144 The celebration of the Divine Liturgy and reception of Holy Communion requires spiritual preparation, which should include the following: acknowledgment of unworthiness to receive, an examination of conscience, an act of forgiveness, an attempt to reconcile (if possible) with anyone who we have consciously offended, holy confession if necessary, personal prayer, and an effort to follow the Eucharistic Fast.
145 As bodily nourishment restores physical strength, so the Divine Eucharist strengthens the human soul, which tends to be weakened in daily life. In Holy Communion, as Jesus revives the human heart in its love and devotion, He also helps it break free from disordered attachments and to be rooted in Christ alone. Indeed, by re-ordering our attachments, even our bodies are healed.