Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/307

This page needs to be proofread.


BAPTISM


261


BAPTISM


Passion. That this was an essentially different rite from John the Precursor's baptism seems plain, because the baptism of Christ is always preferred to that of Jolin, and the latter himself states the reason: 'I baptize with water . . . [Christ] baptizeth with the Holy Ghost " (Jolin, i). In the baptism given by the Disciples as narrated in these chapters we seem to have all the requisites of a sacrament of the New Law: (1) the external rite, (2) the institution of Christ, for they baptized by His command and mis- sion, and (3) the conferring of grace, for they bestowed the Holy Ghost (Jolm, i). In the second place, the Apostles received other sacraments from Christ, before His Passion, as the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, and Holy orders (Cone. Trid., Sess. XXVI, c. i). Now as baptism has always been held as the door of the Church and the necessarj- condition for the reception of any other sacrament, it follows that the Apostles must have received Christian baptism before the Last Supper. This argument is used by St. Augustine (Ep. clxiii, al. xliv) and certainly seems valid. To suppose that the first pastors of the Church received the other sacraments by dispensation, be- fore they had received baptism, is an opinion with no foundation in Scripture or tradition and devoid of verisimilitude. The Scriptures nowhere state that Christ Himself conferred baptism, but an ancient tradition (Niceph., Hist, eccl., II, iii; Clem. Alex. Strom., Ill) declares that He baptized the Apostle Peter only, and that the latter Dapti.?ed Andrew, James, and John, and they the other Apostles.

VI. Matter axd Form of the S.\crament. — (1) Matter. In all sacraments we treat of the matter and the form. It is also usual to distinguish the re- mote matter and the proximate matter. In the case of baptism, the remote matter is natural and true ■water. We shall consider this aspect of the question first, (a) It is of faith that true and natural water is the remote matter of baptism. In addition to the authorities already cited, we may also mention the Fourth Council of the Lateran (c. i). Some of the early Fathers, as TertuUian (De Bapt., i) and St. Augustine (Adv. Haer., xlvi and hx) enumerate heretics who rejected water entirely as a constituent of baptism. Such were the Gaians, Manichaeans, Seleucians, and Hcrmians. In the Middle Ages, the Waldensians are said to have held the same tenet (Ewald, Contra Walden., vi). Some of the sixteenth century reformers, while accepting water as the ordi- nary matter of this sacrament, declared that when water could not be had, any hquid could be used in its place. So Luther (Tischr., xvii) and Beza (Ep., ii, ad Till.). It was in consequence of tliis teaching that certain of the Tridentine canons were framed. Calvin held that the water used in baptism was sim- ply symbohc of the Blood of Christ (Instit., IV. xv). As a rule, however, those sects which beUeve in bap- tism at the present time, recognize water as the neces- sary matter of the sacrament. Scripture is so positive in its statements as to the use of true and natural water for baptism that it is difficult to see why it should ever be called in question. Not only have we the exphcit words of Christ (John, iii, v), " Unless a man be bom again of water", etc.. but also in the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of St. Paul there are passages that preclude any metaphorical inter- pretation. Thus (Acts, X, 47) St. Peter says, "Can any man forbid water, that the.se should not be bap- tized?" In the eighth chapter of the Acts is narrated the episode of Philip and the eunuch of Ethiopia, and in verse 36 we read: "They came to a certain water; and the eunuch said: See, here is water: what doth hinder me from being baptized?" Equally positive i."! the testimony of Christian tradition. TertuUian (op. cit.) begins" his treatise: "The happy sacrainent of our water". Justin Martyr (Apol., I) describes the ceremony of baptism and declares: "Then they


are led by us to where there is water . . . and llitn they are laved in the water". St. Augustine posi- tively declares that there is no baptism without water (Tr. XV in Joan.).

The remote matter of baptism, then, is water, and this taken in its usual meaning. Theologians tell us consequently that what men would ordinarily declare water is vaUd baptismal matenal, whether it be water of the sea, or fountain, or well, or marsh; whether it be clear or turbid; fresh or salty; hot or cold; coloured or uncoloured. Water derived from melted ice, snow, or hail is also vahd. If, however, ice, snow, or hail be not melted, they do not come under the designation water. Dew, sulphur or min- eral water, and that which is derived from steam are also vahd matter for this sacrament. As to a mixture of water and some other material, it is held as proper matter, provided the water certainly predominates and the mixture would still be called water. Invalid matter is every hquid that is not usually designated true water. Such are oil, sahva, wine, tears, milk, sweat, beer, soup, the juice of fruits, and any mixture containing water which men would no longer call water. When it is doubtful whether a hquid could really be called water, it is not permissible to use it for baptism except in case of absolute necessity when no certainly valid matter can be obtained. On the other hand, it is never allowable to baptize with an invaUd liquid. There is a response of Pope Gregory IX to the Archbishop of Trondhjem in Nor- way where beer (or mead) had been employed for baptism. The pontiff says: "Since according to the Gospel teaching, a man must be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, those are not to be considered vahdly baptized who have been baptized with beer" (ceriisia). It is true that a statement declaring wine to be valid matter of baptism is attributed to Pope Stephen II, but the document is void of all author- ity (Labbe, Cone, VI). Those who have held that "water" in the Gospel text is to be taken metaphoric- ally, appeal to the words of the Precursor (Matt., iii), " He shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost and fire ". As "fire" must certainly be only a figure of speech here, so must "water" in the other texts. To this objec- tion, it may be replied that the Christian Church, or at least the Apostles themselves, must have under-, stood what was prescribed to be taken literally and what figuratively. The New Testament and church history prove that they never looked on fire as a material for baptism, while they certainly did re- quire water. Outside of the insignificant sects of Seleucians and Hermians, not even heretics took the word "fire" in this text in its hteral meaning. We may remark, however, that some of the Fathers, as St. Jolm Damascene (Orth. Fid., IV, ix), concede this statement of the Baptist to have a literal fulfil- ment in the Pentecostal fierj' tongues. They do not refer it, however, literally to bapti.sm. That water alone is the necessary matter of this sacrament de- pends of course on the will of Him Who instituted it, although theologians discover many reasons why it should liave been chosen in preference to other Uquids. The most obvious of these is that water cleanses and purifies more perfectly than the others, and hence the sjTnbohsm is more natural.

(b) The proximate matter of baptism is the ablu- tion performed with water. The very word "bap- tize", as we have seen, means a washing. Three forms of ablution have prevailed among Christians, and the Church holds them all to be valid because they fulfil the requisite signification of the baptismal laving. These forms are immersion, infusion, and aspersion. The most ancient form usually employed was unquestionably immersion. This is not only evident from the writings of the Fathers and the early rituals of both the Latin and Oriental Churches, but it can also be gathered from the Epistles of St. Paul,