Why and when did Antioch adopt post-baptismal anointing?

A puzzling question in liturgical history is the date and reason for the entrée of post-baptismal anointing into the Antiochene rite. The same question may be posed of the Jerusalem rite. A good summary overall of the discussion (with bibliography) may be found in Juliette Day, The baptismal liturgy of Jerusalem: fourth and fifth-century evidence from Palestine, Syria, and Egypt (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007), 105-131.

I was led to think about this, without coming to any real conclusion, by reading Gregorios Ioannides, “Christian initiation in the Cypriot liturgical sources” in that remarkable collection, about which I have already posted, H. Brakmann et al. (ed.), “Neugeboren aus Wasser und Heiligem Geist”: Kölner Kolloquium zur Initiatio Christiana (Münster: Aschendorff, 2020), 273-332.

Iohannides has reference to an apocryphral vita of Heraclides, which contains a number of accounts of baptism (ed. F. Halkin, “Les actes apocryphes de Saint Héraclide de Chypre, disciple de l’Apôtre Barnabé” Analecta Bollandiana 82 (1964), 133-170.) This is indeed a valuable source for the historian of the baptismal liturgy.

I have one cavil with an otherwise excellent essay. On p279 he states: “Although there was no direct reference to the anointing with holy chrism, it can be considered to be self-evident, and to have followed right after the triple baptism in the water.” In the light of the absence of such anointing from the Antiochene rite at the time of Chrysostom I don’t think this is self-evident. He goes on: “In the case of the sailor’s baptism … indirect reference was made to the occurrence of the Holy Spirit after the baptism in the water.” In support of this assertion he cites the text thus: τῆς τοῦ Χριστοῦ σωτηρίας ἡμᾶς καταξίωσον καῖ δούλους ἡμᾶς καταξιωθῆναι αὐτοῦ (=through baptism) ποίησον καὶ πνεύματος ἁγίου ἡμᾶς ἔμπλησον (= through chrismation) ἵνα εἴμεθα σύν σοί. I do not think that the text here can stand the interpretation put onto it, given the absence in the other accounts of any post-baptismal anointing. Indeed at p291 he notes architectural changes brought about in a baptistery, commenting, “The initial architecture of the main place for pre-baptismal rites and the »chrismarion« without the apse most likely reflect the Antiochian liturgical order of the bishop anointing the candidates with holy chrism not after but rather prior to the baptism in the baptismal font.” In other words, the Cypriot church followed the Antiochene pattern, and continued to do so after Antioch had adopted post-baptismal chrismation.

It is this which leads me to ponder again on the initial question. I might have hoped that the identification of Canones Hippolyti as reflecting Antiochene, rather than Egyptian, liturgy would offer some clarification, though sadly this text does not. Although there is some confusion the post-baptismal rites follow the pattern of Traditio apostolica.

Is it even possible that the influence of Traditio apostolica, or some version thereof, led to the Antiochene and Hagiopolite adoption of post-baptismal anointing? Juliette Day does canvass this suggestion, (Baptismal liturgy, 138) but does not follow through on it. Nor will I, or at least not on this occasion!

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Filed under Apostolic Tradition, Canons of Hippolytus

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