An Awe-Inspiring Ceremony
In about A.D. 215, Hippolytus described in detail how converts in Rome were baptized. Scholar Michael Walsh summarizes Hippolytus’ account of the ceremony:
“To understand the impact of baptism it is important to remember the length of the preparation and the atmosphere of the occasion. It had been preceded by at least three years of instruction, with the promise of more secrets to come at the moment of baptism. There was, therefore, a heightened sense of anticipation. Immediately before the ceremony came a fast, a long period of prayer, an all-night vigil in a darkened building.
“Then, in the dim light of wavering torches, the Devil was solemnly abjured to flee in a series of exorcisms. The candidate entered the baptistery.
“First he or she turned toward the west to renounce Satan, then toward the east to confess Christ. There were repeated anointings with oil, the symbol of strength. Once at least the naked candidate was anointed from head to toe. Then, oiled as if for bathing, the candidate entered the font, climbing in … or stepping down until knee-deep while a deacon poured water over the head, or pressed the candidate’s head down into the pool.
“There was another anointing perhaps—rituals differed—before the candidate dressed in new clothes. All this took place in the half-light, to the sound of hymns, in a state of high exaltation. Then came confirmation—another anointing—and the new Christian moved out of the torchlight into the dawn of a brightly lit church to receive his or her first Eucharist.”
Questions During Baptism
What questions were asked of candidates for baptism? Hippolytus tells us in detail:
And when he who is being baptized goes down into the water, he who baptizes him, putting his hand on him, shall say thus: ...