2. The flesh is anointed, that the soul may be consecrated.
3. The flesh is sealed (i.e. signed with the cross), that the soul also may be protected.
4. The flesh is overshadowed with imposition of hands, that the soul also may be illuminated by the Spirit.
5. The flesh feeds on the body and blood of Christ, that the soul also may be filled and sated with God.
6. He also mentions elsewhere that the neophytes, after baptism, were given a draught of milk and honey. (The candidate for baptism, we further learn from his tract On Baptism, prepared himself by prayer, fasting and keeping of vigils.)
Before stepping into the font, which both sexes did quite naked, the neophytes had to renounce the devil, his pomps and angels. Baptisms were usually conferred at Easter and in the season of Pentecost which ensued, and by the bishop or by priests and deacons commissioned by him.
Such are the leading features of the rite in Tertullian, and they reappear in the 4th century in the rites of all the orthodox churches of East and West; Tertullian testifies that the Marcionites observed the particulars numbered one to six, which must therefore go back at least to the year 150. About the year 300, those desirous of being baptized were (a) admitted to the catechumenate, giving in their names to the bishop. (b) They were subjected to a scrutiny and prepared, as to-day in the western churches the young are prepared for confirmation. The catechetic course included instruction in monotheism, in the folly of polytheism, in the Christian scheme of salvation, etc. (c) They were again and again exorcized, in order to rid them of the lingering taint of the worship of demons. (d) Some days or even weeks beforehand they had the creed recited to them. They might not write it down, but learned it by heart and had to repeat it just before baptism. This rite was called in the West the traditio and redditio of the symbol.
The Lord's Prayer was communicated with similar solemnity in the West (traditio precis). The creed given in Rome was the so-called Apostles' Creed, originally compiled as we now have it to exclude Marcionites. In the East various other symbols were used. (e) There followed an act of unction, made in the East with the oil of the catechumens blessed only by the priest, in the West with the priest's saliva applied to the lips and ears. The latter was accompanied by the following formula: "Effeta, that is, be thou opened unto odour of sweetness. But do thou flee, O Devil, for the judgment of God is at hand." (f) Renunciation of Satan. The catechumens turned to the west in pronouncing this; then turning to the east they recited the creed. (g) They stepped into the font, but were not usually immersed, and the priest recited the baptismal formula over them as he poured water, generally thrice, over their heads. (h) They were anointed all over with chrism or scented oil, the priest reciting an appropriate formula. Deacons anointed the males, deaconesses the females. (i) They put on white garments and often baptismal wreaths or chaplets as well.
In some churches they had worn cowls during the catechumenate, in sign of repentance of their sins. (j) They received the sign of the cross on the brow; the bishop usually dipped his thumb in the chrism and said: "In name of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, peace be with thee." In laying his hands on their heads the bishop in many places, especially in the West, called down upon them the sevenfold spirit. (k) The first communion followed, with milk and honey added. (l) Usually the water in the font was exorcized, blessed and chrism poured into it, just before the catechumen entered it. (m) Easter was the usual season of baptism, but in the East Epiphany was equally favoured. Pentecost was sometimes chosen. We hear of all three feasts being habitually chosen in Jerusalem early in the 4th century, but fifty years later baptisms seem to have been almost confined to Easter. The preparatory fasts of the catechumens must have helped to establish the Lenten fast, if indeed they were not its origin.
Certain features of baptism as used during the earlier centuries must now be noticed. They are the following: - (1) Use of fonts; (2) Status of baptizer; (3) Immersion, submersion or aspersion; (4) Exorcism; (5) Baptismal formula and trine immersion; (6) The age of baptism; (7) Confirmation; (8) Disciplina arcani; (9) Regeneration; (10) Relation to repentance; (11) Baptism for the dead; (12) Use of the name; (13) Origin of the institution; (14) Analogous rites in other religions.
1. Fonts. - The New Testament, the Didachē, Justin, Tertullian and other early sources do not enjoin the use of a font, and contemplate in general the use of running or living water. It was a Jewish rule that in ablutions the water should run over and away from the parts of the body washed. In acts of martyrdom, as late as the age of Decius, we read of baptisms in rivers, in lakes and in the sea. In exceptional cases it sufficed for a martyr to be sprinkled with his own blood. But a martyr's death in itself was enough. Nearchus (c. 250) quieted the scruples of his unbaptized friend Polyeuctes, when on the scaffold he asked if it were possible to attain salvation without baptism, with this answer: "Behold, we see the Lord, when they brought to Him the blind that they might be healed, had nothing to say to them about the holy mystery, nor did He ask them if they had been baptized; but this only, whether they came to Him with true faith. Wherefore He asked them, Do ye believe that I am able to do this thing?"
Tertullian (c. 200) writes (de Bapt. iv.) thus: "It makes no difference whether one is washed in the sea or in a pool, in a river or spring, in a lake or a ditch. Nor can we distinguish between those whom John baptized (tinxit) in the Jordan and those whom Peter baptized in the Tiber." The custom of baptizing in the rivers when they are annually blessed at Epiphany, the feast of the Lord's baptism, still survives in Armenia and in the East generally. Those of the Armenians and Syrians who have retained adult baptism use rivers alone at any time of year.