An Early Christian Baptismal Rite
What follows is a reconstruction of the baptismal rite of the early church, as explained by the Church Fathers and the Didache. The Didache requires that we baptize in “living” water; that is, a lake, river or stream. However, if we have no access to living water, other means such as an indoor baptismal font are acceptable. Cold water is preferred, but warm is acceptable. In extreme situations, baptism may be performed by pouring water three times over the head of the person to be baptized, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Those to be baptized must fast at least one day before baptism.
Presbyter: Lord God, who has formerly said by Your prophets to those that were to be initiated, Wash and become clean; and has through Jesus Christ appointed the spiritual regeneration; look upon these that are about to be baptized, and bless them, and sanctify them, and prepare them, that they may become worthy of Your spiritual gift, and of the true adoption; of Your spiritual mysteries; of being gathered together with those that are saved through Christ our Savior; through whom glory, honor, and worship, be to You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, forever. Amen.
Deacon: You who are to be baptized, prepare yourselves.
Those who are to be baptized prepare themselves for baptism, putting on white robes. No one is permitted to wear any foreign objects in the waters of baptism.
Gathering at the place of baptism, the presbyter and people offer a personal prayer over the waters of baptism, asking God to bless them.
The presbyter or bishop will have some anointing oil, over which he will pray in thanksgiving. This is the Oil of Thanksgiving.
Another vial of oil is blessed and exorcised by the presbyter or bishop. This is the Oil of Exorcism.
One deacon will stand to the left of the presbyter or bishop, holding the Oil of Exorcism.
Another deacon will stand to the right of the presbyter or bishop, holding the Oil of Thanksgiving.
The presbyter or bishop then speaks to each person to be ordained, individually.
Presbyter: Repeat after me: I renounce you Satan, all your service and all your works.
Catechumen: I renounce you Satan, all your service and all your works.
Presbyter then anoints their foreheads with the Oil of Exorcism.
Presbyter: In the Name of Jesus, let every evil spirit depart from you.
A deacon or elder then proceeds with the one to be baptized into the waters. The presbyter or bishop then lays his hands on them saying:
Presbyter: Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty?
Catechumen: I believe.
The deacon then immerses the person. The presbyter or bishop continues:
Presbyter: Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was born of the Holy Spirit by the Virgin Mary, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and died, and rose on the third day living from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of the Father, the one coming to judge the living and the dead?
Catechumen: I believe.
The deacon immerses the person again. The presbyter or bishop continues:
Presbyter: Do you believe in the Holy Spirit and the Holy Church and the resurrection of the flesh?
Catechumen: I believe.
Presbyter: I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
The deacon immerses the person a third and final time. Immediately after coming out of the waters, a deacon or elder anoints their head with the Oil of Thanksgiving.
THE ANOINTING WITH THE OIL OF THANKSGIVING
Deacon or Elder: I anoint you with holy oil in the Name of Jesus Christ.
The newly baptized then get dressed in dry clothing and gather together with the presbyter and congregation. The presbyter or bishop will then bless each one, laying hands on them and saying:
Presbyter: Lord God, You who have made ______ worthy of the removal of sins through the bath of regeneration, make him/her worthy to be filled with Your Holy Spirit, grant to __________ Your grace, that he/she might serve You according to Your will, for to You is the glory, Father and Son with the Holy Spirit, in the Holy Church, now and throughout the ages of the ages. Amen.
Sealing them with the sign of the cross on their foreheads with holy oil, the presbyter or bishop says:
Presbyter: I anoint you with holy oil in the Name of God the Father Almighty, and Christ Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
Giving them the Kiss of Peace, he says:
Presbyter: The Lord be with you, brother/sister ____.
Newly Baptized: And with your spirit.
The newly baptized should then receive their First Communion.