The Bells and Whistles of Baptism

A bit more reflecting on the book Baptismal Imagery in Early Christianity by Robin Jenson.

Yesterday I mentioned that there were a variety of accompanying rituals associated with baptism in the early church. Specifically, catechumens were sometimes given salt to eat or the one officiating would gently blow on their faces. Both of these acts symbolized the purification of the person, acts of exorcism.

But these weren't the only ancillary rituals associated with early Christian baptism. Early baptismal rituals included anointing, carrying candles or torches, drinking milk and honey, the laying on of hands, foot washing, renouncing and spitting at the devil, stripping and re-robing (in white clothing), turning toward the east and west, triple immersion (in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), receiving a holy kiss, making the sign of the cross, enrollment into the church, sponsors, and ephphetha (touching the ears and nostrils of the catechumen).

Where have all these bells and whistles gone in modern Christian baptism?

To be sure, many of these rituals are strange and might not sit well with us today. Anyone want to be baptized in the nude? But some of these rituals seem very rich, tools we could use to deepen the meaning of baptism.

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