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One of the Seven Sacraments of the Christian Church ; frequently called the "first sacrament ", the "door of the sacraments ", and the "door of the Church ". The subject will be treated under the following headings:

I. Authoritative Statement of Doctrine
II. Etymology
III. Definition
IV. Types
V. Institution of the Sacrament
VI. Matter and Form of the Sacrament
VII. Conditional Baptism
VIII. Rebaptism
IX. Necessity of Baptism
X. Substitutes for the Sacrament
XI. Unbaptized Infants
XII. Effects of Baptism
XIII. Minister of the Sacrament
XIV. Recipient of Baptism
XV. Adjuncts of Baptism
XVI, Ceremonies of Baptism
XVII. Metaphorical Baptism

I. AUTHORITATIVE STATEMENT OF DOCTRINE

At the outset we think it advisable to give two documents which express clearly the mind of the Church on the subject of baptism. They are valuable, also, as containing a summary of the main points to be considered in the treatment of this important matter. Baptism is defined positively in the one and negatively in the other.

(1) The Positive Document: "The Decree for the Armenians"

"The Decree for the Armenians ", in the Bull "Exultate Deo" of Pope Eugene IV, is often referred to as a decree of the Council of Florence. While it is not necessary to hold this decree to be a dogmatic definition of the matter and form and minister of the sacraments, it is undoubtedly a practical instruction, emanating from the Holy See , and as such, has full authenticity in a canonical sense. That is, it is authoritative. The decree speaks thus of Baptism:

Holy Baptism holds the first place among the sacraments, because it is the door of the spiritual life; for by it we are made members of Christ and incorporated with the Church. And since through the first man death entered into all, unless we be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, we can not enter into the kingdom of Heaven, as Truth Himself has told us. The matter of this sacrament is true and natural water ; and it is indifferent whether it be cold or hot. The form is: I baptize thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost . We do not, however, deny that the words: Let this servant of Christ be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost ; or: This person is baptized by my hands in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost , constitute true baptism; because since the principal cause from which baptism has its efficacy is the Holy Trinity, and the instrumental cause is the minister who confers the sacrament exteriorly, then if the act exercised by the minister be expressed, together with the invocation of the Holy Trinity, the sacrament is perfected. The minister of this sacrament is the priest, to whom it belongs to baptize, by reason of his office. In case of necessity, however, not only a priest or deacon, but even a layman or woman, nay, even a pagan or heretic can baptize, provided he observes the form used by the Church, and intends to perform what the Church performs. The effect of this sacrament is the remission of all sin, original and actual; likewise of all punishment which is due for sin. As a consequence, no satisfaction for past sins is enjoined upon those who are baptized; and if they die before they commit any sin, they attain immediately to the kingdom of heaven and the vision of God.

(2) The Negative Document: "De Baptismo"

The negative document we call the canons on baptism decreed by the Council of Trent (Sess. VII, De Baptismo), in which the following doctrines are anathematized (declared heretical ):

  • The baptism of John (the Precursor) had the same efficacy as the baptism of Christ,
  • True and natural water is not necessary for baptism, and therefore the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ "Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost " are metaphorical.
  • The true doctrine of the sacrament of baptism is not taught by the Roman Church,
  • Baptism given by heretics in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost with the intention of performing what the Church performs, is not true baptism,
  • Baptism is free, that is, not necessary for salvation.
  • A baptized person, even if he wishes it, can not lose grace, no matter how much he sins, unless he refuses to believe.
  • Those who are baptized are obliged only to have faith, but not to observe the whole law of Christ.
  • Baptized persons are not obliged to observe all the precepts of the Church, written and traditional, unless of their own accord they wish to submit to them.
  • All vows made after baptism are void by reason of the promises made in baptism itself; because by these vows injury is done to the faith which has been professed in baptism and to the sacrament itself.
  • All sins committed after baptism are either forgiven or rendered venial by the sole remembrance and faith of the baptism that has been received.
  • Baptism although truly and properly administered, must be repeated in the case of a person who has denied the faith of Christ before infidels and has been brought again to repentance.
  • No one is to be baptized except at the age at which Christ was baptized or at the moment of death.
  • Infants, not being able to make an act of faith, are not to be reckoned among the faithful after their baptism, and therefore when they come to the age of discretion they are to be rebaptized; or it is better to omit their baptism entirely than to baptize them as believing on the sole faith of the Church, when they themselves can not make a proper act of faith.
  • Those baptized as infants are to be asked when they have grown up, whether they wish to ratify what their sponsors had promised for them at their baptism, and if they reply that they do not wish to do so, they are to be left to their own will in the matter and not to be forced by penalties to lead a Christian life, except to be deprived of the reception of the Eucharist and of the other sacraments, until they reform.

The doctrines here condemned by the Council of Trent, are those of various leaders among the early reformers. The contradictory of all these statements is to be held as the dogmatic teaching of the Church.

II. ETYMOLOGY

The word Baptism is derived from the Greek word, bapto , or baptizo , to wash or to immerse. It signifies, therefore, that washing is of the essential idea of the sacrament. Scripture uses the term baptize both literally and figuratively. It is employed in a metaphorical sense in Acts 1:5 , where the abundance of the grace of the Holy Ghost is signified, and also in Luke 12:50 , where the term is referred to the sufferings of Christ in His Passion. Otherwise in the New Testament, the root word from which baptism is derived is used to designate the laving with water, and it is employed, when speaking of Jewish lustrations, and of the baptism of John, as well as of the Christian Sacrament of Baptism (cf. Hebrews 6:2 ; Mark 7:4 ). In ecclesiastical usage, however, when the terms Baptize , Baptism are employed without a qualifying word, they are intended to signify the sacramental washing by which the soul is cleansed from sin at the same time that water is poured upon the body. Many other terms have been used as descriptive synonyms for baptism both in the Bible and Christian antiquity, as the washing of regeneration, illumination, the seal of God, the water of eternal life, the sacrament of the Trinity, and so on. In English, the term christen is familiarly used for baptize . As, however, the former word signifies only the effect of baptism, that is, to make one a Christian, but not the manner and the act, moralists hold that "I christen" could probably not be substituted validly for "I baptize" in conferring the sacrament.

III. DEFINITION

The Roman Catechism (Ad parochos, De bapt., 2, 2, 5) defines baptism thus: Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration by water in the word ( per aquam in verbo ). St. Thomas Aquinas ( III:66:1 ) gives this definition: "Baptism is the external ablution of the body, performed with the prescribed form of words."

Later theologians generally distinguish formally between the physical and the metaphysical defining of this sacrament. By the former they understand the formula expressing the action of ablution and the utterance of the invocation of the Trinity ; by the latter, the definition: " Sacrament of regeneration " or that institution of Christ by which we are reborn to spiritual life.

The term "regeneration" distinguishes baptism from every other sacrament, for although penance revivifies men spiritually, yet this is rather a resuscitation, a bringing back from the dead, than a rebirth. Penance does not make us Christians ; on the contrary, it presupposes that we have already been born of water and the Holy Ghost to the life of grace, while baptism on the other hand was instituted to confer upon men the very beginnings of the spiritual life, to transfer them from the state of enemies of God to the state of adoption, as sons of God.

The definition of the Roman Catechism combines the physical and metaphysical definitions of baptism. "The sacrament of regeneration " is the metaphysical essence of the sacrament, while the physical essence is expressed by the second part of the definition, i.e. the washing with water (matter), accompanied by the invocation of the Holy Trinity (form). Baptism is, therefore, the sacrament by which we are born again of water and the Holy Ghost, that is, by which we receive in a new and spiritual life, the dignity of adoption as sons of God and heirs of God's kingdom.

IV. TYPES

Having considered the Christian meaning of the term "baptism", we now turn our attention to the various rites which were its forerunners before the New Dispensation.

Types of this sacrament are to be found among the Jews and Gentiles. Its place in the sacramental system of the Old Law was taken by circumcision, which is called by some of the Fathers "the washing of blood" to distinguish it from "the washing of water ". By the rite of circumcision, the recipient was incorporated into the people of God and made a partaker in the Messianic promises; a name was bestowed upon him and he was reckoned among the children of Abraham, the father of all believers.

Other forerunners of baptism were the numerous purifications prescribed in the Mosaic dispensation for legal uncleannesses. The symbolism of an outward washing to cleanse an invisible blemish was made very familiar to the Jews by their sacred ceremonies. But in addition to these more direct types, both the New Testament writers and the Fathers of the Church find many mysterious foreshadowings of baptism. Thus St. Paul ( 1 Corinthians 10 ) adduces the passage of Israel through the Red Sea, and St. Peter ( 1 Peter 3 ) the Deluge, as types of the purification to be found in Christian baptism. Other foreshadowings of the sacrament are found by the Fathers in the bathing of Naaman in the Jordan, in the brooding of the Spirit of God over the waters, in the rivers of Paradise, in the blood of the Paschal Lamb, during Old Testament times, and in the pool of Bethsaida, and in the healing of the dumb and blind in the New Testament.

How natural and expressive the symbolism of exterior washing to indicate interior purification was recognized to be, is plain from the practice also of the heathen systems of religion. The use of lustral water is found among the Babylonians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Hindus, and others. A closer resemblance to Christian baptism is found in a form of Jewish baptism, to be bestowed on proselytes, given in the Babylonian Talmud ( Döllinger, First Age of the Church).

But above all must be considered the baptism of St. John the Precursor. John baptized with water ( Mark 1 ) and it was a baptism of penance for the remission of sins ( Luke 3 ). While, then, the symbolism of the sacrament instituted by Christ was not new, the efficacy which He joined to the rite is that which differentiates it from all its types. John's baptism did not produce grace, as he himself testifies ( Matthew 3 ) when he declares that he is not the Messias whose baptism is to confer the Holy Ghost . Moreover, it was not John's baptism that remitted sin, but the penance that accompanied it; and hence St. Augustine calls it (De Bapt. contra Donat., V) "a remission of sins in hope ". As to the nature of the Precursor's baptism, St. Thomas ( III:38:1 ) declares: The baptism of John was not a sacrament of itself, but a certain sacramental as it were, preparing the way ( disponens ) for the baptism of Christ." Durandus calls it a sacrament, indeed, but of the Old Law, and St. Bonaventure places it as a medium between the Old and New Dispensations. It is of Catholic faith that the Precursor's baptism was essentially different in its effects from the baptism of Christ, It is also to be noted that those who had previously received John's baptism had to receive later the Christian baptism ( Acts 19 ).

V. INSTITUTION OF THE SACRAMENT

That Christ instituted the Sacrament of Baptism is unquestionable. Rationalists, like Harnack (Dogmengeschichte, I, 68), dispute it, only by arbitrarily ruling out the texts which prove it. Christ not only commands His Disciples ( Matthew 28:19 ) to baptize and gives them the form to be used, but He also declares explicitly the absolute necessity of baptism ( John 3 ): "Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he can not enter into the Kingdom of God." Moreover, from the general doctrine of the Church on the sacraments, we know that the efficacy attached to them is derivable only from the institution of the Redeemer.

When, however, we come to the question as to when precisely Christ instituted baptism, we find that ecclesiastical writers are not agreed. The Scriptures themselves are silent upon the subject. Various occasions have been pointed out as the probable time of institution, as when Christ was Himself baptized in the Jordan, when He declared the necessity of the rebirth to Nicodemus, when He sent His Apostles and Disciples to preach and baptize.

The first opinion was quite a favorite with many of the Fathers and Schoolmen, and they are fond of referring to the sanctification of the baptismal water by contact with the flesh of the God-man. Others, as St. Jerome and St. Maximus, appear to assume that Christ baptized John on this occasion and thus instituted the sacrament. There is nothing, however, in the Gospels to indicate that Christ baptized the Precursor at the time of His own baptism. As to the opinion that it was in the colloquy with Nicodemus that the sacrament was instituted, it is not surprising that it has found few adherents. Christ's words indeed declare the necessity of such an institution, but no more. It seems also very unlikely that Christ would have instituted the sacrament in a secret conference with one who was not to be a herald of its institution.

The more probable opinion seems to be that baptism, as a sacrament, had its origin when Christ commissioned His Apostles to baptize, as narrated in John 3 and 4 . There is nothing directly in the text as to the institution, but as the Disciples acted evidently under the instruction of Christ, He must have taught them at the very outset the matter and form of the sacrament which they were to dispense. It is true that St. John Chrysostom (Hom., xxviii in Joan.), Theophylactus (in cap. iii, Joan.), and Tertullian (De Bapt., c. ii) declare that the baptism given by the Disciples of Christ as narrated in these chapters of St. John was a baptism of water only and not of the Holy Ghost ; but their reason is that the Holy Ghost was not given until after the Resurrection. As theologians have pointed out, this is a confusion between the visible and the invisible manifestation of the Holy Spirit. The authority of St. Leo (Ep. xvi ad Episc. Sicil.) is also invoked for the same opinion, inasmuch as he seems to hold that Christ instituted the sacrament when, after His rising from the dead, He gave the command ( Matthew 28 ): "Go and teach . . . baptizing"; but St. Leo's words can easily be explained otherwise, and in another part of the same epistle he refers to the sanction of regeneration given by Christ when the water of baptism flowed from His side on the Cross; consequently, before the Resurrection. All authorities agree that Matthew 28 , contains the solemn promulgation of this sacrament, and St. Leo does not seem to intend more than this. We need not delay on the arguments of those who declare baptism to have been necessarily established after Christ's death, because the efficacy of the sacraments is derived from His Passion. This would prove also that the Holy Eucharist was not instituted before His death, which is untenable. As to the frequent statement of the Fathers that the sacraments flowed from the side of Christ upon the Cross, it is enough to say that beyond the symbolism found therein, their words can be explained as referring to the death of Christ, as the meritorious cause or perfection of the sacraments, but not necessarily as their time of institution.

All things considered, we can safely state, therefore, that Christ most probably instituted baptism before His Passion. For in the first place, as is evident from John 3 and 4 , Christ certainly conferred baptism, at least by the hands of His Disciples, before His Passion. That this was an essentially different rite from John the Precursor's baptism seems plain, because the baptism of Christ is always preferred to that of John, and the latter himself states the reason: "I baptize with water. . . [ Christ ] baptizeth with the Holy Ghost " ( John 1 ). In the baptism given by the Disciples as narrated in these chapters we seem to have all the requisites of a sacrament of the New Law:

  • the external rite,
  • the institution of Christ, for they baptized by His command and mission, and
  • the conferring of grace, for they bestowed the Holy Ghost ( John 1 ).
In the second place, the Apostles received other sacraments from Christ, before His Passion, as the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, and Holy orders (Conc. Trid., Sess. XXVI, c. i). Now as baptism has always been held as the door of the Church and the necessary condition for the reception of any other sacrament, it follows that the Apostles must have received Christian baptism before the Last Supper . This argument is used by St. Augustine (Ep. clxiii, al. xliv) and certainly seems valid. To suppose that the first pastors of the Church received the other sacraments by dispensation, before they had received baptism, is an opinion with no foundation in Scripture or Tradition and devoid of verisimilitude. The Scriptures nowhere state that Christ Himself conferred baptism, but an ancient tradition (Niceph., Hist. eccl, II, iii; Clem. Alex. Strom., III) declares that He baptized the Apostle Peter only, and that the latter baptized Andrew, James, and John, and they the other Apostles.

VI. MATTER AND FORM OF THE SACRAMENT

(1) Matter

In all sacraments we treat of the matter and the form. It is also usual to distinguish the remote matter and the proximate matter. In the case of baptism, the remote matter is natural and true water. We shall consider this aspect of the question first.

(a) Remote matter

It is of faith ( de fide ) that true and natural water is the remote matter of baptism. In addition to the authorities already cited, we may also mention the Fourth Council of the Lateran (c. i).

Some of the early Fathers, as Tertullian (De Bapt., i) and St. Augustine (Adv. Hær., xlvi and lix) enumerate heretics who rejected water entirely as a constituent of baptism. Such were the Gaians, Manichians, Seleucians, and Hermians. In the Middle Ages, the Waldensians are said to have held the same tenet (Ewald, Contra Walden., vi). Some of the sixteenth century reformers, while accepting water as the ordinary matter of this sacrament, declared that when water could not be had, any liquid could be used in its place. So Luther (Tischr., xvii) and Beza (Ep., ii, ad Till.). It was in consequence of this teaching that certain of the Tridentine canons were framed. Calvin held that the water used in baptism was simply symbolic of the Blood of Christ (Instit., IV, xv).

As a rule, however, those sects which believe in baptism at the present time, recognize water as the necessary matter of the sacrament.

Scripture is so positive in its statements as to the use of true and natural water for baptism that it is difficult to see why it should ever be called in question. Not only have we the explicit words of Christ ( John 3:5 ) "Unless a man be born again of water ", etc., but also in the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of St. Paul there are passages that preclude any metaphorical interpretation. Thus ( Acts 10:47 ) St. Peter says "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized?" In the eighth chapter of the Acts is narrated the episode of Philip and the eunuch of Ethiopia, and in verse 36 we read: "They came to a certain water; and the eunuch said: See, here is water: what doth hinder me from being baptized?"

Equally positive is the testimony of Christian tradition. Tertullian (op. cit.) begins his treatise: "The happy sacrament of our water ". Justin Martyr (Apol., I) describes the ceremony of baptism and declares: Then they are led by us to where there is water. . . and then they are laved in the water ". St. Augustine positively declares that there is no baptism without water (Tr. xv in Joan.).

The remote matter of baptism, then, is water, and this taken in its usual meaning. Theologians tell us consequently that what men would ordinarily declare water is valid baptismal material, whether it be water of the sea, or fountain, or well, or marsh; whether it be clear or turbid; fresh or salty; hot or cold; colored or uncolored. Water derived from melted ice, snow, or hail is also valid. If, however, ice, snow, or hail be not melted, they do not come under the designation water . Dew, sulfur or mineral water, and that which is derived from steam are also valid matter for this sacrament. As to a mixture of water and some other material, it is held as proper matter, provided the water certainly predominates and the mixture would still be called water. Invalid matter is every liquid that is not usually designated true water. Such are oil, saliva, wine, tears, milk, sweat, beer, soup, the juice of fruits, and any mixture containing water which men would no longer call water. When it is doubtful whether a liquid could really be called water, it is not permissible to use it for baptism except in case of absolute necessity when no certainly valid matter can be obtained.

On the other hand, it is never allowable to baptize with an invalid liquid. There is a response of Pope Gregory IX to the Archbishop of Trondhjem in Norway where beer (or mead) had been employed for baptism. The pontiff says: "Since according to the Gospel teaching, a man must be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, those are not to be considered validly baptized who have been baptized with beer" ( cervisia ). It is true that a statement declaring wine to be valid matter of baptism is attributed to Pope Stephen II, but the document is void of all authority (Labbe, Conc., VI).

Those who have held that "water" in the Gospel text is to be taken metaphorically, appeal to the words of the Precursor ( Matthew 3 ), "He shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost and fire". As "fire" must certainly be only a figure of speech here, so must "water" in the other texts. To this objection, it may be replied that the Christian Church, or at least the Apostles themselves, must have understood what was prescribed to be taken literally and what figuratively. The New Testament and church history prove that they never looked on fire as a material for baptism, while they certainly did require water. Outside of the insignificant sects of Seleucians and Hermians, not even heretics took the word "fire" in this text in its literal meaning. We may remark, however, that some of the Fathers, as St. John Damascene (Orth. Fid., IV, ix), concede this statement of the Baptist to have a literal fulfillment in the Pentecostal fiery tongues. They do not refer it, however, literally to baptism. That water alone is the necessary matter of this sacrament depends of course on the will of Him Who instituted it, although theologians discover many reasons why it should have been chosen in preference to other liquids. The most obvious of these is that water cleanses and purifies more perfectly than the others, and hence the symbolism is more natural.

(b) Proximate matter

The proximate matter of baptism is the ablution performed with water. The very word "baptize", as we have seen, means a washing.

Three forms of ablution have prevailed among Christians, and the Church holds them all to be valid because they fulfill the requisite signification of the baptismal laving. These forms are immersion, infusion, and aspersion.

The most ancient form usually employed was unquestionably immersion. This is not only evident from the writings of the Fathers and the early rituals of both the Latin and Oriental Churches, but it can also be gathered from the Epistles of St. Paul, who speaks of baptism as a bath ( Ephesians 5:26 ; Romans 6:4 ; Titus 3:5 ). In the Latin Church, immersion seems to have prevailed until the twelfth century. After that time it is found in some places even as late as the sixteenth century. Infusion and aspersion, however, were growing common in the thirteenth century and gradually prevailed in the Western Church. The Oriental Churches have retained immersion, though not always in the sense of plunging the candidate's entire body below the water. Billuart (De Bapt., I, iii) says that commonly the catechumen is placed in the font, and then water is poured upon the head. He cites the authority of Goar for this statement.

Although, as we have said, immersion was the form of baptism that generally prevailed in the early ages, it must not thereby be inferred that the other forms of infusion and aspersion were not also employed and held to be valid. In the case of the sick or dying, immersion was impossible and the sacrament was then conferred by one of the other forms. This was so well recognized that infusion or aspersion received the name of the baptism of the sick ( baptismus clinicorum ). St. Cyprian ( Epistle 75 ) declares this form to be valid. From the canons of various early councils we know that candidates for Holy orders who had been baptized by this method seem to have been regarded as irregular, but this was on account of the culpable negligence supposed to be manifested in delaying baptism until sick or dying. That such persons, however, were not to be rebaptized is an evidence that the Church held their baptism to be valid. It is also pointed out that the circumstances under which St. Paul ( Acts 16 ) baptized his jailer and all his household seem to preclude the use of immersion. Moreover, the acts of the early martyrs frequently refer to baptizing in prisons where infusion or aspersion was certainly employed.

By the present authorized ritual of the Latin Church, baptism must be performed by a laving of the head of the candidate. Moralists, however, state that in case of necessity, the baptism would probably be valid if the water were applied to any other principal part of the body, as the breast or shoulder. In this case, however, conditional baptism would have to be administered if the person survived (St. Alphonsus, no. 107). In like manner they consider as probably valid the baptism of an infant in its mother's womb, provided the water, by means of an instrument, would actually flow upon the child. Such baptism is, however, later to be repeated conditionally, if the child survives its birth (Lehmkuhl, n. 61).

It is to be noted that it is not sufficient for the water to merely touch the candidate; it must also flow, otherwise there would seem to be no real ablution. At best, such a baptism would be considered doubtful. If the water touches only the hair, the sacrament has probably been validly conferred, though in practice the safer course must be followed. If only the clothes of the person have received the aspersion, the baptism is undoubtedly void.

The water to be employed in solemn baptism should also be consecrated for the purpose, but of this we shall treat in another section of this article. It is necessary in baptizing to make use of a threefold ablution in conferring this sacrament, by reason of the prescription of the Roman ritual. This necessarily refers, however, to the liceity, not to the validity of the ceremony, as St. Thomas (III:66:8) and other theologians expressly state.

The threefold immersion is unquestionably very ancient in the Church and apparently of Apostolic origin. It is mentioned by Tertullian (De cor. milit., iii), St. Basil (De Sp. S., xxvii), St. Jerome (Dial. Contra Luc., viii), and many other early writers. Its object is, of course, to honor the three Persons of the Holy Trinity in whose name it is conferred. That this threefold ablution was not considered necessary to the validity of the sacrament, however, is plain. In the seventh century the Fourth Council of Toledo (633) approved the use of a single ablution in baptism, as a protest against the false trinitarian theories of the Arians, who seem to have given to the threefold immersion a significance which made it imply three natures in the Holy Trinity. To insist on the unity and consubstantiality of the three Divine Persons, the Spanish Catholics adopted the single ablution and this method had the approval of Pope Gregory the Great (I, Ep. xliii). The Eunomian heretics used only one immersion and their baptism was held invalid by the First Council of Constantinople (can. vii); but this was not on account of the single ablution, but apparently because they baptized in the death of Christ. The authority of this canon is, moreover, doubtful at best.

(2) Form

The requisite and sole valid form of baptism is: "I baptize thee (or This person is baptized) in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost." This was the form given by Christ to His Disciples in the twenty-eighth chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel , as far, at least, as there is question of the invocation of the separate Persons of the Trinity and the expression of the nature of the action performed. For the Latin usage: "I baptize thee", etc., we have the authority of the Council of Trent (Sess. VII, can. iv) and of the Council of Florence in the Decree of Union. In addition we have the constant practice of the whole Western Church . The Latins also recognize as valid the form used by the Greeks: "This servant of Christ is baptized", etc. The Florentine decree acknowledges the validity of this form and it is moreover recognized by the Bull of Leo X , "Accepimus nuper", and of Clement VII, "Provisionis nostrae." Substantially, the Latin and Greek forms are the same, and the Latin Church has never rebaptized Orientals on their return to unity.

At one time some Western theologians disputed the Greek form, because they doubted the validity of the imperative or deprecatory formula: "Let this person be baptized" ( baptizetur ). As a matter of fact, however, the Greeks use the indicative, or enuntiative, formula: "This person is baptized" ( baptizetai, baptizetur ). This is unquestionable from their Euchologies, and from the testimony of Arcudius (apud Cat., tit. ii, cap. i), of Goar (Rit. Græc. Illust.), of Martène (De Ant. Eccl. Rit., I) and of the theological compendium of the schismatical Russians (St. Petersburg, 1799). It is true that in the decree for the Armenians, Pope Eugene IV uses baptizetur , according to the ordinary version of this decree, but Labbe, in his edition of the Council of Florence seems to consider it a corrupt reading, for in the margin he prints baptizatur . It has been suggested by Goar that the resemblance between baptizetai and baptizetur is responsible for the mistake. The correct translation is, of course, baptizatur .

In administering this sacrament it is absolutely necessary to use the word "baptize" or its equivalent (Alex. VIII, Prop. damn., xxvii), otherwise the ceremony is invalid. This had already been decreed by Alexander III (Cap. Si quis, I, x, De Bapt.), and it is confirmed by the Florentine decree. It has been the constant practice of both the Latin and Greek Churches to make use of words expressing the act performed. St. Thomas (III:66:5) says that since an ablution may be employed for many purposes, it is necessary that in baptism the meaning of the ablution be determined by the words of the form. However, the words: "In the name of the Father", etc., would not be sufficient by themselves to determine the sacramental nature of the ablution. St. Paul ( Colossians 3 ) exhorts us to do all things in the name of God, and consequently an ablution could be performed in the name of the Trinity to obtain restoration of health. Therefore it is that in the form of this sacrament, the act of baptism must be expressed, and the matter and form be united to leave no doubt of the meaning of the ceremony.

In addition to the necessary word "baptize", or its equivalent, it is also obligatory to mention the separate Persons of the Holy Trinity. This is the command of Christ to His Disciples, and as the sacrament has its efficacy from Him Who instituted it, we can not omit anything that He has prescribed. Nothing is more certain than that this has been the general understanding and practice of the Church. Tertullian tells us (De Bapt., xiii): "The law of baptism ( tingendi ) has been imposed and the form prescribed: Go, teach the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost." St. Justin Martyr (Apol., I) testifies to the practice in his time. St. Ambrose (De Myst., IV) declares: "Unless a person has been baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, he can not obtain the remission of his sins," St. Cyprian (Ad Jubaian.), rejecting the validity of baptism given in the name of Christ only, affirms that the naming of all the Persons of the Trinity was commanded by the Lord ( in plena et adunata Trinitate ). The same is declared by many other primitive writers, as St. Jerome (IV, in Matt.), Origen (De Princ., i, ii), St. Athanasius (Or. iv, Contr. Ar.), St. Augustine (De Bapt., vi, 25). It is not, of course, absolutely necessary that the common names Father, Son, and Holy Ghost be used, provided the Persons be expressed by words that are equivalent or synonymous. But a distinct naming of the Divine Persons is required and the form: "I baptize thee in the name of the Holy Trinity ", would be of more than doubtful validity.

The singular form "In the name", not "names", is also to be employed, as it expresses the unity of the Divine nature. When, through ignorance, an accidental, not substantial, change has been made in the form (as In nomine patriâ for Patris ), the baptism is to be held valid.

The mind of the Church as to the necessity of serving the trinitarian formula in this sacrament has been clearly shown by her treatment of baptism conferred by heretics. Any ceremony that did not observe this form has been declared invalid. The Montanists baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and Montanus and Priscilla (St. Basil, Ep. i, Ad Amphil.). As a consequence, the Council of Laodicea ordered their rebaptism. The Arians at the time of the Council of Nicæa do not seem to have tampered with the baptismal formula, for that Council does not order their rebaptism. When, then, St. Athanasius (Or. ii, Contr. Ar.) and St. Jerome (Contra Lucif.) declare the Arians to have baptized in the name of the Creator and cre


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