Mystery of Baptism | Russian Oldbeliever Church

Main page Publications Theology and culture Mystery of Baptism

Subjects of publications

The Russian Orthodox Old Believer Church

The official website of the Moscow Metropolitanate.

Address: Russia, Moscow, Rogozhsky Poselok street, 1A, 5.
Phone: +7 (495) 361-51-91

Mystery of Baptism

Of all the Church sacraments, Baptism is the most important. This is the sacrament wherein a person first commits himself to our Lord Jesus Christ[1], who after He commanded His disciples to baptize all nations, also declared that “…the one who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark. 16:16).

Mystery of Baptism

Without baptism, the salvation of the soul is impossible[2], for by means of the Sacrament of Baptism a person enters the Church of Christ. This marks the beginning of salvation in the ways of a man, the acquisition of the Kingdom of God, his spiritual birth, his liberation from the sin-based captivity to the forces of darkness. For those entering Her, the New Testament Church, founded by Christ, who came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it, made use of this Jewish rite of purification[3], which however, she filled with the new content of grace. The great importance of the Sacrament of Baptism finds witness in our Lord Jesus Christ, who was Himself the first to receive it, in the waters of the Jordan.[4] The Lord thus demonstrates to us the great importance and necessity of baptism as a means of cleansing from sins and spiritual rebirth, testifying: “Unless one receives the birth of Water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” (John 3:5).

By Baptism, a man is washed clean from the defilement of original sin, which indicates not just the criminal, sinful act on the part of Man [i.e., Adam] but the state of human nature itself[5] after the fall of Adam.[6] And therefore, even if after this sacrament a Christian commits personal sins and life a person does not always correspond to a high Christian rank, the baptism of man is performed only once.[7]

The Orthodox Church teaches that the Sacrament of Baptism must be performed only by triple immersion[8] of the baptized in water.  The word baptism – in Greek “baptizô” – itself means immersion. Wherever in one’s New Testament it reads “baptize,” in the original Greek, the word is literally “immerse”. In conformity with this instruction of Scripture and the testimonies of the ancient Church, the Orthodox Church practices immersion. As St. Paul teaches:

We receiving baptism into Christ Jesus were immersed into His death … we were placed in the grave with Him by Baptism into His death, so that just as Christ arose from among the dead to the glory of the Father, so we too should walk in a new kind of life (Rom. 6: 3-4).

Baptism is an immersion into the death of Christ.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem [Catechetical Homilies, 3] so interprets these words of the Apostle Paul:

“As during each night, so in each immersion under the water, nothing is visible, but when we are raised from the water again, we begin to abide in the light of day.”

According to the saint, baptism symbolically indicates Christ’s three days sojourn in the tomb. His body was buried; so too then, if a person is not entirely buried in the water, he is not buried, he is not baptized. Accordingly, the Apostolic Canons prescribe: Whichever bishop, or presbyter, shall not perform the three immersions … let him be cast out of office, which is also what the Church Fathers also taught about the holy sacrament of baptism.[9]

Righteous John Damascene [Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, 9] said: “Baptism depicts the death of Christ; for in baptizing with a three-fold immersion under the water, we represent our Lord’s three day sojourn in the tomb.”

St. Basil the Great [On the Holy Spirit, 27]:

“The great sacrament of Baptism is performed with three immersions and likewise invoking the threefold Name of God, so that there is imprinted in us the likeness of His death, and the souls thus baptized are enlightened with the vision of God [thus worshipped in Trinity].”

St. John Chrysostom [Homilies on John, 25:2]:“For when we lower our heads under the water as into a kind of tomb, our old man is buried, and being submerged, is hidden below, and from thence he is raised again a new Man.”[10]

Blessed Jerome [Against the Luciferians, 8]: “We are baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and so we are thrice plunged under the water.”

Tertullian [On the Crown, 3]: “We plunge three times under the water, as the Lord defined in the Gospel.”

St. Simeon of Thessalonike (Dialogue Against Heresies, On the Sacraments, 63): “Then having stripped, he enters the water to be fully immersed therein, as he was when he was being born and fashioned.”

Russian ancient manuscripts and testimonies show us that the only form of baptism recognized as correct or valid in Russia was that done by triple immersion. The Sobor [Council] of Vladimir in 1274 ruled that baptism only had validity if done by immersion and banned all divergent practices. Metropolitan Cyprian in the 14th century instructs likewise: “With regard to Holy Baptism, however, perform the [canonical] immersions: do not pour water over them as the Latins do,[11] but immerse in a river or in a clean [baptismal] vessel, installed for this purpose.”

The Stoglavy Cathedral of 1551 likewise directs:

“And children ought to be baptized in the churches according to the prescribed form, and according to tradition of the Holy Apostles and Holy Fathers, not by pouring water over them, but immersed with three plunges, as it is written in the manuals of the liturgical offices that have been printed, and bearing up

the one baptized, one shall then anoint him with the holy myrrhon.”

The 1620 Council [Sobor] unequivocally ruled that a [canonical] baptism be performed over those people who had not been baptized by [triple] immersion, owing to the spread of [Roman] Catholic liturgical practices during the Time of the Troubles[12]. In that since Patriarch Filaret even insisted on the baptism of Archbishop Athenogen Kryzhanovsky.

Catechetical instruction must proceed Baptism. The specified prayers and catechesis are important preliminaries to Baptism. The Orthodox Church believes that you cannot baptize an adult who has not been prepared through prayer, fasting, and the study of the foundations of the Orthodox faith. Usually the catechumenate period lasts from six months to two years, during which the believer already attends the church for worship, observes the basic church constitution – prayer, fasting and gradually exploring in greater depth that into which he is being introduced and the solemn vows to God he is preparing to make.

But this catechumenate period does not apply to the baptism of infants, the fact of the matter being babies cannot yet witness to their faith, being instead baptized based on the faith of their parents. The Scripture describes several cases when people were baptized based on the faith of their near ones. For example, Lydia of Thyateira, having become a believer, was herself baptized, and with her, all her household (Acts 16:15). Or the prison guard from the city of Philippi who believed and was baptized, and all his household were baptized with him (Acts 16:33). Thus, according to the faith embraced by the head of the family, entire households were baptized. On this basis, the Orthodox Church also performs baptism of infants – based on the faith professed by the parents. Consequently, the children of Orthodox Christians are baptized as soon as possible after birth. In the child’s entire life, this is the most precious gift the parents can bestow. However, in the case that the parents or guardians of the child are unbelievers, baptizing the infant in this situation is simply impossible. Only the children of Orthodox Christians [who make the promise to raise the child Orthodox] can be baptized in infancy.[13]

All the preceding brings us to the conclusion that the Sacrament of Baptism must only be done through [triple] immersion, as it was through such immersion Christ Himself was baptized by John, and by such immersion this sacrament was accomplished in the ancient Church. Finally, by immersion under the water is manifested the inner significance and effect of baptism – our spiritual rebirth, through our burial with Christ and resurrection with Him. Though baptism should be accomplished after a some period of preparation, the rite of baptism must be carried out in the life of every Christian. And the earlier Baptism is accomplished, the fuller the Christian life on earth can be lived.

It is the sacrament of Baptism that bestows the right on a person to call himself a Christian and participate in other church ordinances. The Sacrament of Baptism consists of the catechumenate, the baptism itself, and the anointing

with the holy myrrhon.


In the history of the Old Testament Church, specifically the post-Maccabean period following the Roman takeover of Judaea in 63 BC, we find a rule of baptism in water, which consisted not only in a physical, but also a moral cleansing of the person approaching him [each confessing and repenting of his sins, to prepare the way for the Messiah soon to come]. In such wise, in the Jordan near Bethabara, St. John the Forerunner baptized those who came to him. Already under the Old Covenant, there existed for every member of Israelite society the necessity of a rite of purification accompanied by immersion. Moreover, the Law of Moses specified that the sacrifices of God’s chosen people as well as other objects would be washed by them before hand at the Tabernacle. By accepting Baptism from John in the Jordan, Jesus Christ made this a sacred rite [also for Christians].


Jesus Christ instituted the sacrament of Baptism when He declared to His Disciples before His Ascension into Heaven:

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to keep everything that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you all the days until the end of the age.” [Matthew 28:19]

Baptism in the ancient Church has been described thus in “The Doctrine (Didache) of the Twelve Apostles” (I – beginning of II century):

“Baptize in living (i.e. running) water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. If there is no living water, baptize in other water; if you can’t in the cold, then in the warm. And if there is neither one nor the other, then pour down water over the head three times.”[14]

In the Acts of the Apostles, we find no rules specified for what was required before receiving the sacrament of Baptism, simply that the candidate was instructed in the basics of the Christian faith and required to repent of his sins. From such New Testament passages, we learn that the Apostles baptized people even directly after coming to Christ. For example, when Apostle Philip [one of the Seventy, then a deacon[15]] baptized the eunuch of Queen Candace [immediately] in the river, or when Apostle Peter baptized the centurion Cornelius with his whole family, and the baptism performed by the apostle Paul over the prison guard as soon as he turned to Christian faith, on beholding the miraculous release of the captive Apostles from bonds. In the two above cases, the Apostles baptized entire families, in which there were children. Such manner of baptizing in the times of the Acts of the Apostles was exceptional and could not remain so as the Christian Faith actively strove to expand [in contest with paganism and the heresies that began to appear in the latter days of the Apostles].

The Apostolic Fathers (1st to early 2nd centuries) received Baptism according to the following scheme:

1. Catechism (study of the basics of the Christian faith)

2. Repentance of the baptized and renunciation of sins committed

3. The oral confession of the Faith in Christ

4. Triple immersion in water in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit


Not without purpose is Baptism also called the Sacrament of Enlightenment, because in Baptism man is given the light of the Divine grace that makes him capable of truly knowing God. Without baptism, a person is not enlightened, without the Light, being likened to a blind man who sees neither the sun nor those around him objects; for the blind, unenlightened soul lacks the power for divine vision.

The baptism of each new Christian denominated a celebration, being a cause of great rejoicing for all the Churches. When a child is born in a family, not only parents, but the whole family, and close and distant relatives, and friends, and even mere acquaintances rejoice and congratulate the parents on such an important event in their life, and wish the newborn health and every good thing. But here in the Holy Church an equally important event takes place – a new member is born in Christ, but do we all feel the same glee?

In the ancient Church, the sacrament of Baptism was performed [apart from emergencies or other exigencies] on the most solemn days of the year, on the most significant Christian holy days [that is, Theophany, Great Holy Saturday on the eve of Pascha, and on Pentecost]. And so, for the believers [back then], the baptism was a truly universal celebration and holy day. Newly baptized people solemnly proceeded, robed in white, into the main Cathedral, the whole community praying and waiting for them to come from the baptismal church. Just think, the whole community was praying for them and waiting on them!

Unfortunately, today we have practically lost this sense of general rejoicing that embraced the Christians of ancient times, flowing from the consciousness of the oneness of the Body of Christ, the Holy Church, to which a new member is now united…

Let us all ever bear in mind this important understanding: any Baptism in the Holy and Spotless Churches, regardless of who receives it – whether it be our friend, a relative or a complete stranger to us – for us together with you this is a holy day, because we all together make up the one Body of Christ, which through baptism is ever being increased. Being brightly illumined, being radiantly transfigured is not something that happens only for the one baptized, but also for the whole Church, and therefore within each of us.

[1]                      Sacramentum: that exchanged as surety of a vow to be fulfilled, whose breach is infidelity as the name [sacra] indicates”(Isidore of Seville, Etymologies,5.24.31).”Vowed to Caesar by the sacramentum, they receive his brand on oath of fidelity to his orders”(Vegetius, On the Army)”Christ’s sacrament now vies with Caesar’s as light with darkness”(Tertullian, On Idolatry).”For, abjuring Satan, his rites and emissaries, we pledge ourselves fully to Christ, before we are thrice plunged under the water in our Baptism.”(Tertullian, On the Crown.)

[2]                      “Without Baptism, none gains salvation; except only those martyred for Christ, who even without the water gain the Kingdom. For the Saviour…shed forth blood and water [on the Cross], that men, in times of peace, might be baptized in water;in persecution, in their own blood. For by the name of Baptism, the Saviour has also indicated martyrdom for His sake, saying, ‘Can you drink the cup which I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ (Mark 10:38) For the Martyrs confess Him…and you [before your Baptism] too soon shall confess Him…” (St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechism, 3:10;Tertullian, On Baptism, 16, teaches just as Cyril does here).

[3]                      “Toiling long through the desert, the weary Hebrews were not allowed to enter the Land of the Promises, until they had first been brought through the Jordan by Jesus [Joshua], who setting up 12 stones in its stream, as if for 12 Apostles, circumcising them there, typifying the ministry of Baptism.” “The Syrian Naaman, a leper, sought cleansing from Elisha, Elijah’s successor, who bestowed it through immersing him in Jordan, foreshadowing this Mystery. For Jordan alone among rivers received this first-fruits of sanctification and blessing, and has conveyed it to the whole world, this grace of Baptism…Indicating our rites…Isaiah cried: Wash you, make you clean, put away evil from your souls…Rejoice, O thirsting wilderness… you shall blossom like the lily: yeah, the desolate places at the Jordan shall blossom and shall rejoice’…And in the illustrious spirit of Elijah, John the Baptist consecrated the Jordan[for a baptism of repentance]” (St. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Baptism of Christ)

[4]                      Jesus made Baptism a sanctifying rite by being Himself baptized. If the Son of God was baptized, what religious man will regard Baptism as a slight matter? But He was baptized not for remission of sins, but being sinless, He was baptized that He might bestow on the baptized the surpassing grace of God. ‘The children being flesh and blood, He Himself also shares in the same’ (Hebrews 2:14),… Jesus was baptized, that thereby we [human nature] might be granted again our [lost] participation in salvation and glory.”(St. Cyril, Cat.3:11)

[5]                      “Since [Adam] produced children after falling into this state, we inherit a corruption-bearing nature…Not as if we disobeyed God’s commandment along with him, but he, being made mortal, transmitted this curse to his seed”(Kyril of Alexandria, Questions, 6). “With the sin[of eating of that tree forbidden by a Divine curse], the nature of Man became feeble and sickly. Through the sin of one, the many became sinners (Rom.5:18); not as accomplices of Adam, but as being of his nature which had fallen under sin’s sway…Made subject to mortal corruption through his transgression, human nature became weak, wounded all over with passions” (St. Kyril of Alexandria, On Romans 5.18).

[6]                      ‘The guilt being removed, the penalty is removed too. Thus man will be restored to God… for he receives again that Spirit of God, which he had then first received from His in-breathing but had afterwards lost through sin [Gen.2,3].’ (Tertullian, De Baptismo) “Today Christ is baptized by John to cleanse Man who was defiled, to bring the Spirit down from above and exalt man to heaven, that he who had fallen might be raised up and he who had cast him down might be put to shame…According to the inspired Paul(1 Cor. 10:2), the people, by passing through the Red Sea, foreshadowed the good tidings of salvation by this water. The people of God passed on through but the King of the Egyptians with his forces was engulfed therein, and by these actions this Sacrament was foretold. For now, this people, in the water of regeneration, fleeing from Egypt, from the heavy bondage of sin, is set free and delivered; but the devil with his servants, the evil spirits, is frustrated and brought to ruin, suffering utter defeat through men’s salvation.”“These [are] holy Mysteries that purify man, purging even indelible sin from soul and body, restoring our first estate wherewith God, Who made all good, bestowed His maker’s-mark on us. You who have received this initiation are gathered here together, and have also, as good fathers, brought those yet to experience it, that by careful introduction the uninitiated may pass to reception of the Faith in its perfect degree…[Y]ou the initiated…have been enriched with a great gift…remission of debts owed, release from bondage, close kinship with God, freedom of converse with Him, no longer baseborn like slaves but lofty in rank as the very angels. For these things, and all that follows them, the grace of Baptism secures and imparts to us.”(St. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Baptism of Christ)

[7]                      St Basil, On the Holy Spirit,16:40:“Those sealed by the Spirit unto the day of redemption…who grieve the Holy Spirit by their wicked ways…shall lose what they had …For the Spirit cannot bear association with the unworthy, yet nonetheless, He remains present with those once sealed, awaiting the salvation which follows on their repentance; but on that [Last] day, He will forever sever Himself from the soul that defiled His grace.” “…the baptized, though he withdraws from the [Church’s] unity does not undo the sacramentum of baptism”(St. Augustine,On Baptism, 1:1)

[8]                      “If any bishop or presbyter go against the Lord’s order, not baptizing into the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but into three Unoriginate Beings, or Sons, or Paracletes, let him be deposed. If any bishop or presbyter performs not three immersions in one initiation [into the Christian Mystery], but instead makes one immersion only into the death of the Lord, let him be deposed. For the Lord did not say, Baptize into My death, but Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”[Mt.28:19] (Apostolic Canons 49-50, Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, transmitted through {St.} Clement of Rome, Bk. VIII). Single immersion implies conflation of the Persons.

[9]                      St. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Baptism of Christ: And wherefore three immersions? The Fathers explained… as follows: By His dispensation, our God and Saviour sojourned beneath the earth for our sakes to raise [our] life up therefrom. Receiving Baptism, in imitation of our Lord…though not buried in earth…but.. water, we are buried therein as the Saviour was in earth, imaging in ourselves by three immersions…the Resurrection effected in three days: and not receiving this sacrament in silence, but while invoking the Names of the Three Sacred Persons on Whom we believed, in Whom we also hope, from Whom comes to us the reality of both our present existence and our future one.… Baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” [Matthew 28:19] as the Lord ordered…We prostrate ourselves in homage therefore to the Father, that we may be sanctified: to the Son again we prostrate in homage, for the same gift: we do so again to the Holy Spirit…Thus, no distinction in sanctifying, as if the Father contributes more, the Son less, or the Holy Spirit less than the first Two named. When from each Person you receive the same gift of grace, you see They are not divided as to divinity, nor are there three Gods…

[10] The act is a physical image of what the baptized or his sponsor verbally confessed. St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1st Corinthians, 40:2]: “For you confessed a resurrection of the dead and the priest, by the act itself, hereby had you signify through yourself what you confessed…For the immersing and then emerging is a symbol of the descent into Hades and return from thence… and…the man comes forth all new…”

[11]                   According to The Catholic Encyclopedia (1907), “Baptism”, although “triple immersion…is undoubtedly most ancient and apparently of apostolic origin”, the medieval Gothic Council of Toledo chose to delete two immersions (as well as add the Filioque to the Nicene Creed) to facilitate the conversion of Arians (who found fault with the Orthodox Oecumenical Councils’ rulings) to union with Rome, introducing errors later Latins tried to justify.  Thus, their Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 3:66, admits but rejects the rule: “It seems that immersion is necessary for Baptism…for the Apostle says (Romans 6:3-4): “All we who are baptized in Christ Jesus, are baptized in His death: for we are buried together with Him, by Baptism into death.” But this is done by immersion: for Chrysostom says on John 3:5: “Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost,” etc.: “When we lower our heads under the water as into a kind of tomb, our old man is buried, and being submerged, is hidden below, and thence he rises again renewed.”…It seems triple immersion is essential to Baptism, for Augustine says so in his sermon On the Symbol of the Faith, saying,…etc..Wherefore the Canons of the Apostles say,… etc…Further, the sacraments derive their efficacy from Christ’s mandate. But triple immersion was commanded by Christ: for Pope Pelagius II [c. 600 AD] wrote to Bishop Gaudentius: “The Gospel precept given by our Lord God Himself, our Saviour Jesus Christ, admonishes us to confer the sacrament of Baptism to each one in the name of the Trinity and also with triple immersion.”

                However, Aquinas, aiming to justify later Latin deviations, argues: “On the contrary…for various reasons the Church has ordained one form be used at one time and another at other times…In later time, there arose certain heresies and schisms that so baptized [with triple immersion]…In detestation of their heresy, only one immersion was ordered to be made, by the (4th) Council of Toledo [633 A.D.], in the Acts of which we read: “In order to avoid a stumbling-block of schism or the practice of heretical doctrine, let us hold to a single immersion in Baptism”“In the sacrament of Baptism water is put to the use of a washing of the body, whereby to signify the inward washing away of sins. Now washing may be done with water not only by immersion, but also by sprinkling or pouring….[A]lthough it is safer to baptize by immersion, because this is the more ordinary fashion, yet Baptism can be conferred by sprinkling or also by pouring…And this especially in cases of urgency: either because there is a great number to be baptized, as…in Acts 2 and 4, where we read that on one day 3,000 believed, and on another 5,000: or through there being but a small supply of water, or through feebleness of the minister, who cannot hold up the candidate for Baptism; or through feebleness of the candidate, whose life might be endangered by immersion. We must therefore conclude that immersion is not necessary for Baptism.” Baptism means immersion, Apostles decree it, the Fathers and Councils teach it too, but the Latins abolish truth, for sake of custom, “everything of theirs being recent, altered, and contrary to what God handed down”(St. Symeon of Thessalonika, Dialogue).

[12]                   Pope Leo IX via Cardinal Humbert (1054):“…and indeed the Latins, like Arians [Eunomians], the Greeks rebaptize, though baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity”(Papal Excommunication of Kerularios and his followers [the Orthodox], PG 104:744) which Oecumenical Patriarch Michael Kerularios justifies to Patriarch Peter of Antioch, noting “…the divine baptism the Latins deform, baptizing with one immersion” (Epistle of Oecuemical Patriarch Michael Kerularios to Patriarch Peter of Antioch, PG 120:793; Will, Acta et Scripta quae de controversiis Ecclesiase graecae et latinae, Lipsiae 1861, p.182) St. Germanos II, Balsamon, Meletios Confessor, and Vryennios document that, except if triple immersion had been used, the Byzantines normally rebaptized Latins until the 15th century.[G.Dragas,Reception of R.C. Converts,3-4], as does the Pope’s 4th Lateran Council (Canon 4): “For, after the Greek church together with certain associates and supporters withdrew from the obedience of the Apostolic [Roman] See, the Greeks …when Latin priests celebrated on their altars… would not offer sacrifice on them until they had washed them, as if the altars had been defiled thereby. The Greeks even had the temerity to rebaptize those baptized by the Latins; and some, as we are told, still do not fear to do this.”

                In rejecting the Latins’ deformation of Baptism, Kerularios followed the Apostolic Canons (previously cited), as well as the  2nd Oecumenical Council, Canon 7 “those baptized with one immersion we baptize”, and the 1st Canonical Epistle of St. Basil the Great, who instructs regarding forms of baptism as follows:

                 “The ancient authorities decided to accept only that baptism which in nowise errs from the Faith…So it seemed good to the ancient authorities to reject the baptism of heretics altogether, but to admit that of schismatics, on the basis that their baptismal rites remained those of the Church… The first separatists had received their ordination from the Fathers, and possessed the spiritual gift by the laying on of their hands. But they who were broken off had become laymen, and, because they are no longer able to confer on others that grace of the Holy Spirit from which they themselves are fallen away, they had no authority either to baptize or to ordain… Nevertheless, if it has appeared to some in Asia that, by way of a constructive arrangement, the baptism of the majority of them should be accepted, then let such be admitted. We must, however, take note of the lawless act of [those]* who, anticipating such future reversion to the Church have endeavored to prevent it by introducing a particular baptism of their own, violating even their own particular [i.e., former] practices. My judgment, therefore, is that, nothing being laid down concerning these particular ones, it is our duty to reject their baptism, and that in the case of anyone who has received baptism from them, we should, on his coming to the Church, baptize him….If they accept our baptism, we should not be moved by this. We are by no means bound to return them this ‘favor’, but only to strictly obey the canons.”(St. Basil the Great, 1st Canonical Epistle, Canon 1)

[13]                   St. Augustine, On Baptism,4.24.32. “And if any one seek for divine authority in this matter, though what is held by the whole Church, and that not as instituted by Councils, but as a matter of invariable custom, is rightly held to have been handed down by Apostolic authority, still we can form a true conjecture of the value of the sacrament of Baptism in the case of infants, from the parallel of circumcision…Abraham himself…”received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith,” having already believed in his heart, so that “it was counted unto him for righteousness.” Why, therefore, was it commanded him that he should circumcise every male child in order on the eighth day (Genesis 17:9-14), though he could not yet believe with the heart…for righteousness, except the sacrament in itself was of great avail? And this the angel in the case of Moses’ son revealed; for his infant, being yet uncircumcised, to avert destruction, had to be circumcised (Exodus 4:24-26) and when this was done, the angel of death withdrew. As therefore in Abraham the justification of faith came first, and circumcision was added afterwards as the seal of faith… And as in Isaac, who was circumcised on the eighth day after his birth, the seal of this righteousness of faith was given first, and afterwards, as he imitated the faith of his father, the righteousness itself followed as he grew up, of which the seal had been given before when he was an infant; so in infants, who are baptized, the sacrament of regeneration is given first, and if they maintain a Christian piety, conversion also in the heart will follow, of which the mysterious sign had gone before in the outward body.”

                “For also on the 8th day[the day of the Resurrection], Christ arose from the dead and gave us the spiritual circumcision, commanding the Apostles to baptize all nations in the name of the Trinity…and of this Jesus [Joshua], succeeding Moses as captain, formed the type, when, having led the children of Israel through the Jordan river, he then immediately circumcised them with knives of stone. Likewise, we going through Jordan [the water of Baptism], Christ circumcises us with the power of the Holy Spirit, cutting off the uncleanness from our souls. Grace having come, the old type which foreshadowed it is now done away. Circumcision had three causes: first, to mark off the seed of Abraham from the nations with a sign and seal; second, to prefigure the grace and work of divine Baptism (for anciently, by the impress of this seal, God’s people were recognized, as now the one being baptized forming with himself the sign of Christ, is adopted into God’s family); lastly, it is the symbol of the faithful who, when made strong in grace, cut away and mortify the excesses of the rebellious, pleasure-loving flesh by the swift surgery of faith and asceticism, not cutting away the body, but purifying the heart and circumcising the spirit…”(St. Kyril of Alexandria, On Luke, Homily 3.)

[14]                   The Didache(Greek, literally “that [teaching] handed down”) was first published from a Constantinople monastery archive in 1883 by Philotheos Bryennios. Western researchers then found Coptic and Ethiopic versions, assigning it to the early 2nd century or late 1st century. All modern researchers link it with the (incomplete) Syriac “Didascalia [“Discipline”] of the Holy Apostles”, St. Hippolytus of Rome’s (incomplete) “The Apostolic Tradition” and ultimately “The Constitutions of the Holy Apostles through Clement of Rome” (one of the Seventy Apostles, later made Bishop of Rome by St. Peter before his death, martyred in the early 2nd century): the Didascalia reflecting the first six books of Constitutions, the Didache a portion of the 7th Book, minus the list of bishops ordained by the Apostles, and Hippolytus’ fragment “Apostolic Tradition” reflecting book 8 of the Constitutions. Canon 85 of the Apostles lists the 8 books of Constitutions transmitted through Clement along with his 2 Epistles as to be received along with other listed canonical books, but enjoined the disciplina arcani be observed with them on account of the priestly mysteries contained therein. Ergo, later Fathers excerpted only such parts as were appropriate for limited circulation in writing to those receiving or appointed to perform the Church’s mysteries.

[15] The Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, transmitted through Clement of Rome (8:46) and St. Hippolytus of Rome (On the Apostles and Disciples) describe this Philip as Philip the Deacon, one of the seven deacons chosen in Acts (Acts 6:5) distinct from Philip of the 12(‘the Philip of the Evangelist’, Mt.10:3, Lk.6:14), explaining that, though only bishops and priests may baptize, yet in this case in special circumstances, Christ God the Great High-Priest had appointed him to fulfill the office, just as He also had done with Ananias in the case of Paul. About these cases, Tertullian notes: “But those who possess the office [of baptizing] know that baptism is not to be imparted with imprudent haste…looking rather to such precepts as ‘impart not what is holy to dogs, nor cast pearls before swine’ and ‘lay hands hastily on no man that you share not in other men’s sins’. If Philip so easily baptized the steward [of Candace], do not carelessly overlook that the manifest and conspicuous evidence that the Lord had already approved his worthiness of it. The Holy Spirit Himself enjoined Philip to proceed on that road, where the eunuch was found, not idle, like one seeking Baptism on a whim, but having already gone up to the Temple for prayer and being earnestly engaged in the study of the Divine Scriptures – thus it was that Philip, an apostle sent by God, found him, when the Holy Spirit Himself instructed Philip to join him in the chariot. The Scripture he was reading opening the way to faith for him, and having entreated Philip to expound it, the Lord being therein indicated, right faith being present, there was not need for the water to wait. The work being accomplished, the apostle is suddenly removed elsewhere. Likewise, Paul too received a speedy Baptism, for to Ananias, shortly before, it had been revealed that Paul was God’s chosen vessel, God having sent ahead before him the prophetic indication of His approval [of Paul’s speedy baptism]…And so according to the circumstances and disposition and age of each, baptism can be justly delayed…unless the [speedy] baptism is a case of necessity…” (Tertullian, On Baptism, 18)

Having explained that the rule for Baptism is triple immersion with the invocation of the Trinity, by the hand of the bishop or priest, Tertullian adds that the Church admits certain things by concession in unavoidable emergency circumstances:

 “To conclude our brief discussion, be advised also of a certain obligatory observance in giving and receiving baptism, namely, that this right belongs to the chief priest (that is, the bishop), or after him, yet not without his permission, to the presbyters and deacons, for the honor due to the ecclesiastical office being preserved, so too is the [ecclesiastical] peace. If these be lacking, however, even laymen have the right, who then impart what they themselves received; in the absence of bishops, priests, or deacons, these being unable to be called, others of the disciples may be called upon. Rather than allowing the Word of the Lord to be hidden away, or Baptism, whose power likewise belongs to God, it can be administered by any of the disciples. But seeing that the power by right belongs to their superiors, how much more a rule is it for laymen to show reverence and know their measure, lest they seem to usurp for themselves the office of bishop, which act begets schisms. The holy apostle affirming that ‘all things lawful are not always expedient’, let it suffice for safety’s sake only in cases of necessity to avail yourself of this; for when the condition of one about to perish demands it, the act of one whose boldness thus assists him is admitted by way of exception [to the rule]…” (ibid., 17), to be confirmed through laying on of hands, i.e., chrismation by the bishop (Council of Laodicaea, canons 7&46-48; cf 15th Canonical Answer of St. Timothy of Alexandria “for we know that the grace of the Holy Spirit descends by imposition of the presbyter’s hands and by prayer, as the Acts of the Apostles witness”[Acts 8:17-18, 9:16, 19:7]). St. Augustine, On Baptism Against the Donatists (Books 1&5), says that a layman or even a schismatic may baptize a dying man, the rite being of God and His Church, holy in itself, but like the military’s mark, the bearer must join Her ranks, even if marked outside, or be punished; likewise, he says, those who received the Church’s sacrament outside Her but remain in hateful opposition to Her suffer divine punishment, like the hard-hearted servant who had his 10,000 talents debt graciously forgiven by the Lord, but had this revoked for his ungracious treatment of his fellow servant.