Monday, September 29, 2014

Feast of St. Michael and All Angels


Today is the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels..  The observance of a day to honor the angel St. Michael dates to the fifth century.  It was later expanded to include all angels. .  We confess in the Nicene Creed, “I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.”  Included in this are the angels who are spiritual beings created by God to serve Him and help His people.

The Bible mentions two angels by name.  Michael is mentioned in Daniel (10:13, 21; 12:1), Jude 9 and Revelation 12:7.  On the basis of these passages he has been honored as “captain of the heavenly hosts.”  Gabriel is mentioned in Daniel 8:16 and 9:21, and was the messenger of God in the annunciation to Zechariah (Luke 1:19) and Mary (Luke 1:26).  In the Scripture reading from Revelation 12, Michael and the angels cast Satan from heaven.  This casting out of Satan took place as a result of Christ’s victory in his death, resurrection, and ascension.  No longer is Satan allowed to appear before God and accuse His people (such as we find in Zechariah 3:1-5; the name Satan means “adversary” in Hebrew). 

Scripture reading:
Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.  And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (Revelation 12:7-12).

Collect of the Day:
Everlasting God, You have ordained and constituted the service of angels and men in a wonderful order.  Mercifully grant that, as Your holy angels always serve and worship You in heaven, so by Your appointment they may also help and defend us here on earth; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.




Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sermon for the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity



                                                                                    Trinity 15
                                                                                    Mt. 6:24-34
                                                                                    9/28/14

            Many of you know that model railroading is my hobby and that I am building a layout in my basement.  As a model railroader, it has been fascinating to watch the changes that have taken place in the hobby during the last fifteen years or so.  In particular here have been two developments that have changed everything for the better … and for the worse.
            The first change has been the way that the model train engines are controlled.  In the previous decades, engines had been controlled in one way.  They operated on D.C. – direct current – and you controlled the engine by turning the power on and off from the power pack.  If you wanted to run more than one train, you had to divide your track into electrically isolated units, and then use a rotary switch to assign that section to one of several power packs.  This allowed you to run several trains at once – but you had always to make sure that each section was assigned to the correct power pack.
            The advent of DCC – Digitial Command Control – has changed everything.  In this system there is current constantly fed into the track.  The controller sends out a digital packet of information through the track telling a particular engine what to do.  Each engine has a decoder in it, and only the engine for which that information is intended can read it.  This means that you can control two engines independently that are right next to each other.  It lets you run trains like a real railroad.
            The second great change has been sound equipped engines. Advances in miniaturization have made it possible to put sound units in model engines.  And we aren’t talking about generic railroad sounds.  We are talking about the exact sounds made by a particular kind of diesel or steam engine.  Sound equipped engines sound like the real thing and they are blast to run.
            All of this is great.  But it does create some problems.  In order to run an engine on DCC it must have decoder in it.  This means that every engine you own and ran on the standard DC system is now useless until you buy decoders for them.  You can get a basic decoder for a little more than $20, which isn’t too bad. The problem was that when I made the transition you were talking about fifteen engines or so.  And since I have four children to feed, clothe and put through college, it has been a very gradual process of equipping engines so that they can actually run on my layout.
            The other problem is that sound equipped engines sound so good. The joke in model railroading is that if you have one sound equipped engine, then you only have one engine. It’s the only one you are going to want to run, and the moment it arrives on the layout all the other engines no longer seem that great. And let’s just say that the many of my engines don’t have sound because sound is expensive.
            So the hobby is better than it has ever been. And at the same time it has become more expensive than it has ever been. It’s more expensive, and you really aren’t satisfied if you can’t run all your engines yet or they don’t make that prototypical sound.  Thoughts turn to the answer  for this problem, which is money … and how you just don’t have enough of it.
            The experience in model railroad illustrates exactly what our Lord Jesus is talking about this morning when he says: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
            This morning our text takes up a basic issue of the First Commandment.  And frankly, you aren’t going to like what I have to say.  Honestly, I don’t like what I have to say, because like all of you, I like nice stuff.  It’s fun.  It’s enjoyable.  And the truth is that we don’t want to admit how much the old Adam in us clings to the stuff of this world that money can buy.
            In our text this morning, Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”  Our Lord introduces this statement by saying “therefore,” or more literally, “because of this.”
            His statement draws a conclusion that is based on what he has just said. Now I just quoted the verse that precedes it.  But actually, this is the third of three statements that together provide the foundation for all the Jesus says in our text this morning.
            First Jesus says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Christ reminds us that what we treasure and value is the true focus of our life – it’s where our heart is.  He urges us to treasure the things of God which are lasting and permanent, and not the treasures of this world which are transitory and perish.
            Next our Lord says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”  The ancient world described light as coming out of the eye.  Jesus says that your choices and life reveal what is inside you.
            And then at the beginning of our text, in the third statement Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”  The reality is that there can only be one Lord – one master.  Someone or something is going to be in charge – it is going to run the show. And as we live in this world there are two candidates for this position God and money.  Of course when Jesus says “money” he referring to all that goes with it.  This includes all the reasons we want money – all the things we want to own: the bigger house, the interior decorating, the clothes, the vacations, the car, the electronic gadgets … and yes, the sound equipped model railroad steam engine.
            All of these things become our lord – they become our god. They become the thing that is really important to us. They become the thing that really makes us happy. They become the thing that really gives us a sense of worth, value and success.
            Our Lord tells us today that this is wrong.  It is sin.  It is idolatry.  It is putting a false god before the true God.
            Instead, the triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit - is to be our God.  Jesus tells us today that when God is our true God, we do indeed lose something: we lose worry.  Christ says in our text, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Jesus says don’t worry about food and drink and clothing.  After all, God provides for the needs of the birds, and you are worth far more to him than they are. 
            Our Lord asks, “And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” 
            You need to understand that Jesus spoke these words to people who were far poorer than you are.  He speaks of food and drink and clothing – of daily bread.  The reality is that God doesn’t promise you must of the stuff you think is important and necessary for life.  Oh yes it is nice.  But all too easily it becomes a gilded cage.  The new iPhone6 makes you happy – until its current software problems make you want to pull your hair out.  You love your big flat screen TV and new furniture – until you look at your credit card bill and fret about how you are ever going to get out of debt. You make it your god – but this is a god that enslaves you.
            The answer to all of this are the words at the end of our text as Jesus says, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
            Jesus says don’t worry, and instead seek God’s kingdom and righteousness.  When our Lord refers to God’s kingdom and righteousness, he is speaking about himself.  For it is in Jesus that God’s reign and his saving righteousness entered into the world.  By his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead he has freed you from the slavery of Satan, sin and death.  He has freed you to be the people of God. And God’s people can trust that the One who redeemed them with the death of his own Son will certainly provide them with food and drink and clothing.
            We seek God’s kingdom and righteousness by seeking Jesus. And we seek Jesus in his Means of Grace for it is there that Christ’s saving reign continues to be present for us.  It is through his Word; through Baptism; though Abosolution; and through the Sacrament of the Altar that we receive forgiveness for all the times we have made money and possessions our god.  It is through these life giving means that we are freed from the burden of guilt.  It is through these gifts of Christ that we are forgiven for all those time we have been people of little faith.
            And it is through these means, that Jesus enables us to be people of great faith.  For through the Means of Grace the Holy Spirit nurtures us so that we can begin to see money and possessions for what they really are.  The Spirit leads us away from worry and toward trust in God because the One who gives us forgiveness and salvation will not fail to give us the things we need to support this body and life.  After all, our heavenly Father knows that we need them.  He doesn’t promise more than that.  But he does promise that in Jesus Christ we have more than we will ever need.
           

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Mark's thoughts: The weird and wacky history of Confirmation, pt. 7 - Confirmation is born in Gaul



(Sacramentarium Gregorianum Hadrianum)

In the previous post I examined the four factors that were in place in Gaul in the middle of the eighth century that would help to create the medieval sacrament of Confirmation and its theology.  First, there was an established terminology of “confirmation” that was associated with the assumption that the validity of Christian initiation depends on the involvement of the bishop. Second, Gaul was a geographically large area in which it would be impossible for bishops to be present for major occasions of baptism in all places (not to mention the emergency baptism of infants that was a pressing concern of the Church in an era of high infant mortality). Third, there was a developed belief that not only was the Holy Spirit at work in the water of baptism, but also that the Spirit was given through the chrismation performed by a presbyter.  Fourth, the text of the Pentecost sermon in the Eusebius Gallicanus collection existed (or would exist before the Carolingian period was over) which provided a theological explanation linking confirmation and the Spirit. 

In this post we will examine how the ritual practice of imposition of the hand and a second chrismation by the bishop arrived from Rome into Gaul.  In Gaul, these new practices in the baptismal ritual encountered the factors just listed.  The combination initiated the creation of something new: Confirmation.

I. Roman liturgy in Gaul before the Carolingians
When considering liturgical evidence from Gaul, we must bear in mind the following observation by Cyrille Vogel: 
The coexistence of liturgical books of various types is a fact of capital importance for the history of the liturgy.  The introduction of new and more developed books did not, of itself, set aside earlier or less evolved texts.  Even at Rome the Old Gelasian continued to be used side by side with the Gregorian Sacramentary.  In Frankish Gaul this was even more the case since Roman innovations  appeared  only sporadically – before the  Carolingians – as the result of private initiatives.  Even the Romanizing process promoted by the Carolingians had no immediate  impact on such a situation.  Rather than eliminating the older liturgical books, it contributed to the multiplication of books both new and old.   Further liturgical evolution came as a result of mutual interaction between the various strands of  the tradition as books continued to be copied.[1]
The history of the development of the western liturgy in general is a movement from Rome to Gaul, and then back to Rome.[2]  The introduction of Roman liturgical texts and practices did not require imposition by royal or ecclesiastical forces.  Instead many people in Gaul eagerly took up for their own setting the liturgy they experienced in Rome.

We have discussed the Old Gelasian Sacramentary (Reg 316) as a witness to liturgy used in Rome (probably from the mid-seventh century).[3] However it is important to recognize that the manuscript Reg 316 was copied around 750 in Chelles, near Paris.  Because of its relation to several Gallican sacramentaries, Vogel concludes that it must have arrived in Gaul by the late seventh century.[4]  The Old Gelasian was a Roman  text being used in Gaul (and in turn modified with Gallican features) prior to the rise of the Carolingnians.  Vogel notes: 
We have no idea who first brought the Gelasian Sacramentary to Gaul. It was probably pious pilgrims who had come to admire the Roman rite as they saw it celebrated in the City itself; it might have been Benedictine (?) monks in view of of the monastic formulae included in the book as it stands.  In any case, it circulated widely in the Kingdom of the Franks, even before the reforms undertaken by Pepin III (751-768), and was one of the principle agents of Romanization there long before any royal initiatives on that score.[5]
This means that at the end of the seventh century and the beginning of the eighth century, the following text described what happened in many places in Gaul after the presbyter had baptized the individual and signed him or her with chrism on the head:

Then the sevenfold Spirit is given to them by the bishop.  To seal them [ad consignandum], he lays his hand upon them with these words:
Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has made your servants to be regenerated of water and the Holy Spirit, and has given them remission of all their sins, Lord, send upon them you Holy Spirit the Paraclete, and give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and godliness, and fill them with the spirit of fear of God, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ with whom you live and reign ever God with the Holy Spirit, throughout all ages of ages. Amen.

Then he signs them on the forehead with chrism saying:
The sign of Christ unto life eternal.[6]

The sacramentaries provided the text of the prayers and words to be spoken.  However they provided very little guidance about how the ritual was to be conducted.  These directions were provided by the ordines.  Like the Old Gelasian Sacramentary, the ordines were carried north from Rome by those who wished to emulate the liturgy there.  Vogel comments that, “Before they were gathered together in collections, each ordo – which decribed a single actio liturgica or some part thereof – existed completely on its own.  The various Roman ordines which traveled northward across the Alps arrived independently and were gathered together for the first time only in Gaul.”[7]  These collections were created in order “to make available in a minimum number of volumes the many texts the many texts describing the rites of the Roman Church.”[8]

Ordo XI describes the Roman baptismal liturgy in the same basic time period as the Old Gelesian Sacramentary.  Yet here again, it was included in a collection that was assembled in Gaul by around 750.  Palazzo concludes about these texts: 
Very probably each ordo of the collection was introduced into Gaul in the first half of the eighth century through the intermediary of individuals returning from Rome  and fascinated by Rome and its liturgy.  It is only at the time of the first Romanization of the Gallican liturgy by Pepin the Short, that the ordines bearing the strongest Roman stamp were gathered into collections.[9] 
 Therefore during the first half of the eighth century there were settings in Gaul in which the presbyter made the sign of the cross with chrism upon the crown of the heads of those baptized (XI.97).  Then after this first chrismation the following describes what was done by the bishop:
And being vested, they are arranged in order as their names are written, in a circle, and the pontiff makes a prayer over them confirming them with an invocation of the sevenfold grace of the Holy Spirit.  When the prayer has been said, he makes the  sign of the cross with his thumb and chrism on the forehead of each one saying: In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Peace be to you.  And they reply: Amen. Great care must be taken that this is not neglected, because it is at this point that every baptism is confirmed and justification made for the name of Christianity (XI.100-102).[10]
It is often asserted that Pepin III (751-768) and Charlemagne (768-814) engaged in programs that sought to Romanize the liturgy in Gaul.  We will see that the liturgical evidence regarding baptism indicates that the matter is not quite so straightforward.  Yet even before such programs could have started, there were already settings in Gaul that had introduced the Roman practice of a post-baptismal imposition of the hand and a second chrismation performed by the bishop. This situation became more and more common during the rule of the Carolingians.
 
II. Bishop’s post-baptismal actions meet the language of “confirmation”
We have seen that even before the Carolingians came to power, the bishop’s postbaptismal actions of the Roman rite were entering into Gaul.  This process continued and advanced under the Carolingians.  This is a crucial moment in the development of Confirmation.  Johnson describes that:
As the Roman rite, especially the bishop’s postbaptismal ceremonies of   handlaying and anointing, was adopted throughout western Europe, thanks to Charlemagne’s program of liturgical, ecclesiastical, and political uniformity, it encountered in Gaul, primarily, the terminology of “confirmation” used already, as we have also seen, in various local councils to refer to the bishop’s postbaptismal involvement in Christian initiation.[11]
We have just seen an example of this in Ordo XI which says, “Great care must be taken that this is not neglected, because it is at this point that every baptism is confirmed and justification made for the name of Christianity” (XI.102).[12]  Fisher notes that here, “Evidently the bishops hand-laying and anointing are held to confirm the baptism, in the sense of completing, consummating, and sealing it.  So in Ordo XXXI perficitur is substituted for confirmatur.”[13]

The language begins to become more specific during this period.  Texts begin to describe how the bishop must confirm with chrism (Autun Sacramentary 106:542-542a; Jesse, Letter on Baptism; Gelasian Sacramentary of Gellone, “Order for Baptizing the Sick,” 2382ff.; Order 15 117-120).[14]  Language very similar to Ordo XI becomes common, such as in the Gelasian Sacramentary of Gellone: “Take care that this not be neglected, because then every lawful baptism may be confirmed in the name of Christianity” (710-713).[15]  Almost identical language is found in the Autun Sacramentary (106:542-542a), Ordo 28 (76-79) and Ordo 28A (76-79).[16] 

Johnson notes that during this period: 
It is not altogether clear, however, which of the Roman postbaptismal rites to be   performed by the bishop – whether the handlaying with prayer for the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit or the subsequent anointing – comprised this newly developing “confirmation” rite in the early Middle Ages.[17]
This is not surprising since the two actions happened consecutively and were performed only by the bishop.  During the examination of the development of confirmation we have seen that while under the influence of Acts 8 the most common understanding has been that the imposition of the hand gives the Spirit, there has also been a significant opinion that chrismation gives the Spirit.

III. Charlemagne and baptism
Susan Keefe has emphasized the importance that baptism held during the Carolingian period.  She comments: 
The rite of baptism played a crucial role in the Carolingian world with its great divide between the baptized and the unbaptized: the faithful and the infidels. Baptism established one’s identity in society and membership in the church. The Franks perceived baptism as a realignment of allegiances.  An exchange of lords took place.  Pagan, heathen, or infant renounced the devil and idolatry and professed faith in the Triune God.[18]
In 812 Charlemagne sent out a circular letter to the bishops asking a series of questions about how baptism was practiced and understood in their church.  We possess a number of the responses that were written by the bishops and they provide important insight into the rite of baptism used in those churches and also into the character of Charlemagene’s “liturgical reform.”  It has been an assumption of medieval liturgical scholarship that Pepin III and then Charlemagne engaged in a liturgical reform program that sought to unify the liturgy used in their land.

However Keefe and Byer have recently argued convincingly that the evidence does not support such a claim for three reasons.  First, Keefe observes:
The reform legislation is what has led some liturgical historians to state that the goal of the reformers was the conformity of the liturgy according to the Roman rite.  The legislation regarding baptism, however, ranges from saying nothing at all about “Roman,” to vague terms such as “the Roman custom” or “the Roman tradition,” to certain imprecisely defined rites, such as the rite of the scrutinies, or the Paschal and Pentecost rite.[19]
Second, she notes that Charlemagne’s baptismal questions do not provide any evidence of a desire to impose one rite of baptism.  The questions about the parts of the baptismal rite follow no known liturgical ordo. Furthermore, Keefe points out: “He never uses the word ‘Roman,’ and he omits the topics of triple immersion and a second post-baptismal chrismation (episcopal confirmation), two chief features of the Roman rite in contrast to the Spanish custom of a single immersion and the Old Gallican and north-Italian custom of only one post-baptismal chrismation.”[20]

Finally, the liturgical evidence itself does not demonstrate anything close to a unified baptismal rite.  Instead, there is tremendous local diversity.  Keefe points out that, “Historians have been fascinated by the diversity because the opposite was supposed to be true. The Carolingian Reform was supposed to have achieved standardization and conformity in liturgical practice.”[21]

Like Keefe, Byer concludes on the basis of a careful examination of the responses to Charlemagne that: 
 …it is no longer possible to attribute to Charlemagne the strong Romanization     policy mentioned as a matter of course in scholarly work.  There is no evidence in these documents of an attempt to enforce a unified ritual or in fact a single mode of celebration.  The responses in their great variety show that the details of  individual rites were not celebrated in a uniform way. What mattered was teaching the proper celebration, so that the people entrusted to emperor’s [sic] leadership would be brought to God.  There were any number of ways in which one might follow the Romans without a line by line accord, or even an identical ordering of elements within the ritual.[22]
Keefe concludes that one feature which identified a baptismal ordo as “Roman” was the presence of the Lenten scrutinies:
These Texts show that the Roman ordo of baptism was not a single text, such as OR XI or the Reginenis, which had acquired some sort of official recognition. The “Roman ordo of baptism” meant a type of rite, of which  there could be numerous legitimate variations.  The single most important feature of this type for some Carolingians seems to have been the observation of scrutinies during Lent in preparation for Easter baptism.[23]
 Keefe argues that, “The main reason Charlemagne sent out his questionnaire was not to promote the Roman rite of baptism, but baptismal instruction.  The education of the clergy, not liturgical conformity to a specific ordo, was uppermost in his mind.”[24]

While strict uniformity may not have been Charlemagne’s goal, there is no doubt that he was interested in the Roman liturgy as the standard for his land.  Charlemagne sent a request to Pope Hadrian (772-795) asking for a pure (inmixtum) Gregorian Sacramentary.  He wanted a sacramentary from Gregory I without any non-Gregorian additions.[25]  When the copy arrived at Aachen, Charlemagne’s “court liturgists promptly understood that they were dealing with a festive Sacramentary intended to be used on certain feasts only and clearly ill-adapted to the daily liturgical needs of a parish.”[26]

The form of the Gregorian sent to Charlemagne is designated as the Hadrianum. Since the text was ill-suited for the needs of Charlemangne’s lands, Benedict of Aniane created a supplement for the Hadrianum.  It drew upon available materials (such as the Old Gelasian, Type II Gregorian and Eighth-Century Gelasian) and was appended to the Hadrianum with a preface.  However from about 850 on the contents of the supplement were dispersed throughout the Hadrianum.[27]  In this form the book was enormously successful and provided the core of what became the Missale Romanum.

IV. The baptismal rite in the Supplement
The baptismal rite in the Supplement would prove to be enormously important.  Vogel notes that, “Although the baptism of infants became the rule, the medieval Church never developed a proper rite of baptism for such occasions.  Earlier on, it used Ordo XI and its variants even for children and, later, this order of the Supplement and another abbreviated Ordo baptismi infirmum for those in danger of death (clinical baptism).”[28] The text of the Supplement would set the direction for baptismal practice in the West.  It states:
 As the infants come up from the font the presbyter makes the sign of the cross out of chrism with his thumb on the crown of their head, saying this prayer:
God the almighty Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given you rebirth by  water and the Holy Spirit and who gave you forgiveness of all your sins, himself  anoints you with the chrism of salvation in Jesus Christ our Lord for eternal life. R. Amen.

And the infants are dressed in their garments. But if a bishop is present, they must be confirmed at once, and afterwards receive Communion. And if the bishop is not there, let them be given Communion by the presbyter, saying thus,
The body of our Lord Jesus Christ protect you for eternal life. Amen
(Gregorian Sacramentary “Aniane” 1086-9).[29]
VI. The necessity of being “confirmed”
The Supplement established the standard that those baptized needed to be “confirmed” by the bishop using the post-baptismal actions of imposition of the hand and chrismation by the bishop.  If the bishop wasn’t present, then this was omitted at the time of baptism.  However, it was something that still needed to take place.  The expectation of the Church was that at some point the individual would be presented to the bishop in order to be “confirmed.” So for example, in Gaul Order 15 (775–780),  which was influenced by Ordo XI and the Gelasian Sacramentary, provided baptismal rites for a presbyter who served a monastery, city, or village where the bishop might not be present for a baptism.  It states: “But the baptized infants, if they are able to have a bishop present, ought to be confirmed with chrism. If they are unable to find a bishop on that very day, they should have this done without delay as soon as they are able to find one” (117-120).[30]

Church legislation and falsely attributed statements began to appear that emphasized this requirement. Thus the Council of Aix-la-Chapelle (836) stated, “After sacred baptism has been received, one should not go on without the imposition of the bishop’s hand, and then be trained to know the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed” (2b:5).[31]  A similar statement was included in the False Decretals and attributed to Pope Urban I: “For after baptism, all the faithful ought to receive the Holy Spirit through the imposition of the hand of bishops, so that they may fully become Christians” (Pseudo-Isidore Decretals, Urban I).[32]

Turner reports that, “The False Decretals also emended a passage from the Clementine Recognitions. The original merely encouraged everyone to be baptized. The ninth-century version urged all to be baptized, but also consigned by the bishop. The Decretals attributed the entire statement to Pope Clement I.”[33]  It stated:
All therefore must hasten without delay to be reborn by God and then consigned by the bishop, that is to receive the sevenfold grace of the Holy Spirit, because the end of each one’s life is unknown. But after they were reborn through water, they were confirmed by the bishop with the grace of the sevenfold Spirit, as it will be recalled. Otherwise they will in no way be able to be perfect Christians, nor have a seat among the perfect, if they remain [unconfirmed] not by necessity but through carelessness or choice. We have received this from the blessed apostle  Peter, as the other holy apostles taught by the Lord’s command. Finally, they show in themselves by their good works the likeness of the Father who gave them birth (Pseudo-Isidore Decretals, Letter of Pope Clement).[34]
The act of being confirmed by the bishop provides the sevenfold grace of the Holy Spirit – something new and additional to the Christian.  Since all were not confirmed at the time of baptism itself, the possibility was open that they might never receive it before dying.  Ruotger addressed this problem by saying that children should be confirmed before they knew how to sin.  Turner observes that, “This appears to be the earliest attempt to set an upper age limit for confirmation. Ruotger preferred that children be confirmed while they were still infants, before what later generations would call the age of discretion or reason.”[35]  He wrote:
Infants should not delay to be confirmed. We also desire that presbyters announce to everyone that they should bring their infants to confirmation . . .  before they know how to sin. We know that through this gift the perfection of Christianity is received, and without it, it is most dangerous to depart from this light (Collection of Canons 33).[36]
VII. The beginning of theological reflection about “confirmation”
In the previous post we considered the Pentecost sermon included in the Eusebius Gallicanus collection that has been attributed to the fifth century bishop, Faustus of Riez. We saw that some scholars question this attribution and instead believe it is a Carolingian era text.

The sermon states:

What the imposition of the hand bestows in confirming individual neophytes, the descent of the Holy Spirit gave people then in the world of believers … the Holy Spirit, who descends upon the waters of baptism by a salvific falling, bestows on the font a fullness toward innocence, and presents in confirmation an increase for grace.  And because in this world we who will be prevailing must walk in every age between invisible enemies and dangers, we are reborn in baptism for life, and we confirmed after baptism for the strife.  In baptism we are washed; after baptism we are strengthened.  And although the benefits of rebirth suffice immediately for those about to die, nevertheless the helps of confirmation are necessary for those who will prevail. Rebirth in itself saves those needing to be received in the peace of the blessed age.  Confirmation arms and supplies those needing to be preserved for the struggles and battles of this world.  But the one who arrives at death after baptism, unstained with acquired innocence, is confirmed by death because one can no long sin after death.[37] 

This text clearly distinguishes baptism from confirmation.  The Spirit is at work through water of baptism as the individual is reborn, washed and saved.  However in confirmation the believer receives something new and additional through the work of the Spirit. There is an increase for grace as the believer is strengthened so that they can prevail in the strife of living in this world. 

This idea of strengthening through the bishop’s post-baptismal action is also found in an important text that has been associated with Alcuin (identified as Text 9 by Keefe in her recent edition).[38]  Keefe reports that it is connected with Alcuin “because in its earliest manuscripts it is contained in two letters of Alcuin, one to monks in Septimania and one to a priest name Oduin, both written circa 798.  Whether Alcuin himself composed 'Primo paganus' at the time of the letters, or only incorporated it into them, he certainly endorsed its description of baptism.”[39] It was the most frequently copied of the baptismal responses.[40]

Text 9’s description is surprising because the bishop’s action takes place after the baptized has been communed, and therefore does not follow follow the Roman ordering.  The idea of “strengthening” also appears prominently here. It states, “Finally he receives the septiform gift of the Holy Spirit through the imposition of the bishop’s hand, so that he is strengthened [roboretur] through the Holy Spirit to preach to others, who through grace in baptism was bestowed with eternal life.”[41]  The text does not mention chrismation by the bishop.  Fisher thinks that the rite probably did include this since Alcuin’s student Rabanus Maurus includes it in a fuller description of what is likely to be the same rite.[42]

Because of Charlemagne’s policy of forced baptism among conquered Saxons and Avars, Alcuin had focused thought upon adults and his statement about “to preach to others” fits this (Alcuin urged Charlemagne to abandon the use of force and Arno of Salzburg and Paulinus of Aquileia led a synod in 796 that called for an end to forced conversions).[43]  Magnus of Sens also used the idea of “strengthening”  but modified it in a way that fit with the infant baptism that was the norm in settled areas of the Church.    He wrote: 
Then after all the sacraments of baptism have been completed, they finally receive the spirit of sevenfold grace through the imposition of the hand by the high priest, so that they may be strengthened [corroborentur] in right faith through the Holy Spirit. And therefore the imposition of the hand follows, so that the Holy Spirit may be called upon and invited through a blessing. Then it should be known that as the other sacraments of baptism happen visibly through priests,  and they are consecrated invisibly through the Lord, so also the grace of the Holy Spirit is handed over through the imposition of the hands of the bishops to the faithful, and confirmed by the Lord (Pamphlet on the Mystery of Baptism).[44]
The one confirmed receives the sevenfold grace of the Spirit and is strengthened in the right faith in a way that goes beyond baptism.

Finally, a text written by Rabanus Maurus states: 
Finally the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, given through the grace of eternal life, is bestowed on them by the bishop through the imposition of the hand, so that they may be strengthened through the Holy Spirit for preaching to others the same gift which they received in baptism. For the baptized are signed with chrism on the top of the head by the priest, but on the forehead by the bishop, so that the descent of the Holy Spirit upon them may be signified in the first anointing to consecrate the dwelling for God, and the sevenfold grace of the same Holy Spirit may be said to come on them in the second with all fullness of sanctity and knowledge and strength (The Instruction of Clerics, 1:29ff).[45]
Rabanus indicates that the Spirit is given twice – once by each chrismation. The presbyter’s chrismation on the top of the head consecrates the individual as a dwelling for God.  The bishop’s chrismation on the forehead gives the sevenfold grace of the same Spirit to strengthen the individual for preaching to others (the exact same explanation as found in his teacher Alcuin).

Rabanus justifies the twin giving of the Spirit by pointing to salvation history.  He writes,
Nor is it strange that the man should be twice anointed with the same chrism for receiving the Holy Spirit, when the same Holy Spirit was given to the Apostles themselves twice over – that is, once upon earth when after his resurrection the Lord breathed upon them, and once from heaven, when, after the ascension of the Lord, he came upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost in fiery tongues, and granted them to speak in the tongues of all nations (The Instruction of Clerics 1:30).[46]
Rabanus’ explanation is all the more striking when it is recognized that in the baptismal ordo that he knew, the bishop’s action took place a week after Easter on the Octave of Easter.

Nathan Mitchell has emphasized the significance of Rabanus’ explanation and what he has written deserves to be quoted in its entirety:
Whatever the ritual success of Carolingian reforms in Gaul, their impact on subsequent theology was enormous.  The ninth century Rabanus Maurus (+856  AD) developed a theological interpretation of the postbaptismal imposition of hands which was to have lasting repercussions.  While he does not deny that the Spirit is associated with the presbyteral anointing of the neophyte’s head after baptism, Rabanus argues that the episcopal imposition of hand and chrismaton confer the Spirit.  This sort of language forces him to explain the difference between the two postbaptismal acts.  His explanation sounds ominously familiar: the first anointing after baptism, done by the presbyter, effects the descent of the Spirit and the consecration of the Christian; the second anointing, the episcopal chrismation and laying on of hands, brings the grace of the Spirit into the baptized “with all the fullness of sanctify, knowledge and power.”

This kind of theological rationale is bolstered by the rite with which Rabanus was familiar.  In that rite the postcommunion imposition of hands was not performed immediately after the Mass of the Paschal Vigil, but rather a week later on the Octave of Easter.  We should notice, then, what has happened: the pre-Carolingian rite in Gaul might have been content to say that full initiation has been accomplished by the presbyterial anointing of the neophyte’s head, but      under the pressure of reform, the Episcopal  imposition of hand and christmation is added a week later.  Fisher is probably right when he suggests that this represents another Gallican effort to supply whatever by Roman standards was lacking. Rabanus offers a theological justification for what had become a ritual fact.  Morever we begin to see a time wedge being inserted between the various parts of Christian baptism.  Thus by the early ninth century we are already well on the road to “confirmation,” to a split in the ensemble of initiation rites, and to a style of theology that will legitimate them both.[47] 
VII. Conclusion
The eighth and ninth centuries proved to be a critical time in the development of the Sacrament of Confirmation which existed at the time of the Reformation.  The language of “confirmation” in Gaul that was associated with the legitimizing work of the bishop encountered the post-baptismal rites from Rome that were limited to the bishop alone.  A setting that already believed that the Spirit was given through chrismation by the presbyter now added a second chrismation administered by the bishop that bestowed the sevenfold gift of the Spirit.

The ritual now required a theological explanation and prompted theological reflection about itself.  What was the relationship between these two chrismations that provided the Spirit?  The question became more acute as the bishop’s post-baptismal actions were separated from the occasion of baptism itself – a situation that soon became the norm because of developments in the timing and location of baptism.

Previously in this series: The weird and wacky history of Confiramtion, Part 6 - The stage is set in Gaul for Confirmation.

Next in this series: The bishop is separated from baptism




[1] Cyrille Vogel, Medieval Liturgy: An Introduction to the Sources (Tr. and rev. William Storey and Niels Rasmussen; Washington, D.C.: The Pastoral Press, 1986), 63-64.
[2] A helpful introduction to this is: Theodor Klauser, A Short History of the Western Liturgy: An account and some reflections (2d ed.; Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1979).
[3] Eric Palazzo, A History of Liturgical Books: From the Beginning to the Thirteenth Century (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1998), 45.
[4] Vogel, Medieval Liturgy, 70.
[5] Vogel, Medieval Liturgy, 70.
[6] E.C. Whitaker, Documents of the Baptismal Liturgy (rev. and ed. Maxwell E. Johnson; Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2003), 235 (hereafter DBL).
[7] Vogel, Medieval Liturgy, 138.
[8] Palazzo, A History of Liturgical Books, 181.
[9] Palazzo, A History of Liturgical Books, 183.
[10] DBL 251.
[11] Maxwell E. Johnson, The Rites of Christian Initiation: Their Evolution and Interpretation (rev. and exp.; Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2007), 248.
[12] DBL 251.
[13] Fisher, Christian Initiation: Baptism in the Medieval West, 163.
[14] Paul Turner, Ages of Initiation: The First Two Christian Millenia (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2000), CD-ROM source excerpts, 5.3 Baptism, Anointing, Eucharist; 5.6 Emergency Baptisms: Rituals
[15] Turner, Ages of Initiation, CD-ROM source excerpts, 5.3 Baptism, Anointing, Eucharist.
[16] Turner, Ages of Initiation, CD-ROM source excerpts, 5.3 Baptism, Anointing, Eucharist.
[17] Johnson, The Rites of Christian Initiation, 248.
[18] Susan A. Keefe, Water and the Word: Baptism and the Education of the Clergy in the Carolingian Empire Vol. 1 (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2002), 3.
[19] Keefe, Water and the Word, 67.
[20] Keefe, Water and the Word, 151.
[21] Keefe, Water and the Word, 68.
[22] Glenn C.J. Byer, Charlemagne and Baptism: A Study of Responses to the Circular Letter of 811/812 (San Francisco: International Scholars Publications, 1999), 161.
[23] Keefe, Water and the Word, 151.
[24] Keefe, Water and the Word, 90.
[25] Vogel, Medieval Liturgy, 80.
[26] Palazzo, A History of Liturgical Books, 52.
[27] Palazzo, A History of Liturgical Books, 52-53.
[28] Vogel, Medieval Liturgy, 166.
[29] Turner, Ages of Initiation, CD-ROM source excerpts, 5.7 Baptism and Eucharist before Confirmation.
[30] Turner, Ages of Initiation, CD-ROM source excerpts, 5.7 Baptism and Eucharist before Confirmation.
[31] Turner, Ages of Initiation, CD-ROM source excerpts, 6.10 No Confirmation.
[32] Turner, Ages of Initiation, CD-ROM source excerpts, 6.10 No Confirmation.
[33] Turner, Ages of Initiation, CD-ROM source excerpts, 6.10 No Confirmation.
[34] Turner, Ages of Initiation, CD-ROM source excerpts, 6.10 No Confirmation.
[35] Turner, Ages of Initiation, CD-ROM source excerpts, 6.10 No Confirmation.
[36] Turner, Ages of Initiation, CD-ROM source excerpts, 6.10 No Confirmation.
[37] DBL 257-258.
[38] Susan A. Keefe, Water and the Word: Baptism and the Education of the Clergy in the Carolingian Empire Vol II Editions of Texts (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2002), 238).
[39] Keefe, Water and the Word Vol. 1, 80.
[40] Keefe, Water and the Word Vol. 1, 80.
[41] Keefe, Water and the Word Vol. 1, 82.
[42] J.D.C. Fisher, Christian Initiation: Baptism in the Medieval West – A Study in the Disintegration of the Primitive Rite of Initiation (Chicago: HillenbrandBooks, 2004), 65.
[43] Fisher, Christian Initiation, 64; Byer, Charlemagne and Baptism, 73-74.
[44] Turner, Ages of Initiation, CD-ROM source excerpts, 5.3 Baptism, Anointing, Eucharist.

[45] Turner, Ages of Initiation, CD-ROM source excerpts, 6.8 The Ministry of Bishops.
[46] Fisher, Christian Initiation, 68.
[47] Nathan D. Mitchell, “Dissolution of the Rite of Christian Initiation” in Made, Not Born: New Perspectives on Christian Initiation and the Catechumenate (Notre Dame: Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 1976) 50-82, 55-56 (emphasis original).