There were four steps in the rite of Baptism.
1. Renouncing Satan. The festive procession took place, a dramatic triumphal procession, a marching around like at some god’s feast, at which all the idols were carried along. There were two camps, one led by Satan’s army and the other by the army of Christ. The candidates dropped out of the devil’s camp and entered the camp of Christ’s army.
2. Oil of Exorcism. As the priest addressed those who were to be baptized, they renounced Satan, saying: “I renounce you, Satan, and all your pomps and all your works.” Then they were anointed with the oil of exorcism, letting the evil spirits depart from them.
3. Triple Immersion into baptismal water.
4. When the candidate came up, each was anointed by the priest with the oil of thanksgiving, saying: “I anoint you with holy oil in the name of Jesus Christ. As they dried themselves, each put on his or her white robe; and after this, they faced the Assembly as part of the Body of Christ.
Chrism is a mixture of olive oil and balsam, a symbol of adherence to Christ, the “Anointed One.” The fragrance, mixed with oil, soothes and comforts. As for infant baptism, from the very beginning, it was taken for granted that the children of Christian parents would be baptized in infancy.
Putting on Christ and the Theme of Beauty
Of great significance was the robe. Donning the white outer robe symbolized putting on Christ, wearing Christ, as the scripture says: All those who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal 3:17).
In his many baptismal instructions, St. John Chrysostom (d 407) refers to the theme of beauty. New Christians have been anointed with the oil of gladness. They are to let their light shine out, for each of them is a new creation more brilliant than the rays of the sun.
The power of the baptismal garment cannot be overstated. The luster of this robe which time cannot touch and which age cannot dim. Prayer, above all, can guard continuously for us the luster of this special garment. If the neophytes do this well, they will be able to keep in full bloom the beauty of this spiritual robe, the baptismal robe.
The neophytes are like earthly stars, and they shine more brilliantly than those of heaven. They are the joy of the Church.
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Today’s Renewal of Baptismal Vows at Easter
At the Easter Vigil Liturgy and on Easter Sunday, Catholics renew their baptismal vows following those newly baptized. Renewal means embracing the person of Christ as the one and only Lord of the universe. God in Christ is not one of many gods, for this is Gnosticism. Our baptismal renewal is not an once-in-a-lifetime event. It is an ongoing process begun as infants when our parents and godparents promised to walk with us toward freedom in Christ. It means renouncing the pomps of Satan.
Where are the pomps of Satan today? Our post-Christian age is more exposed to subtle sins than at a less sophisticated time. We are adept at rationalizing our excuses and evasions. It is easy to defend error. Dull consciences can make error plausible and can make vice look like virtue. The devil is a liar and lures us into various ways:
Materialism denies the existence of the soul. Men and women are nothing more than a higher species of the animal kingdom.
Consumerism dictates that luxuries are necessities. I must have them, and now.
Relativism holds that morality varies according to differences in cultural and attitudes. There is no universal and objective truth to guide one’s attitude and behavior. Morality is a subjective thing.