On Triple Immersion Baptism

Apostolic Canons ca. 1st cent.

If any bishop or presbyter does not perform the one initiation with three immersions, but with giving one immersion only, into the death of the Lord, let him be deposed. For the Lord said not, 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 Ghost.(Canon 50)

The Didache ca. 70-120

And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. (Chapter 7)

Tertullian ca. 160-220

After His resurrection He promises in a pledge to His disciples that He will send them the promise of His Father; Lk. 24:49 and lastly, He commands them to baptize into the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, not into a unipersonal God. And indeed it is not once only, but three times, that we are immersed into the Three Persons, at each several mention of Their names. (Against Praxeas 26)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

…[Y]ou were led to the holy pool of Divine Baptism, as Christ was carried from the Cross to the Sepulchre which is before our eyes. And each of you was asked, whether he believed in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and you made that saving confession, and descended three times into the water, and ascended again; here also hinting by a symbol at the three days burial of Christ. For as our Saviour passed three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, so you also in your first ascent out of the water, represented the first day of Christ in the earth, and by your descent, the night; for as he who is in the night, no longer sees, but he who is in the day, remains in the light, so in the descent, as in the night, you saw nothing, but in ascending again you were as in the day. And at the self-same moment you were both dying and being born; and that Water of salvation was at once your grave and your mother. (Catechetical Lecture 20: On the Mysteries 2.4)

St. Basil of Caesarea ca. 330-379

This then is what it is to be born again of water and of the Spirit, the being made dead being effected in the water, while our life is wrought in us through the Spirit. In three immersions, then, and with three invocations, the great mystery of baptism is performed, to the end that the type of death may be fully figured, and that by the tradition of the divine knowledge the baptized may have their souls enlightened. It follows that if there is any grace in the water, it is not of the nature of the water, but of the presence of the Spirit. For baptism is not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God. (1 Pet. 3:21) (On the Holy Spirit 15.35)

Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420

For many other observances of the Churches, which are due to tradition, have acquired the authority of the written law, as for instance the practice of dipping the head three times in the laver, and then, after leaving the water, of tasting mingled milk and honey in representation of infancy; and, again, the practices of standing up in worship on the Lord’s day, and ceasing from fasting every Pentecost; and there are many other unwritten practices which have won their place through reason and custom. (The Dialogue Against the Luciferians 8)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 349-407

In Baptism are fulfilled the pledges of our covenant with God; burial and death, resurrection and life; and these take place all at once. For when we immerse our heads in the water, the old man is buried as in a tomb below, and wholly sunk forever; then as we raise them again, the new man rises in its stead. As it is easy for us to dip and to lift our heads again, so it is easy for God to bury the old man, and to show forth the new. And this is done thrice, that you may learn that the power of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost fulfills all this. (Homily 25 on the Gospel of John)

Constantinople I Second Ecumenical Council 381

But Eunomians, who are baptized with only one immersion, and Montanists, who are here called Phrygians, and Sabellians, who teach the identity of Father and Son, and do sundry other mischievous things, and [the partisans of] all other heresies— for there are many such here, particularly among those who come from the country of the Galatians:— all these, when they desire to turn to orthodoxy, we receive as heathen. On the first day we make them Christians; on the second, catechumens; on the third, we exorcise them by breathing thrice in their face and ears; and thus we instruct them and oblige them to spend some time in the Church, and to hear the Scriptures; and then we baptize them. (Canon 5)

Blessed Theodoret of Cyr ca. 393-457

He (Eunomius) subverted the law of Holy Baptism, which had been handed down from the beginning from the Lord and the Apostles, and made a contrary law, asserting that it is not necessary to immerse the candidate for baptism thrice, nor to mention the name of the Trinity, but to immerse once only into the death of Christ. (Haeret. Fabul. Bk. 4.3)

Sozomen ca. 400-450

Eunomius, who had held the church in Cyzicus in place of Eleusius, and who presided over the Arian heresy, devised another heresy besides this, which some have called by his name, but which is sometimes denominated the Anomian heresy. Some assert that Eunomius was the first who ventured to maintain that divine baptism ought to be performed by one immersion, and to corrupt, in this manner, the tradition which has been carefully handed down to the present day. He invented, it is said, a mode of discipline contrary to that of the Church, and disguised the innovation under gravity and greater severity. (Ecclesiastical History Bk. 6.26)

Pope St. Leo the Great ca. 400-461

For the Apostle Paul says, ‘Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore, we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should also walk in newness of life. For is we were planted together in the likeness of Hid death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection.’ And the teacher of the Gentiles stated this idea in other and fuller language, when he wished to recommend the sacrament of baptism. So that it appears from the spirit of his doctrine, that that day and that time has been chosen for baptizing the sons of men, and for making them the sons of God, in which, by a likeness and by the mode of administering the sacrament, those things which are performed upon the members may correspond to those which have been performed upon the Head; for while, in accordance with the rule of baptism, death intervenes by the dying unto sin, and while the trine immersion is an imitation of the three days’ burial, the rising again out the water is an image of Christ rising from the grave. (Letter 16.4)

Pope Gelasius I died ca. 496

Then let the priest baptize by trine immersion alone, invoking but once the Holy Trinity, and saying thus: And I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and let him immerse once, and of the Son, and let him immerse a second time, and of the Holy Ghost, and let him immerse a third time. (Gelasian Sacramentary or “Book of Sacraments of the Church of Rome”)

St. Dionysius the Areopagite ca. 5th cent.

When the Deacons have entirely unclothed him, the Priests bring the holy oil of the anointing. Then he begins the anointing, through the threefold sealing, and for the rest assigns the man to the Priests, for the anointing of his whole body, while himself advances to the mother of filial adoption, and when he has purified the water within it by the holy invocations, and perfected it by three cruciform effusions of the altogether most pure Myron, and by the same number of injections of the all holy Muron, and has invoked the sacred melody of the inspiration of the God-rapt Prophets, he orders the man to be brought forward; and when one of the Priests, from the register, has announced him and his surety, he is conducted by the Priests near the water to the hand of the Hierarch, being led by the hand to him. Then the Hierarch, standing above, when the Priests have again called aloud near the Hierarch within the water the name of the initiated, the Hierarch dips him three times, invoking the threefold Subsistence of the Divine Blessedness, at the three immersions and emersions of the initiated. The Priests then take him, and entrust him to the Sponsor and guide of his introduction; and when they, in conjunction with him, have cast over the initiated appropriate clothing, they lead him again to the Hierarch, who, when he has sealed the man with the most Divinely operating Myron, pronounces him to be henceforward partaker of the most Divinely initiating Eucharist. (Ecclesiastical Hierarchy 2.2.7)

Pope Pelagius of Rome died ca. 561

There are many who say that they baptize in the name of Christ alone, and by a single immersion. But the Gospel command, which was given by God Himself, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, reminds us that we should administer holy baptism to every one, in the name of the Trinity and by trine immersion, for our Lord said to His disciples, ‘Go, baptize all nations in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. (Epist. ad. Gaudent.)

St. Martin of Braga ca. 6th cent.

Now you say: “The triple invocation of the name and the triple immersion is certainly Arian.” Here is my answer: to be immersed thrice in the single name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is an ancient and apostolic tradition, which the priests of this province possess in written form on the authority of the Bishop of Rome. This same custom was observed at Pascha by the Bishop of Constantinople in the presence of delegates appointed from this kingdom to the imperial court. We have also read the letter of blessed Paul the Apostle, in which it is written: “one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism:” and the exposition of blessed Jerome, in which he confirms that they are to be immersed thrice with the invocation of the single name. If yuou wish to see it, you will find the book itself, written on papyrus and very old, in the possession of our venerable and holy brothe the priest, Ausentius. Likewise, in the “Acts of Saint Silvester” warning was given to Constantine in a vision and he was commanded to be immersed three times. Many, hearing the words of the Apostle: “one baptism,” have tried to understand this as referring to a single immersion rather than to the unity of the Catholic Faith in this, that baptism everywhere should be celebrated in a single manner. Then, in attempting to avoid approaching the custom of the Arians, who also immerse three times but in a single name, as we do, they cahnged the formula of the ancient tradition so that there should be a single immersion under a single name, not realizing that the unity of the substance is revealed in the single Name, but the distinction of the Three Persons in the triple immersion, so that–just as we believe in all truth–we demonstrate the Single Substance but the Three Persons of the Godhead. for if there is a single immersion under a single name, then only the Unity of the Deity in the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost is demonstrated, but no difference of Persons is shown.

The result is that while they try to avoid approaching the Arians, they unknowingly come near to the Sabellian heresy, which, in retaining single immersion under a single name, claims that the Father is the same as the Son and the Holy Ghost and that the Holy Ghost is the same as the Father. While not revealing in the sacrament of baptism any distinction of the Three Persons, it supposes, contrary to true faith, that there is a single person in the three words. Consequently some of the Spaniards, understanding, as it is written: “neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion,” in trying to avoid approaching the Arians, as we have said, fell unawares into another heresy. The Arians make use of the Psalms, the Apostle, the Gospels, and many other things, just as the Catholics (Orthodox) do–do we, for that reason, reject all these things in order not to approach their error? Far from it; rather it is they who have departed from us, as it is writtn, for they retain everything that we observe exept for lessening the Divinity of the Son of God and of the Holy Ghost. (Epistle Bishop Boniface)

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

For although the divine Apostle says: Into Christ and into His death were we baptized Rom. 6:3, he does not mean that the invocation of baptism must be in these words, but that baptism is an image of the death of Christ. For by the three immersions , baptism signifies the three days of our Lord’s entombment. The baptism then into Christ means that believers are baptized into Him. We could not believe in Christ if we were not taught confession in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith Bk. 4.9)

Comments

  1. Yet my bishop (Antiochian) is requiring me to enter by Christmation only????

  2. Lol. Canadian, you did a great job communicating how vexed you are. Personally, with all the ecclesiological heresies in the air I favor baptism for converts so as to emphatically state belief in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I was accepted by chrismation as well and I felt just like you do now.

    The Church has accepted western converts by chrismation for hundreds of years. Two of my favorite relatively contemporary converts accepted by chrismation are the Holy New Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth and Hieromonk Seraphim Rose. The Church in the West seems to have always done it that way thus the controversy between Pope St. Stephen and St. Cyprian. Look at the side that St. Vincent of Lerins takes:

    Once on a time then, Agripinnus, bishop of Carthage, of venerable memory, held the doctrine— and he was the first who held it— that Baptism ought to be repeated, contrary to the divine canon, contrary to the rule of the universal Church, contrary to the customs and institutions of our ancestors. This innovation drew after it such an amount of evil, that it not only gave an example of sacrilege to heretics of all sorts, but proved an occasion of error to certain Catholics even.

    When then all men protested against the novelty, and the priesthood everywhere, each as his zeal prompted him, opposed it, Pope Stephen of blessed memory, Prelate of the Apostolic See, in conjunction indeed with his colleagues but yet himself the foremost, withstood it, thinking it right, I doubt not, that as he exceeded all others in the authority of his place, so he should also in the devotion of his faith. In fine, in an epistle sent at the time to Africa, he laid down this rule: “Let there be no innovation— nothing but what has been handed down.” For that holy and prudent man well knew that true piety admits no other rule than that whatsoever things have been faithfully received from our fathers the same are to be faithfully consigned to our children; and that it is our duty, not to lead religion whither we would, but rather to follow religion whither it leads; and that it is the part of Christian modesty and gravity not to hand down our own beliefs or observances to those who come after us, but to preserve and keep what we have received from those who went before us. What then was the issue of the whole matter? What but the usual and customary one? Antiquity was retained, novelty was rejected. (Commonitory 6.16)

    With all that said though, in my opinion, all the chrismating going on today is due to ecumenism. Just my opinion…
    Check these links out. They go into how the Church has accepted western converts throughout the last millenium.
    http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/khrap_econ.aspx
    http://www.myriobiblos.gr/texts/english/Dragas_RomanCatholic.html

  3. St. Vincent of Lerins is wrong, right?

  4. The West (excluding the North Africans) had a tradition not to baptize Trinitarian converts. St. Vincent takes Pope St. Stephen’s (I.e. Rome’s) side over St. Cyprian’s. The Church has incorporated both traditions in different times.

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