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OF THE INSTITUTION OF THE CATECHUMENS, AND THE
of the names
Of the several names of catechumens, and the solemnity that was used in admitting them to that state in the Church. Also of catechizing, and the time of their continuance in that exercise.
were disciplined and And to speak of these necessary to begin with
1. HAVING hitherto discoursed of the several orders of Kaтnxoμ- men, which made up the great body of the Christian Church, vot, noviti- and of churches themselves, or places of worship, and of the oli, tyrones, &c. several districts into which the body diffusive was divided, I come now to consider the service of the Church, or its public offices and exercises, by which men trained up to the kingdom of Heaven. in their most natural order, it will be the institution of the catechumens, who were the lowest order of men that had any title to the common name of Christians, and their instruction was the first part of the Church's service. Some things relating to these have been already touched upon in speaking of the difference between them and the morol, or perfect Christians, in the first Book1. The office of the catechist has also been considered in speaking of the inferior orders of the clergy 2: and the places of instruction, or catechetic schools, have been treated of in the account that has been given of the ancient churches. So that, omitting these things, I shall only speak in this place of such rites and customs as were observed in the practice of the Church in training up the catechumens, and preparing them for baptism; premising something concerning the several names that were given them. 1 B. 1. ch. 4. s. 5. v. I. p. 33. 2 B. 3. ch. 10. v. I. p. 343. 3 B. 8. ch. 7. s. 12. v. 3. p. 133.
They were called catechumens from the Greek words kaτηxé and karnynois, which signify in general the instruction that is given in the first elements or rudiments of any art or science; but in a more restrained ecclesiastical sense, the instruction of men in the first principles of the Christian religion. Hence they had also the names of novitioli and tyrones Dei, new soldiers of God, as we find in Tertullian and St. Austin, 4 because they were just entering upon that state which made them soldiers of God and candidates of eternal life. They are sometimes also called audientes, hearers, from their instruction; though that name more commonly denotes one particular sort of them, such as were allowed to hear sermons only, but not to partake in any of the prayers of the Church of which more hereafter in the following chapter.
sion of ca
2. I have already observed in another place that the cate- Imposition chumens, by virtue of their admission into that state, had some used in the title to the common name of Christians also; being a degree first admishigher than either heathens or heretics, though not yet con- techumens. summated by the waters of baptism. And upon this account they were admitted to this state, not without some ceremony and solemnity of imposition of hands and prayer. Which appears evidently from what Sulpicius Severus7 says of St. Martin, that passing through a town where they were all Gentiles, and preaching Christ unto them, and working some miracles, the whole multitude professed to believe in Christ, and desired him to make them Christians: upon which he immediately, as he was in the field, laid his hands upon them, and made them catechumens; saying to those that were about him that it was
4 De Pœnitent. c. 6. (p. 124 a.) Quicquid ergo mediocritas nostra ad pœnitentiam semel capessendam et perpetuo continendam suggerere conata est, omnes quidem deditos Domino spectat, ut omnis salutis in promerendo Deo petitores; sed præcipue novitiolis istis imminet, qui, quum maxime incipiunt divinis sermonibus aures rigare, quique catuli infantiæ adhuc recentis, nec perfectis luminibus incerta reptant, &c.
5 De Symb. Fid. ad Catechumen. 1. 2. c. 1. (t. 6. p. 556 d.) Optimi jam tyrones Dei, fortes milites Chri
sti, dum arma sacramentorum sus-
6 B. 1. ch. 3. s. 3. v. I. p. 29.
7 Dialog. 2. c. 5. p. 294. (p. 550.)
Cuncti catervatim ad genua B. Viri ruere cœperunt, fideliter postulantes, ut eos faceret Christianos. Nec cunctatus, in medio ut erat campo, cunctos, imposita universis manu, catechumenos fecit; cum quidem ad nos conversus diceret, non irrationabiliter in campo catechumenos fieri, ubi solerent martyres consecrari.
not unreasonable to make catechumens in the open field, where martyrs were used to be consecrated unto God.' Where we may observe, that to make Christians, and to make catechumens, is the same thing; and that this was done by imposition of hands and prayer. Which observation will help us to the right understanding of some obscure canons and difficult passages in ancient writers, which many learned men have mistaken.
In the first Council of Arles7 there is a canon which orders 'imposition of hands to be given to such Gentiles as in time of sickness express an inclination to receive the Christian faith.' And in the Council of Eliberis there is another canon to the same purpose, which says, that if any Gentiles, who have led a tolerably moral life, desire imposition of hands, they should have it allowed them, and be made Christians.' Now the question is, What is here meant by imposition of hands, and being made Christians? Mendoza and Vossius 10 take it for imposition of hands in baptism; and Albaspiny 11 for imposition of hands in confirmation. But the true sense is no more than this imposition of hands used in making catechumens, which in some sort gave Gentile converts an immediate title to be called
7 C. 6. (t. 1. p. 1427 e.) De his qui in infirmitate credere volunt, placuit eis debere manum imponi.
8 C. 39. (ibid. p. 975 a.) Gentiles si in infirmitate desideraverint sibi manum imponi, si fuerit eorum ex aliqua parte vita honesta, placuit eis manum imponi et fieri Christianos.
9 Not. in C. Eliber. c. 39. (ibid. p. 1252 d.) In favorem enim Gentilium editus hic canon est, ut videlicet non exspectetur tempus baptismo recipiendo præscriptum, si forte illi morbi necessitate adstringantur; ut si casu ante lucis usura priventur, præteritorum delictorum culpa et poena remissa, ad æterna possint conscendere tabernacula.
10 De Bapt. disput. 12. thes. 5. p. 164. (t. 6. p. 302.) Quanquam autem baptismi in eo [Can. 39. C. Eliber.] aperte mentio non fiat, tamen, uti ad eum observat Ferdinandus Mendoza, ex eo, quod de impositione manus dicitur, baptismus simul intelligitur; cum hæc baptis
11 Not. in C. Eliber. c. 39. (t. I. p. 999 d.) Gentilibus, qui in mortis discrimine baptizati essent, manus ab episcopis imponendæ ; et confirmationis sacramento signandi, si probi fuerint, moresque consimiles fidei Christianæ habuerint. Nam si ex more turpissimorum hominum anteactam vitam duxerint, non sunt confirmatione perficiendi, quantumvis omnibus vitiis et flagitiis carerent, et omnem extra noxam censerentur. Hunc ego sensum et explicationem confido patres ipsos Eliberitanos agnituros pro legitima et pro nata; contra vero quam de baptismo nonnulli asserunt, tanquam supposititiam repudiaturos, si utramque aspiciunt. Quis unquam docuit, baptismum iis in morte denegandum esse, quorum vita non fuisset honesta? Porro ubinam reperient baptismum manus impositionem nominari, et isto nomine a patribus appellari?
Christians. And so I find Valesius 12, and Basnage 13, and Cotelerius 14, understand it. And this must be the meaning of that passage in Eusebius 15, where, speaking of Constantine's prayers in the Church of Helenopolis a little before his death, he says, it was the same church where he had first been admitted to imposition of hands and prayer,' that is, had been made a catechumen with those ceremonies; for no other imposition of hands can here be meant, since it is now agreed on all hands that Constantine was not baptized until he had left Helenopolis, and was come to Nicomedia, a little before his death. By this also we may understand the meaning of those canons of the first general Council of Constantinople16, and the Council of Trullo 17, where, speaking of the reception of such heretics as the Eunomians and Montanists and Sabellians, who had not been truly baptized, they say, they should be received only as heathens, viz. the first day be made Christians, the second day catechumens, the third day be exorcized, then instructed for a considerable time in the church, and at last
12 Not. in Euseb. de Vit. Constant. 1. 4. c. 61. (v. 1. p. 661. n. 3.) Ait igitur Eusebius, Constantinum imperatorem tunc primum manuum impositionem cum solemni precatione in ecclesia suscepisse : id est, uno verbo, tunc primum factum esse catechumenum. Nam catechumeni per manus impositionem fiebant ab episcopo, ut docet canon 6. Concilii Arelatensis.... Idem sancitum est cap. 39. Concilii Eliberitani: Gentiles, &c. Qui quidem canon Eliberitanus, ut id obíter moneam, nihil aliud esse videtur, quam expositio canonis Arelatensis.
13 Exercit. in Baron. an. 44. (p. 482.) Plurimæ quidem χειροθεσίας species fuere : sed illa, qua Constantinus in templo Helenopolitano donatus est, ad solam catechumenorum manus impositionem revocari potest, non ad curatoriam; imperator tum non ægrotabat: non ad confirmatoriam; nondum regenerationis lavacrum consequutus fuerat: non ad reconciliatoriam ; inter ponitentes non agebat. Ergo ad catechumenorum impositionem pertinu
erit, necesse est.
14 In Constit. Apost. 1. 7. c. 39. (v. 1. p. 378. n. 8.) Manus imponebant catechumenis, quando eos faciebant catechumenos. Ac si mecum sentire vis, hunc ritum intellige expressum in Conciliis Arelatensi et Eliberitano, ubi frustra digladiantur interpretes, alii accipientes de baptismo, alii de confirmatione.
15 De Vit. Constant. 1. 4. c. 61. (ibid. 661. 7.) "Evoа dǹ каì прŵτоν τῶν διὰ χειροθεσίας ἀρχῶν ἠξιοῦτο.
16 C. 7. (t. 2. p. 951 c.) 'Qs Eλληνας δεχόμεθα, καὶ τὴν πρώτην ἡμέ ραν ποιοῦμεν αὐτοὺς Χριστιανοὺς, τὴν δὲ δευτέραν κατηχουμένους, εἶτα τῇ τρίτῃ ἐξορκίζομεν αὐτοὺς .. . καὶ οὕτως κατηχοῦμεν αὐτοὺς, καὶ ποιοῦμεν αὐτ τοὺς χρονίζειν εἰς τὴν ἐκκλησίαν, καὶ τότε αὐτοὺς βαπτίζομεν.
17 C. 95. (t. 6. p. 1182 e.) The same words.-Vid. etiam Anonym. Ep. ad Martyrium Antiochenum, ap. Bevereg. Annot. in Can. 7. C. Constant. 2. (t. 2. append. p. 100.) .... Πάντας τοὺς ἀπ ̓ αὐτῶν θέλοντας προστίθεσθαι τῇ ἀληθείᾳ, ὡς ̔Ελλήνας δεχόμεθα.
And consignation with the
sign of the
baptized.' Here, being made Christians, evidently signifies no more than their being admitted to the lowest degree of catechumens by imposition of hands and prayer; after which came many intermediate ceremonies of exorcizing, catechizing, &c., before they were made complete Christians by baptism. So that, as Theodosius observes in one of his laws 18, there were two sorts of men that went by the name of Christians, one called Christiani ac fideles, Christians and believers, and the other Christiani et catechumeni tantum, Christians and catechumens only; the former whereof were made so by baptism, and the other by imposition of hands and prayer. Which was a ceremony used in most of the offices of religion, in baptism, confirmation, ordination, reconciling of penitents, consecration of virgins, curing the sick, and, as we have now seen, particularly in the first admission of new converts to the state of catechumens.
3. Here also, as in most other offices of the Church, they used the sign of the cross. St. Austin 19 joins all these ceremonies together, when he says, that catechumens were in some sort sanctified by the sign of Christ and imposition of hands and prayer;' meaning, that these ceremonies were used as indications of their forsaking the Gentile state, and becoming retainers to the Christian Church. The same rite is mentioned also by St. Austin in his Confessions 20 as used upon himself during his being a catechumen; but whether he means there his first admission, or his continuance in that state, is not certain. But in the Life of Porphyrius, bishop of Gaza, written by his disciple Marcus, it is more plainly expressed: for that
18 Cod. Theod. 1. 16. tit. 7. de Apostat. leg. 2. (t. 6. p. 204.) Christianis ac fidelibus, qui ad paganos ritus cultusque migrarunt, omnem in quamcumque personam testamenti condendi interdicimus potestatem, ut sint absque jure Romano. His vero, qui Christiani et catechumeni tantum, venerabili religione neglecta, ad aras et templa transierant, si filios vel fratres germanos habebunt, hoc est, suam aut legitimam successionem; testandi arbitratu proprio in quaslibet alias personas jus adimatur.
19 De Peccator. Merit. 1. 2. c. 26. (t. 10. p.62 e.) Nam et catechumenos secundum quendam modum suum per signum Christi et orationem, manus impositione puto sanctificari.
20 Confess. 1. 1. c. 11. (t. 1. p. 75 f.) Audieram enim ego adhuc puer de vita æterna, nobis promissa per humilitatem [Filii tui] Domini Dei nostri, descendentis ad superbiam nostram: et signabar jam signæ crucis ejus, et condiebar ejus sale, jam inde ab utero matris meæ, quæ multum speravit in te.