Info

comparison with Cyril of Jerusalem's repeated insistence that baptism opens the gates to paradise.46 The idea that one enters paradise through baptism is maintained into the ninth century, as we find it implicitly stated in Moses bar Kepha's On the mysteries of baptism 24: 'The entrance to the Holy of Holies signifies the entering in to the tree of life from which Adam was prohibited.'47

It is not communion alone that provides commentators with an opportunity to compare baptism to the gate of paradise. Theodore of Mopsuestia remarks upon the white, linen garments worn by the bishop who celebrates the baptism in the same way: 'Instead of his usual clothes, he is wearing a delicate, shining linen vestment. He is wearing new garments which denote the new world you are entering; their dazzling appearance signifies that you will shine in the next life; its light texture symbolizes the delicacy and grace of that world.'48 The neophytes, too, were clad in garments of white linen. Indeed, Frederic van der Meer plausibly explains the choice of linen ('the cool vegetable product') by pointing to its popularity from the time of the Pythagoreans as a symbol for ritual purity: 'It is the symbol of their own inward purity and of the stainless life to which they are now committed.'49 But, taking Theodore's remark for guidance, we may wish to go further, for it is easy to envisage his interpretation extended to the neophytes as well. The garment does not simply outwardly denote an inward state; rather, it manifests in the present the brilliance of the future.

The solidarity of the saved

To enter into baptismal newness of life was to enter simultaneously into a community.50 The required feats of memorisation and recitation that neophytes were obliged to perform were a means of ensuring that they subscribed to the community's standards. And, as we have already had occasion to note in passing, the candidates were supported in their efforts by sponsors. Not only did the sponsors vouch for the candidates, they also joined them in attending

46 Cyril, Procatechesis 15, Catechesis 19.9.

47 Trans. Aytoun, 357; on bar Kepha (c. 819-903), see further Baby Varghese, Les onctions baptismales, 230-44.

48 Theodore of Mopsuestia, Cat. hom. 13.17.

49 Van der Meer, Augustine the Bishop, 369; his claim is strengthened by the observation that, in the Carthiginian rite ofbaptism at least, the catechumens had divested (and then trodden upon) woollen clothes before the baptism proper-which, according to van der Meer, indicates a total rejection of the worldly and an acceptance of the heavenly

50 By the seventh century, this principle would be invoked in Visigothic Spain with a crude political gesture, whereby the baptism of all Jews was mandated within those kingdoms: see Laws ofReceswinth 12.2.3 (MGH leg 11.1: 413-14).

0 0

Post a comment