Rites of initiation

The baptismal rite as described by Narsai in his homilies retained the sequence found in many of the early Syrian documents, namely a pre-baptismal anointing followed by baptism and communion. Narsai also knows of a renunciation of the devil. In the ordo that has come down to us, which tradition ascribes to Iso'yahb III, we find no such ritu-alization of the devil, but we do find the use of a horn of oil, and what seems to be a post-baptismal laying on of hands.

The ordo assumes that the candidates will be infants, and seems to be the first ordo so adapted. It commences with the Trinitarian invocation, Lord's Prayer and Gloria, as in the Eucharist - a standardized opening. There follows a prayer which introduces the psalmody, then an imposition of hands, and anointing. The entry to the baptistery is accompanied by a number of chants, and a karuzuta or litany by the deacon. The priest prays the suraya, Psalm 110. Another karazuta follows, and a canon. An Epistle and Gospel are read, with a further prayer of imposition. Then comes a blessing of oil, the prayer genre being similar to a eucharistic prayer, with the East Syrian sursum corda, sanctus and an epiklesis. Oil from the horn is used to consecrate by co-mingling the oil for the baptism. (Supposedly the horn originally consisted of water from Christ's baptism, and water from his side, to which oil was added after Pentecost, and each Apostle took a horn with some of this mixture.) A shorter blessing of the water follows, and oil from the horn is poured into the water. The candidates are anointed and baptized. After the baptism there is a canon, and a signing and laying on of hands. No rubric suggests that oil be used at the signing, but the practice seems to be that oil from the horn is used again (Irving 1902). Crowns (linen cloths) are also placed on the candidates.

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