Rites of initiation

The baptismal rite of the Maronites is attributed to Jacob of Sarug, though there is a shorter form named after St Basil. A thorough study of the manuscript tradition was undertaken by Mouhanna, and certainly there were considerable variations in the manuscripts. The present text of the rite was published in 1942. The structure of the rite is very similar to that of the Syrian Orthodox. There is provision for a rite of admission with a prayer over the mother, and a prayer over the candidate. After a qolo, there is the giving of the name with the words:

N, may the seal of the holy cross, symbol of victory, be your shelter and protection until the day you receive the seal of Christ through the waters of baptism. Then, when you are granted this seal of your Lord, you will enter and join with his spiritual flock, for ever.

Amen.

The preparatory rites begin with the common opening of 'Glory to the Trinity,' prayer and Psalm 51, husoyo, promion, sedro, qolo and etro. The trisagion, with 'baptismal propers', is sung: 'O Christ, baptized in the river Jordan, have mercy on us.' After a mazmoro come the readings, and provision for a homily. There follows a rite for the catechumens which includes exorcisms, renunciation of Satan, and the recitation of the Creed. In some of the manuscripts there is indication that an anointing with oil followed.

In the present rite a lengthy blessing of the font follows, with diaconal biddings to prayer, a greeting, and then an actual blessing prayer. This begins with a form of sursum corda with one response which is reminiscent of the Church of the East formulation. The prayer is patterned on the anaphora, and includes sanctus and benedictus, and an extremely long invocation of the Holy Spirit. The emphasis in this prayer is on the font as womb, and passing from being an earthly Adam to rebirth as a heavenly Adam. The celebrant signs the font with the cross before the blessing, and during the blessing myron is poured into the water in the form of a cross.

The final part of the rite begins with a greeting, and the catechumens are signed with oil. The baptism is by triple immersion and the Trinitarian formula, 'N is baptized a lamb in the flock of Christ in the name of the Father (amen) and of the Son (amen) and of the Holy Spirit, for eternal life (amen).' The baptizands are clothed in a white garment, and signed with myron, and there is an optional 'crowning'. A procession in the Church with qolo follows, and there may be a Eucharist; if there is no Eucharist the rite ends with a prayer and the removal of the 'crown'.

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