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Question 20.

Dear Father Christopher,

Is it “forbidden” by any canon or “custom” to baptize a second infant or adult in the SAME water in the baptismal tank in the church immediately after an infant has been baptized and there are families expecting to have their infants baptized? It is true that one must EMPTY out the water, and put in FRESH WATER, and bless it, for a second baptism? I have never encountered such objections until a fellow from Russia told me that a priest is not allowed to baptize a SECOND person in the SAME water, but must perform such a “second” baptism on the following day!

 

Answer to Question 20

Your Eminence Bishop Jacob,

Your blessing!

From the beginning and up to the eighth century Baptism was administered mainly to adults in groups where they were baptized at the same time. Isolated Baptisms were rare and only performed for reasons of necessity, neither were they performed on a day requested by the candidate, but on the Great Feasts, especially Easter and Theophany. The baptismal service was joined to the Divine Liturgy, thus all the congregation was present and received Holy Communion together with the new members. When infant Baptism prevailed the service was isolated from the Divine Liturgy and individual Baptisms were performed. This is the normal custom which we have inherited, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot perform a group Baptism. If fact, not so many years ago people in Cyprus would go to the Monasteries to have their children baptized there and it was normal for many infants to be baptized in the one service and in the same water. The Priest would first perform the Catechism in plural mentioning each child by name. In fact, in all the old Euchologia Manuscripts the Catechism and Baptismal prayers were in plural and were only adapted to the singular when infant and individual Baptisms prevailed. During the Baptism service the waters were blessed and then the Priest would anoint all the infants with the exorcised oil. Then taking one child at a time he would Baptize them in the same font, anoint them with the Chrism and tonsure them. I myself have Baptized triplets in the same water and a father and son. Group Baptisms are normal and in accordance with the tradition of the Church. Nowhere is it mentioned that we cannot Baptize an infant and an adult in the same water as long as the service is performed for both at the same time. If the service has ended, one should not use the same water for another separate Baptism that immediately follows. In other words, if we have two, three or four separate Baptisms to do in one day, then at each we must empty the font and put in fresh water. Theoretically there is nothing wrong with the water, but I think the custom is linked to the times when the Baptism service was part of the Divine Liturgy. There was only one Baptism for many just as there is only one Divine Liturgy for many. If we are to have a second Liturgy in the same Church then another Priest must perform the service and we cannot used the same Holy Altar, Antiminsion, Chalice, Paten etc. Everything that was used during the first Liturgy cannot be used for the second. In the same way, the water used for a second Baptism is not to be the same as that used for the first. Again theoretically, if we were to use the same water there would not be the necessity to perform another Baptism service: we could simply take the candidate and thrice immerse him in the water and all that would remain would be for us to anoint him with the Chrism. Most of the Baptism service is actually the blessing of the waters, if we take this away then there is very little left of the service. If this is acceptable for Baptism then we could say that it would be acceptable for the Divine Liturgy. In our parish we have two Liturgies on Sundays, but why go through all that preparation for a second service? We could simply save the Chalice from the first and give communion to the people who come at a later time. But then if we have another Liturgy the next day then why not save it until tomorrow?
But I need to ask: “what has your Russian layman been reading? Where has he been taught that only one Baptism can be performed on each day?” Maybe you should get him to read the Acts of the Apostles where he will find many scriptural testimonies of a great many people being baptized in one day.
“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” (Acts of the Apostles 2:41)
 

 

Kissing thy right hand
Fr. Christopher.