Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Baptism of St Augustine

Louis de Boullogne (Le jeune) (1654 - 1733 )
Le Baptême de saint Augustin
c 1695 - 1700
Oil on canvas
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux

Pol, Jean et Hermann Limbourg (15th cent)
The Baptism of St Augustine by St Ambrose in Milan 
From Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry: Les Heures de la Vierge Ms65-folio37verso
1411 - 1416
Illuminted manuscript: painting on paper
29 cm  x  21 cm
Musée Condé, Chantilly

Florentine school 15th century
The taking of the habit by St Augustine from St Ambrose at his baptism
Painting on poplar wood
35 x 75 cm
Musée du Petit Palais, Avignon

"This very night it will be 1625 years ago that the future Church father Augustine from Hippo in North Africa was baptised in the North Italian city of Milan by its Nicene Christian bishop Ambrose. [at Easter 387] 
In those days Christian baptism was an extensive ceremony.  
Its preparations started weeks before the actual baptism took place. A person who would like to receive baptism should first ‘turn in his name’ (the so-called nomen dare) to be inscribed by the Church official, who as a rule, was the bishop.  
After that he received an extensive catechetical instruction.  
Baptism took place at dawn on Easter Sunday.  
We do not know the exact rites of the Church of Milan at the time of Augustine, but from two works by Ambrose, his so-called On the Sacraments (De sacramentis) and On the Mysteries (De mysteriis) we seem to be able to reconstruct how baptism was administered in 387.  
It was accompanied by rites such as a washing of feet (symbolising the forgiveness of sins, a symbol dear to Ambrose), anointments, the laying on of hands, and so on. Also, the newly baptised person received the sign of the cross on the forehead: from then onwards he belonged to Christ.  
This sign was originally an X, derived from the old-Hebrew sign of Tau already mentioned by the prophet Ezekiel (ch. 9), and also in St John’s Apocalypse . This sign was considered a mark of property and protection. ... 
[T]he adult Augustine, by then 32 years old, was immersed in ‘living’ (that is: flowing) water. 
This immersion took place three times, after he had heard three questions: ‘Do you believe in God the Almighty Father?’; ‘Do you believe in our Lord Jesus Christ and his cross?’; ‘Do you also believe in the Holy Spirit?’ and after that he subsequently answered three times: ‘Credo, I believe!’ (Ambrosius De sacramentis 2, 20; cf. Ambrosius De mysteriis 21; 28).  
It is from the baptismal rite with its three questions and answers that we still have our tripartite confessions" 
Van Oort, J., 2013, Augustine’s baptism: Its significance once and today, HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 69(1), Art. #1914, 3 pages.

It was not only Augustine who was baptised that day. His companion Alypius and his son Adeodatus , aged 15 years, also received the sacrament that day beside St Augustine

In The Confessions 9, 193-194, St Augustine describes the scene:
""And so we were baptised .... What tears I shed in your hymns and canticles! How deeply was I moved by the voices of your sweet singing Church. Those voices flowed into my ears and the truth was distilled into my heart, which overflowed with my passionate devotion. Tears ran from my eyes and happy I was in those tears."
Throughout the years St Augustine developed his views on the sacrament and wrote much about it

One set of works were the seven books entitled On Baptism, Against the Donatists

Others include

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