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2. Latins are ‘’in need of baptism’’

            So, the question arises: Given that the Latins are now heretics, can the Second Ecumenical Council’s  provisional distinction concerning Arians and Macedonians also be applied to them; and thus ‘’by economia’’ can they be received by chrismation alone without being baptized? As we saw above, in interpreting Canon VII of the Second Ecumenical Council, our writers understood that the Second Council accepted the baptisms of the aforesaid heretics because they preserved the form of the Apostolic baptism which the Church never abandoned, i.e. the three immersions, which is a ‘’true baptism,’’ a âÜðôéóìá (tr. dipping) in the literal sense. So, the question is whether, given this stipulation, the Latin ‘’baptism’’ can be accepted as ‘’Apostolic baptism.’’

            The West maintained that their baptism in no way differed from the Apostolic baptism. Oikonomos, however, responds that ‘’affusion’’ (i.e. pouring), and much less ‘’aspersion’’ (i.e. sprinkling), cannot ever be considered baptism. The first is an ‘’uncanonical innovation,’’[176] while the second is ‘’unscriptural’’[177] and void of the character of the ‘’proper and true baptism,’’[178] according to the holy Fathers.[179] Of course, Oikonomos is not referring here to cases of ‘’emergency’’ baptism, which even he does not rule out. These, however, are performed within the Church, in contrast to those who receive the ‘’baptism’’ of whichever heresy and who thus receive death instead of life. What he has in mind here is what is done ‘’without urgent necessity,’’[180] being a practice arbitrarily sanctioned in the West.[181] This practice began with Pope Stephen I (253-257),[182] and was dogmatized by the Council of Trent (1545-1563), in accordance with the spirit of the West to ‘’canonize’’ and legalize every innovation. But in no way can this innovation be justified,[183] being as it is a practice ‘’odious to God,’’[184] for it destroys the sacrament’s God-ordered oneness.[185]

            Furthermore, according to St. Nikodemos, the Latin baptism is ‘’falsely so-called.’’[186] Oikonomos, in many pages, analyzes the meaning of ‘’to baptize,’’ from a literary, patristic, and scriptural point of view, in order to show that no metaphorical use of the term is possible.[187] To those who insist, however, that the Orthodox and Latin baptisms are identical, Oikonomos poses this question: ‘’If Latin baptism is equivalent to ours, then why is it necessary to anoint them with divine chrism when they join us, as if they had not been chrismated at all? For the Latins have chrismation too. But if this is unacceptable for us (as are all other sacraments performed by them), then why not also their baptism by aspersion?’’[188]

            Our writers repeatedly found it necessary to refute the disserting view asserted not only by the Latins, but also by ‘’their unsalaried defenders’’[189] (i.e. Latinizers within the Church), regarding the canonicity of their ‘’baptism.’’ We shall, of course, concentrate on the more significant. These are an example of pure scholastic sophistry, but they acquaint us with the intellectual climate of the time, and help us to see the splendid theological weaponry of our theologians from their responses.

            Thus, the view had been stated that, since even the most minute particle of the consecrated bread ‘’is the whole body of Christ,’’ consequently, even ‘’a drop’’ of sanctified water ‘’has all the power of baptism.’’ Neophytos’ response is as follows: ‘’The consecrated bread of the Eucharist, before communion, and in communion, and after communion, and simply even when no one communicates it, is nonetheless the body of Christ. Baptismal water, on the other hand, is and is called baptism not before the immersion, nor after the immersion, but only in the actual immersion, i.e. actual use; before and after, it is merely baptismal water, not baptism.’’ Moreover, at baptism we do not have a ‘’drink,’’ but a ‘’deluge’’[190] (according to St. Dionysios Areopagite: ‘’complete covering’’).[191]

            In response to the argument that the Latin aspersion ‘’contains sanctification and grace by virtue of the invocations of the Holy Trinity,’’ St. Nikodemos says that ‘’baptism is not consummated by the invocations of the Trinity alone, but also necessarily requires the image of the Lord’s death and burial and resurrection.’’ Belief in the Holy Trinity, even when correct, must be supplemented by the ‘’belief in the Messiah’s death.’’[192] The mere invocation of the Holy Trinity does not sanctify the procedural violation of the sacrament.[193] Thus, according to St. Nikodemos, ‘’since…the Latins are not planted together with Christ the dual-natured Seed in the baptismal water, then neither is their body fashioned by God, nor their soul; and simply speaking, they cannot burgeon salvation, but they wither and perish.’’[194] Neophytos comments that the Lord ‘’ordained birth by water and spirit. But it is not she who sprinkles who gives birth, but she who is pregnant. Likewise, it is not the sprinkled fetus that is born, but the one that was carried in the womb.’’[195] The conclusion drawn from the above is given by Oikonomos as follows: ‘’So, the Latin aspersion, being destitute of the immersions and emersions, is consequently also destitute of the image of the Lord’s three-day death and burial and resurrection…and destitute of all grace, and sanctification, and remission of sins.’’[196]

            Justified, of course, was the question: Why cannot ‘’the same likeness of death’’ also be expressed through affusion or aspersion? Oikonomos’ answer centers around the following four points: 1) the Latin innovation is an ‘’intentional’’ violation of the Lord’s commandment and the Church’s tradition; 2) it is contrary to the single and canonical Apostolic tradition; 3) it alters the meaning of ‘’to baptize’’; and 4) it is contrary ‘’to the Apostolic likeness of the death, and the burial, and the resurrection of Christ, as this likeness was interpreted by all the divine Fathers.’’[197]

            Our writers flimsy the argument that chrismation remedies the ‘’deficiency’’ with respect to the procedure of the Latin baptism. It does not follow, says Neophytos, that through chrismation the Latin baptism becomes ‘’acceptable,’’ inasmuch as chrismation is distinct from baptism; it constitutes a separate sacrament, and makes the already baptized person a participant in Christ’s kingdom (cf. Canon XLVIII of Laodicae). One, therefore, who has not been canonically baptized and regenerated cannot become ‘’a participant in Christ by mere chrismation,’’ since man’s regeneration is not accomplished through chrismation, but through baptism, which ‘’also unites him with the likeness of Christ’s death’’ (cf. Rom. 6:5).[198]

            Likewise very often stated was the argument of the so-called ‘’clinical’’ baptism.[199] In fact, it was upon this argument that the Council presided over by the Archbishop of Athens Chrysostomos Papadopoulos in 1932 based its renowned decision[200] according to Anastasios Christophilopoulos, clinical baptism was administered by affusion. Even so, the Church always viewed with skepticism those persons who received such a baptism,[201] and thus, if they recovered, they were deprived of the right to be ordained, for their baptism was considered imperfect.[202] Of course, to the above sophism one could simply respond that the clinical baptism, in whatever way administered, took place not in heresy, but within the Church! In any event, Neophytos’ response to this argument is that this kind of baptism is contrary to the word of the Lord, who ‘’did not also teach us to baptized by affusion.’’[203] Therefore, he adds, no matter how these people had been baptized, i.e. by affusion or by aspersion, if they survived, ‘’they were no less [considered] in need of baptism.’’[204]

            Oikonomos offers a different, and therefore interesting, explanation: ‘’When out of necessity they baptized such bed-ridden persons…they did not merely sprinkle them (in the Latin fashion), nor did they pour the hallowed water over their head, but thoroughly drenched their entire body (in Latin: perfundebant).’’[205] This kind of baptism would not be repeated, ‘’but it was considered an imperfect seal.’’[206] So, according to him, clinical baptism cannot be admitted as an argument in favor of the Latin aspersion. For it was permitted ‘’out of necessity, and partly,’’ and therefore ‘’does not make it a law of the Church.’’[207] The Latin aspersion, on the other hand, is done ‘’intentionally and without necessity.’’[208] Furthermore – and this is most essential – the Latin baptism is not a ‘’drenching like clinical baptism, but a sprinkling, and it is administered by sprinkled priests devoid of priesthood and unbaptized.[209] But if we accept their aspersion, then we also have to accept the rest of their sacraments, which is impossible according to Apostolic Canon XLVI.[210]

            Thus, our writers conclude that the Latin baptism ‘’deviated both in practice and in faith.’’[211] Since it is administered in heresy, i.e. outside the Church, it is in itself without substance (Apostolic Canon XLVII). It cannot be accepted by economia when Latins convert,[212] for it is imperfect, and is denounced by Canon VII of the Second Ecumenical Council as an unjustifiable innovation as regards the ritual. By the same Council, it is rejected together with the ‘’single-immersion’’ baptism of the Eunomians, i.e. as being ‘’inefficacious and ineffectual.’’[213]

            Moreover, by rejecting the Church’s tradition through this innovation of theirs, the Latins are, according to the Seventh Ecumenical Council (act viii), ‘’anathematized.’’[214] Truly of the gravest import are the following questions posed by Oikonomos: 1) If there is a demand for the Latin aspersion to be accepted by economia, then why do not the Latins exercise some ‘’economia’’ themselves, ‘’and again resume what from the beginning was delivered to them from the Fathers and the Apostles, and abandon their innovations?’’[215] and he continues: 2) ‘’If he who joins the Church in fact accepts all the dogmas and sacraments of the Orthodox faith wholeheartedly and genuinely, and anathematizes all his patrimonial erroneous beliefs, how then does he hold as correct the wrongdoing with regard to baptism (the foundation of the faith)?’’[216] and, 3) ‘’If indeed the Church accepts the candidate’s written statement, in which he anathematizes all his patrimonial erroneous beliefs, how then can she herself accept the innovation with regard to his baptism, it being one of the erroneous beliefs he anathematized?’’[217]

            One hundred years and more after Oikonomos posed them, these questions received the following reply by the Second Vatican Council: ‘’The sacrament of baptism may be performed by immersion or by affusion. Baptism by immersion is the more indicated form, as it signifies the death and the resurrection of Christ. In accordance with our prevailing custom, the sacrament of baptism will generally be performed by affusion’’!...[218]

            In light of what has been said above, it is easy to understand why our writers maintain that the Latins cannot be placed in the category of the Arians and Macedonians for the economia of the Second Ecumenical Council to be also applicable to them. For, ‘’they are not at all immersed, i.e. baptized, but sprinkled,’’ according to Neophytos. If their aspersion counts as baptism, then ‘’it is wholly necessary either to establish two baptisms, or having established the one, to reject that by trine immersion.’’[219] On this point also, Oikonomos comments that ‘’the Latins…limp…on both legs as regards the correct baptismal rite; in the other words, as regards the three emersions and immersions, which the sons of Arius and Macedonius genuinely performed according to the Apostolic tradition.’’[220] Moreover, according to A. Parios, the Latins are in a worse position than the very Eunomians, who at least preserved one immersion.[221] As a consequence, according to Parios’ epigrammatic expression, ‘’they who convert from the Latins must indisputably, indispensably, and necessarily be baptized.’’[222]

            Of course, the baptizing of the Latins does not mean that the dogma, ‘’I confess one baptism,’’ is rejected. ‘’No, not at all,’’ replies Oikonomos regarding this.[223] ‘’When the heretics are administered our rites,’’ says Neophytos, ‘’they are not being rebaptized, but baptized.’’[224] For, as St. Nikodemos says, ‘’their baptism belies its name.’’[225] therefore, ‘’the Canons baptize those who had received a different [baptism] contrary to church law, and thus overturn not the one and only true baptism, but every alien and pseudonymous human invention.’’[226] Consequently, the (re)baptizing of the Latins does not have the meaning of simply making them members of the Church, but above all of accomplishing in them the regeneration that sprinkling is incapable of  imparting to them.  


[176] O, p. 398.

[177] O, p. 436.

[178] O, p. 430.

[179] Athanasios the Great, whether speaking literally or metaphorically, was the first to condemn heretical ‘’aspersion.’’ Discourse II Against the Arians 43, PG 26:237B: ‘’…so that he who is sprinkled by them is defiled in impiety rather than redeemed.’’ Oikonomos comments: ‘’In making this declaration, did not the divine Father with such foresight manifestly anticipate and likewise condemn the Latin aspersion as being invalid?’’ O, p. 424. for the views of other Fathers, see O, p. 425ff. Cf. P, p. 52ff.

[180] O, p. 398. It is the fruit of the ‘’papal arbitrariness.’’ O, p. 449.

[181] O, pp. 424, 450-451.

[182] O, pp. 448f, 452.

[183] E, p. 147 xx. It is contrary not only to the Church’s tradition (Acts ch. 8; Canons VII of the Second Ecumenical Council and XIX of the First, etc.), but above all to ‘’Christ’s dual baptism, the one in the Jordan,’’ and ‘’the one by the cross,’’ as well as to ‘’the burial in the tomb, the figure of which is baptism by three immersions.’’

[184] O, pp. 424, 485. According to Neophytos, affusion is ‘’accursed,’’ while aspersion is ‘’defiled.’’ E, p. 147 xviii.

[185] O, p. 454.

[186] P, pp. 55, 56.

[187] O, pp. 401f, 406ff, where the arguments of the opposite view are found.

[188] O, p. 456. In a detailed analysis, Oikonomos states the differences between ‘’one who is baptized’’ and ‘’one who is sprinkled’’:

    1) The former ‘’is buried, as one dead, in a grave,’’ and ‘’again rises,’’ in ‘’imitation of the Lord.’’ The latter, ‘’when he is poured upon, stands erect,’’ and ‘’neither goes down nor comes up again…as from a grave’’;

    2) The former, ‘’with his own body, depicts the three-day burial and resurrection.’’ The latter ‘’does not himself depict the mystery at all, ‘’since he does not participate in the actual event. And by aspersion, he undergoes ‘’a strange and unnatural…burial’’;

    3) The former ‘’has the grave…into which…he descemds.’’ The latter ‘’carries the grave, as it were, hanging over his head, and from there going down to his feet. And what could be more counterfeit than this?’’ True, Oikonomos cannot escape the criticism that in making these distinctions he is being scholastic. Yet, what he is seeking to do is to make the following truth perfectly clear: ‘’And simply speaking, the affusion bears no likeness whatsoever to Christ’s death, nor is he who is poured upon planted together with Him.’’ O, p. 482f (n.).

[189] P, p. 56.

[190] E, p. 147 xvi.

[191] On Ecclesiastical Hierarchies 2, viii. PG 3:397B.

[192] P, p. 65.

[193] O, p. 438. Cf. O, p. 424.

[194] P, p. 65.

[195] E, p. 147 xvi.

[196] O, p. 482f.

[197] O, p. 482 n.

[198] E, p. 147xiii.

[199] An earlier reference has been found in Cyprian, Epist. 76, 12-13. Ad Magnum. PL 3:1195/6.

[200] See Theocletos Stragkas, Åêêëçóßáò ÅëëÜäïò Éóôïñßá åê ðçãþí áøåõäþí (History of the Church of Greece from Reliable Sources), vol. IV (Athens, 1972), pp. 1844-1847. For a critique of this decision, see Kotsonis, (Problems…), pp. 191-192.

[201] (Greek Ecclesiastical Law), p. 114 and n. 2.

[202] See Canons XII of Neocaesarea, and XLVII of Laodicea. O, p. 415f.

[203] E, p. 147 xvi.

[204] E, pp. 147 xvi, 147 xix.

[205] O, p. 414f; Cf. St. Cyprian, Epist. 76, Ad Magnum.

[206] O, p. 414.

[207] O, p. 416.

[208] O, p. 417.

[209] Ibid.

[210] E, p. 147 ix. Cf. P, p. 89f; O, p. 492: ‚’If economia is also exercised towards them, then I suppose their ordination must also be accepted…’’ For, according to Neophytos, ‘’together with the acceptability of the heretical baptism admittedly also comes he who baptized, as one who has been ordained.’’ E, p. 147 xxii.

[211] E, p. 145.

[212] P, p. 55. ‘’The Latins’ baptism is falsely called baptism, and therefore neither according to the principle of acrivia nor according to that of economia is it acceptable.’’ Oikonomos, too, agrees: ‘’How shall we receive them who were never baptized at all?’’ O, p. 489. Cf. A. Parios, M, p. 263. This is also the position of E. Argentis. See Ware, p. 90.

[213] O, pp. 424, 449, 499. Cf. Neophytos, E, pp. 147 xiv, 147 xvii.

[214] E, p. 147 xvii.

[215] O, p. 457. St. Nikodemos also writes something similar. P, p. 304f.

[216] O, p. 491. Cf. A. Parios, p. 264: ‘’With what conscience does the Eastern [Orthodox] receive as though baptized him who by the authority of the Spirit is judged to be wholly unbaptized?’’

[217] O, p. 455. Cf. A. Parios, M, p. 264.

[218] See Simantirakis, p. 134.

[219] E, p. 147 vii; cf. p. 131.

[220] O, p. 445.

[221] M, p. 265.

[222] M, p. 263. Cf Neophytos, E, pp. 127, 143. P, pp. 589, 605.

[223] O, p. 425; cf. p. 486. E. Argentis, too, affirms the same. See Ware, p. 97.

[224] E, pp. 128, 143.

[225] P, p. 58.

[226] O, p. 426. The term ‘’rebaptize’’ is often misused, observes Oikonomos; ‘’that is, in respect to the heretics’ own self-styled baptism, albeit spurious and false and not even baptism in the literal sense.’’ Hence more correct is the term ‘’baptize,’’ ‘’there being but one true baptism which we believe in, and which is never repeated a second time.’’ O, p. 420 n. 1.


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Article published in English on: 14-9-2007.

Last Update: 15-9-2007.