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  • Unum Baptisma: Divine Worship and The Order of Holy Baptism for Infants
  • Edward Maxfield (bio)


In his Letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul underscores unum baptisma. There is but “one Lord,” he acclaims, “one faith, one baptism” (Eph 4:5), thus articulating the apostolic norm for Baptism that endures to this day. Yet this emphasis on the unity of the sacrament of Baptism has not precluded a great variety of expression among various baptismal rituals throughout the Church’s history. In our own day, the Church has a revised rite of Baptism issued in the reform following the Second Vatican Council, while the ritual issued after the Council of Trent may still be used according to the edition in force in 1962 with permission of the pastor (parish priest).1 Additionally, for those formerly Anglican communities who have entered into full communion with the Catholic Church under the auspices of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, a new ritual book has been published containing a further iteration of the baptismal rite drawn from Anglican liturgical sources, Divine Worship: Occasional Services.2

What follows will be an examination of the The Order of Holy Baptism as found in Divine Worship: Occasional Services. The heart of the matter is whether this liturgical expression preserves and reflects the Church’s unum baptisma or introduces a variant, novel in its structure and theological content. The Holy See itself, [End Page 155] through the Anglicanae Traditiones Interdicasterial Commission, has strongly indicated that The Order of Holy Baptism in Occasional Services remains an organic expression of Catholic sacramental practice. In the words of the secretary of that Commission, “Anglican Liturgy did not develop in a vacuum, cut off from its Catholic roots… [but] rather, by the grace of the Holy Spirit there was preserved a faithful remnant of Catholic liturgy that found new expression—even eloquence—in Anglican worship.”3

Divine Worship: Occasional Services, promulgated on March 25, 2014, is an authoritative liturgical book of the Personal Ordinariates containing the ritual texts for Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, and for funerals. Each of these sections contains specific Praenotanda in the form of a Rubrical Directory expressing the theology of these rituals in their current form. The Order of Holy Baptism, the particular concern of this study, is comprised of several elements: The Order of Holy Baptism and Confirmation for Adults and Older Children, The Order of Holy Baptism for Infants, The Order for Reception into Full Communion with the Celebration of Confirmation, an order for Conditional Baptism, an order for Emergency Baptism, an order for Baptism of One in Imminent Danger of Death, The Public Receiving of One who has been Privately Baptized, and an appendix for the Blessing of Salt to be used in Baptism.

It should be noted too that, although the reforms of the Second Vatican Council have led to a renewal of the Baptism of adults in the Order of Christian Initiation for Adults and Divine Worship: Occasional Services also contains a ritual for adults, the historical development of this rite is far more concerned with the Baptism of children, and so this study will limit itself to this context.

Development of the Baptismal Ritual in the Anglican Tradition

“In celebrating the sacrament of Baptism, Christians proclaim their Paschal faith in fidelity to the Gospel so that they may be purified of their sins and rise to newness of life in Christ Jesus. [End Page 156] Divine Worship: The Order of Holy Baptism … gives expression to the Anglican liturgical patrimony which has nourished many in their faith in forgiveness of sins through the regenerating waters of Baptism.”4 In this way the Praenotanda to The Order of Holy Baptism in Divine Worship: Occasional Services speak to the history of this rite and its development in the Anglican Communion. Sifting through this development was one of the principal tasks for the Anglicanae Traditiones Commission as it worked to articulate a baptismal liturgy for the Ordinariates. The Commission itself identified several principle ritual sources, which include the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) of 1549 and 1662, the United States Prayer Book of 1928, A Manual for Priests of the...


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pp. 155-172
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