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Theodore of Mopsuestia, Commentary on the Lord's Prayer, Baptism and the Eucharist



Chapter III


Translation. By Alphonse Mingana



Synopsis of the Third Chapter

You stand barefooted on sackcloth while your outer garment is taken off from you and your hands are stretched towards God in the posture of one who prays. First you genuflect while the rest of your body is erect, and then you say: "I abjure Satan and all his angels, and all his works, and all his service, and all his deception, and all his worldly glamour; and I engage myself and believe, and am baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." While you are genuflecting, and the rest of your body is erect, and your look is directed towards heaven, and your hands are outstretched in the posture of one who prays, the priest, clad in linen robes that are clean and shining, signs you on your forehead with the holy Chrism and says: "So-and-so is signed in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." And your godfather who is standing behind you spreads an orarium of linen on the crown of your head, raises you and makes you stand up erect.


From what we have previously said, you have sufficiently understood the ceremonies which are duly performed, prior to the Sacrament, and according to an early tradition, upon those who are baptised. When you go to be enrolled in the hope of acquiring the abode and citizenship of heaven, you have, in the ceremony of exorcism, a kind of law-suit with the Demon, and by a Divine verdict you receive your freedom from his servitude. And thus you recite the words of the profession of faith and of prayer, and through them you make an engagement and a promise to God, before the priests, that you will remain in the love of the Divine nature—concerning which, if you think the right things, it will be to you the source of great benefits; and it consists of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit—and that you will live in this world to the best of your ability in a way that is consonant with the life and citizenship of heaven. It is right now that you should receive the teaching of the ceremonies that take place in the Sacrament itself, because if you learn the reason for each one of them, you will acquire a knowledge that is by no means small. After you have been taken away from the servitude of the Tyrant by means of the words of exorcism, and have made solemn engagements to God along with the recitation of the Creed, you draw near to the Sacrament itself; you must learn how this is done.

You stand barefooted on sackcloth while your outer garment is taken off from you, and your hands are stretched towards God in the posture of one who prays. In all this you are in the likeness of the posture that fits the words of exorcism, as in it you have shown your old captivity and the servitude which through a dire punishment you have rendered to the Tyrant; but it is right that after you have cast away that posture and those memories you should draw near to the Sacrament which implies participation in the future benefits. You recall in your memory your old tribulations in order that you may all the better know the nature of the things which you cast away and that of the things to which you will be transferred.

First you genuflect while the rest of your body is erect, and in the posture of one who prays you stretch your arms towards God. As we have all of us fallen into sin and been driven to the dust by the sentence of death, it is right for us to "bow our knees in the name of Jesus Christ," as the blessed Paul said, and to "confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God His Father." In this confession we show the things that accrued to us from the Divine nature through the Economy of Christ our Lord, whom (God) raised up to heaven and showed as Lord of all and head of our salvation. Because all these things have to be performed by us all, who "are fallen to the earth" according to the words of the blessed Paul, it is with justice that you, who through the Sacrament become partakers of the ineffable benefits,3 to which you have been called by your faith in Christ, bow your knees, and make manifest your ancient fall, and worship God, the cause of those benefits.

The rest of all your body is erect and looks towards heaven. In this posture you offer prayer to God, and implore Him to grant you deliverance from the ancient fall and participation in |37 the heavenly benefits. While you are in this posture, the persons who are appointed for the service draw near to you and say to you something more than that which the angel who appeared to the blessed Cornelius said to him: your prayers have been heard and your supplications answered. God has looked upon your tribulations which you were previously undergoing, and had mercy upon you because you were for a long time captives of the Tyrant, and served a cruel servitude to him. He saw the number and the nature of the calamities which you have endured, and this moved Him to deliver you from that servitude and from the great number of your ancient tribulations, and to bring you to freedom and grant you to participate in the ineffable heavenly benefits, which immediately after you have received, you become undoubtedly free from all calamities. It is now time for you to learn the things through which you will surely receive deliverance from your ancient tribulations, and enjoy the good things that have been shown to you.

What are then the engagements and promises which you make at that time, and through which you receive deliverance from the ancient tribulations, and participation in the future benefits?:

"I abjure Satan and all his angels, and all his service, and all his deception, and all his worldly glamour; and I engage myself, and believe, and am baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

The deacons who at that time draw near to you prepare you to recite these words. It is in place here to explain to you the power of these words, in order that you may know the force of the engagements, promises and words of asseveration through which you receive the happiness of this great gift. Because the Devil, to whom you had listened, was for you the cause of numerous and great calamities—as he has begun (his work) from the time of the fathers of your race—you promise to abjure him, since facts themselves and your own experience had made you feel his injuries. This is the reason why you say "I abjure Satan." Formerly, even if you wished it, you did not dare to make use of these words, because you were afraid of his servitude, but as you have, by a Divine decree, received deliverance from him, you proclaim and abjure him with confidence and by your own words, and this is the reason why you say "I abjure Satan." In this you imply both your present separation from him and the former association that you had with him. Indeed, no one says that he abjures a thing with which he had formerly no association. The use of this expression is especially incumbent upon you as you had relation with him from the time of your forefathers, together with that cruel and ancient pact, which resulted in the calamitous servitude to him, under which you lived.

You rightly say "I abjure Satan," but you can hardly realise that after having formerly felt the injury which he inflicted upon you in his relation with you, you could be in a position to be delivered from him. In uttering these words you really imply that you have no association of any kind left with him any more. It is indeed difficult for you to realise the extent of the calamities into which he was daily planning to cast us. Did you realise the extent to which Adam, our common father, who had listened to him, has been injured, and into how many calamities he has fallen? or the extent to which his descendants have given themselves up to Satan? or the gravity of the calamities which were borne by men, who later chose to become his servants? Now, however, that the great and wonderful grace, which was manifest through Christ, freed us from the yoke of the Tyrant and delivered us from his servitude, and granted us this wonderful participation in benefits, I have recognised my benefactor. I know now my Lord, and He is truly my Lord, who created me while I was not, who does not relent in His daily beneficence to me, who did not forsake me even when I sinned against Him but bestowed favour on me, who revealed to us an awe-inspiring gift, who did not only vouchsafe to us deliverance from tribulations, but placed also before us the hope of ineffable benefits. I abjure, therefore, Satan, I flee from communion with him, and engage myself that henceforth I shall not run towards him nor shall I have any intercourse with him, but I shall flee completely from him as from an enemy and an evildoer, who became to us the cause of innumerable calamities, who does not know how to do good, and who strives with all his power to fight us and overcome us. The expression "I abjure" means that I will no more choose and accept any communion with him.

If Satan was striving alone and single-handed to fight against us and injure us, the above expression, which contains the profession of abjuring him and completely renouncing communion with him, would have been sufficient; as, however, although invisible, he knows how to fight against us by means of visible beings, the men whom he once subjected and made tools of his iniquity, and whom he employs to cause others to stumble—you add:

"and his angels."

The expression "his angels" refers to all men who received evil of some kind from him, which they practise to harm other people. At the beginning, when he had no one to cause to fall into sin and consequently to suit him in the service of injuring others, the serpent became a tool in his hands, of which he made use to deceive man and cause him to fall. Since, however, he caught in his net the children of men and brought them under subjection a long time ago, he employs those among them who are suitable to the task of injuring others. This is the reason why the blessed Paul said: "I fear lest as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtility, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." He shows here that men of this world are anxious to divert them from duty, and play the same role to the Devil in the deception of mankind as that played by the serpent. This is the reason why, after saying: "I abjure Satan" you add:

"and his angels."

You call angels of Satan all those who serve his will for the purpose of deceiving people and causing them to fall. We must believe to be servants of Satan all those who occupy themselves with the outside wisdom and bring the error of paganism into the world. Clearly are angels of Satan all the poets who maintained idolatry by their vain stories, and strengthened the error of heathenism by their wisdom. Angels of Satan are those men who under the name of philosophy established devastating doctrines among pagans, and corrupted them to such an extent that they do not acquiesce in the words of the true religion. Angels of Satan are also the heads of heresies, those who after the coming of Christ our Lord devised in an ungodly way, and introduced into the world, things contrary to the true faith. Angels of Satan are Mani, Marcion, and Valentinus, who detached the visible things from the creative act of God, and pretended that these visible things were created by another cause outside God. An angel of Satan is Paul of Samosata, who asserted that Christ our Lord was a simple man and denied (the existence) before the worlds of the person of the Divinity of the Only Begotten. Angels of Satan are Arius and Eunomius, who dared to affirm that the nature of the Divinity of the Only Begotten was created and not existing from the beginning, but that it came into existence from nothing according to the law of created beings. In this they imitate the pagans, as they assert that although the nature of the Son is created, they nevertheless believe Him to be God by nature. They also imitate the ignorance of the Jews who deny that He is a Son from the Father and that He is eternally from His Divinity, as He is truly a true Son, and pretend that He is a son in a way similar to those who among the Jews are called sons of God, who have acquired this sonship by grace and not by virtue of their Divinity.

An angel of Satan is also Apollinarius, who falsified the doctrine of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and who, under the pretence of an orthodoxy which would leave our salvation incomplete, categorically asserted that our mind was not assumed and did not participate like the body in the assumption of grace. Angels of Satan are those who in all heresies are the heads and the teachers of error, whether they be honoured with the name of episcopacy or of priesthood, because they are upholders and protectors of the words of error, and as such all of them serve the will of Satan, and clad in the robe of ecclesiastical service, strive to lean towards error. Angels of Satan are also those who, after the abolition of the law, think of drawing those who believed in Christ to the observances of the Jews. Angels of Satan are also those who give to mankind admonitions which are iniquitous, mischievous and contrary to the Divine commandments, and who endeavour to lead it to the service of evil.

You abjure all the above (men) in a way that leaves you no association of any kind with them, because you have drawn near to Christ and have been enrolled in the Church of God, and expect to be the body and the members of Christ through the birth of the holy baptism. Your association should be with Christ our Lord, as a member united to His head and far from those who endeavour to detach you from the faith and the creed of the Church.

After having said: "I abjure Satan and all his angels" you add:

"and all his service."

This means that you should strive to turn away from and reject both the men who serve the will of the Evil One and the things done by them in the name of teaching, as they are palpable iniquity. Service of Satan is everything dealing with paganism, not only the sacrifices and the worship of idols and all the ceremonies involved in their service, according to the ancient custom, but also the things that have their beginning in it. Service of Satan is clearly that a person should follow astrology and watch the positions and motions of the sun, the moon and the stars for the purpose of travelling, going forth, or undertaking a given work, while believing that he is benefited or harmed by their motion and their course; and that one should believe the men who, after watching the motions of the stars, prognosticate by them. This is clearly service of Satan, and the one who puts his confidence in God alone and trusts His Providence, strives to turn away from this and similar things, and expects everything from Him: the bestowal of good things and the abolition of bad things; and does not think that anything like these can happen from another quarter, but knows that anything that is outside the love of God and confidence in Him is under the influence of the tyranny and power of the Evil One.

[These] are service of Satan: the purifications, the washings, the knots, the hanging of yeast, the observances of the body, the fluttering or the voice of birds and any similar thing.9 It is service of Satan that one should indulge in the observances of Judaism. Service of Satan is also that service which is found among the heretics under the name of religion, because although it has some resemblance to an ecclesiastical service, yet it is devoid of the gift of the grace of the Holy Spirit, and is performed in impiety. It is clearly service of Satan if true are the words of our Lord who said: "Not everyone that says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven." It is evident that you will have no utility in calling upon the name of our Lord while in your mind you are with the ungodly, outside the fear of God. None of those things that are done by them in imitation of the ecclesiastical teaching brings any utility to those who perform them, because the things done (by them) are forbidden by God, and all of them are thus devoid of the gift of the Holy Spirit.

As when in a theatrical performance and in a play you see kings and you do not consider them kings because of the imitation of their dresses, but all of them as a ludicrous representation and a burlesque worthy to be laughed at—they only show before the eyes things taken from the ordinary life of the world—so also the things performed by the heretics under the name of doctrine, whether it be their baptism or their Eucharist, deserve laughter; and we ought to turn away from them as from the service of Satan, because all of them tend to strengthen impiety.

You also say:

"and all his deception." 

They named in clear words as deception of Satan all the things that were done by pagans under the name of doctrine, because they displayed all of them ostentatiously and performed them with the intention of fascinating the spectators and deceiving the others. All these things have by the grace of God disappeared to-day; but we must not think any the less of the service performed by heretics, because having noticed that the error of paganism had disappeared in the name of Christ, Satan strove to deceive the children of men by other means, and discovered the heresies, and found out that those who presided over them were, by their imitation of ecclesiastical ceremonies both in the invocation of the (Divine) names and in their fanciful communion service, in a position to deceive simple people and so lead them to the perdition of impiety. After this you say:

"And all his worldly glamour." 

They called his glamour, the theatre, the circus, the racecourse, the contests of the athletes, the profane songs, the water-organs and the dances, which the Devil introduced into this world under the pretext of amusement, and through which he leads the souls of men to perdition. It is not difficult to know the great injury caused by these things to the souls of men, and we ought to remove from all of them the son of the Sacrament of the New Testament, who is being enrolled in the citizenship of heaven, who is the heir of the future benefits, and who is expecting to become henceforth, through the regeneration of baptism, a member of Christ our Lord, the head of us all who is in heaven. We who are playing the part of members to Him ought to lead a life that is congruous to Him.

It is for this reason that at the time (preceding your baptism) you make these promises and engagements in the posture which we have described above:

I abjure Satan, and all his angels, and all his service, and all his deception, and all his worldly glamour; and I engage myself before the Divine, the blessed and the eternal nature of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

After having said: "I abjure Satan, and his angels, and his service, and his deception, and all his worldly glamour" you add:

"And I engage myself, and believe and am baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." 

As when you say "I abjure (Satan)" you mean to reject him for always, and not to revert to him nor be pleased to associate yourself with him any more, so also when you say "I engage myself before God" you show that you will remain steadfastly with Him, that you will henceforth be unshakeably with Him, that you will never separate yourself from Him, and that you will think it higher than anything else to be and to live with Him and to conduct yourself in a way that is in harmony with His commandments.

The addition "And I believe" is necessary because the person who draws near to God ought to believe that He is, as the blessed Paul said. As Divine nature is invisible, faith is called to the help of the person who draws near to it, and who promises to be constantly in its household. The good things that (God) prepared for us, through the Economy of Christ our Lord, are likewise invisible and unspeakable, and since it is in their hope that we draw near to Him and receive the sacrament of baptism, faith is required so that we may possess a strong belief without doubt concerning these good things which are prepared for us and which are now invisible.

You add also the sentence "and I am baptised" to that of "and I believe" so that you may draw near to the gift of the holy baptism, in the hope of future benefits, and be thus enabled to be reborn and to die with Christ and rise with Him from there, and so that after having received another birth, instead of your first one, you may be able to participate in heaven. As long as you are mortal by nature you are not able to enter the abode of heaven, but after you have cast away such a nature in baptism and have risen also with Christ through baptism, and received the symbol of the new birth which we are expecting, you will be seen as a citizen of heaven and an heir of the Kingdom of Heaven.

To all the above (sentences) you add:

"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." 

This is the Divine nature, this is the eternal Godhead, this is the cause of everything, and this is that which first created us and now is renewing us. This is, indeed, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is to it that we are drawing near now, and it is to it that we are rightly making our promises, because it has been to us the cause of numerous and great benefits, as at the beginning even so now. It is to it that we make these ineffable promises, and it is in it that we engage ourselves to believe henceforth. It is in its names that we are baptised, and through it that we expect to receive the future good things which are now promised to us as in a symbol, and it is to it that we look for the happiness which is to come, when we shall rise in reality from the dead, and become immortal and immutable in our nature, and heirs and partakers of the abode and citizenship of heaven.

These engagements and promises you make in the posture which we have described above, while your knee is bowed to the ground both as a sign of adoration which is due from you to God, and as a manifestation of your ancient fall to the ground; the rest of your body is erect and looks upwards towards heaven, and your hands are outstretched in the guise of one who prays so that you may be seen to worship the God who is in heaven, from whom you expect to rise from your ancient fall. This is the reason why you have, through the promises and engagements which we have already described, directed your course towards Him and have promised to Him that you will make yourself worthy of the expected gift. After you have looked towards Him with outstretched hands, asked grace from Him, risen from your fall and rejoiced in (future) benefits, you will necessarily receive the firstfruits of the sacrament which we believe to be the earnest of the good and ineffable things found in heaven. When you have, therefore, made your promises and engagements, the priest draws near to you, wearing, not his ordinary garments or the covering with which he was covered before, but clad in a robe of clean and radiant linen, the joyful appearance of which denotes the joy of the world to which you will move in the future, and the shining colour of which designates your own radiance in the life to come, while its cleanness indicates the ease and happiness of the next world. 

He depicts these things to you by means of the garments in which he is clad, and by the hidden symbol of the same garments he inspires you with fear, and with fear he infuses love into you, so that you may through the newness of his garments look into the power which it represents. And he signs you on your forehead with the holy Chrism and says:

"So-and-so is signed in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

He offers you these firstfruits of the sacrament, and he does it in no other way than in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Where you expect to find the cause of all the benefits, there the priest also begins the sacrament. In fact, it is from there that the priest draws you near to the calling towards which you must look, and in consequence of which you ought to live above all things according to the will (of God). The sign with which you are signed means that you have been stamped as a lamb of Christ and as a soldier of the heavenly King. Indeed, immediately we possess a lamb we stamp it with a stamp which shows to which master it belongs, so that it may graze the same grass as that which the rest of the lambs of the owner graze, and be in the same fold as that in which they are. A soldier who has enlisted for military service, and been found worthy of this service of the State because of his stature and the structure of his body, is first stamped on his hand with a stamp which shows to which king he will henceforth offer his service; in this same way you also, who have been chosen for the Kingdom of Heaven, and after examination been appointed a soldier to the heavenly King, are first stamped on your forehead, that part of your head which is higher than the rest of your body, which is placed above all your body and above your face, and with which we usually draw near to one another and look at one another when we speak. You are stamped at that place so that you may be seen to possess great confidence.

"Because now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face, and with an open face we shall behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord, and shall be changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord," as the blessed Paul said, we are rightly stamped in a place that is higher than our face, so that from far we may frighten the demons, who will not then be able to come near us and injure us, and so that we may be known to possess so much confidence with God that we look at Him with an open face, and display before Him the stamp by which we are seen to be members of the household and soldiers of Christ our Lord.

When the priest performs these things for you and signs you with a sign on your forehead, he separates you from the rest as a consequence of the aforesaid words, and decides that you are the soldier of the true King and a citizen of heaven. The sign (with which you have been signed) demonstrates that you have communion with, and participation in, all these things.

Immediately after your godfather, who is standing behind you, spreads an orarium of linen on the crown of your head, raises you and makes you stand erect. By your rising from your genuflexion you show that you have cast away your ancient fall, that you have no more communion with earth and earthly things, that your adoration and prayer to God have been accepted, that you have received the stamp which is the sign of your election to the ineffable military service, that you have been called to heaven, and that you ought henceforth to direct your course to its life and citizenship while spurning all earthly things.

The linen which he spreads on the crown of your head denotes the freedom to which you have been called. You were before standing bareheaded, as this is the habit of the exiles and the slaves, but after you have been signed he throws on your head linen, which is the emblem of the freedom to which you have been called. Men such as these (=freemen) are in the habit of spreading linen on their heads, and it serves them as an adornment both in the house and in the market-place.

After you have been singled out and stamped as a soldier of Christ our Lord you receive the remaining part of the sacrament and are invested with the complete armour of the Spirit, and with the sacrament you receive participation in the heavenly benefits. 

We ought to explain little by little how these things are effected, but let what has been said suffice for to-day, and let us end our discourse as usual by offering praise to God the Father, and to His Only Begotten Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now, always, and for ever and ever. Amen.

Here ends the third Chapter.


Here ends the third chapter.