Baptism: The Service
In the Early Church
Baptism is the first Sacrament because a person who is not baptised – christened – is not a Christian. In the Early Church, Baptism was administered twice a year: at Easter, and then again at Pentecost for any candidates who had missed the Easter Baptism. Most of them would be adults. They were instructed in the Christian Faith during the six weeks of Lent. Indeed, that is how the season of Lent began, as a preparation for Baptism.
During that time they were taught the Creed as a summary or outline of the Faith, and also the Lord’s Prayer. Then, late on the evening before Easter Day, having turned towards the west, where the sun had set at nightfall, they renounced the Devil, – said 'No' to him – the Lord of Darkness. Next, as if turning their back on the Devil and looking instead to God, they faced the east where the light of dawn would soon shine and drive the night away. So they recited the Creed to express their belief in God and in the Christian Faith. Then they were baptised by the bishop, and confirmed by him immediately afterwards, and so they made their First Communion. Lastly, they were given a drink of milk and honey. The Jews of old had been promised “a land flowing with milk and honey”, and so this drink was a reminder of the faithful Christian’s reward in Heaven, that “land of pure delight, where saints immortal reign”. (1)
Later on, when most people had become Christians, they brought their children to be baptised when they were babies, as generally happens today. This meant, of course, that no instruction in the Christian Faith could be given, and so Baptisms were administered all through the year and no longer only at Easter and Pentecost.