Singing the Baptismal Services

This article covers the practical aspects of singing the services for the Mysteries of Holy Baptism and Holy Chrismation in the Byzantine Catholic Church.

Baptism outside of Divine Liturgy

To lead the singing at a baptism outside the Divine Liturgy, you will need a copy of the baptismal service as used in your parish, a copy of the green Divine Liturgies book, and this leaflet with propers for the baptismal service.

The service begins in the narthex (porch or vestibule) of the church with the reception into the catechumenate, the exorcisms, and the profession of the faith. For this part of the service, the cantor's role is to lead the singing of the ordinary responses, "Amen" and "Lord, have mercy"; the usual melodies can be taken. Be careful not to say the candidates' or sponsors' responses, including the Symbol of Faith (the Creed).

After the profession of faith, the clergy, candidates and sponsors go in procession to the baptistery (if there is one) or to the middle of the church. Again, the cantor's job is to lead the singing of "Amen" and the responses at the "Litany of Peace": there are additional petitions for the blessing of water, and for the candidates for baptism. If this part of the service takes place in a separate baptistery, at least one cantor should go with the clergy and candidates in procession.

The responses at the blessing of water and simply, "Amen", "And with your spirit", "To you, O Lord", sung as usual.

After the priest blesses water and oil, he pours some of the oil upon the water in the form of the cross, "singing Alleluia three times with the people." Neither the Slavonic nor the English service book appoints a tone for this Alleluia. If the priest begins singing Alleluia, follow his lead and use the same melody. If the priest expects you to begin the singing of the Alleluia, you may use any of the ordinary Alleluia melodies — but it would be best to discuss this with him beforehand!

After the candidates have been baptized, the priest will wash his hands and clothe the candidates in white garments, saying

The servant of God N. is clothed in a robe of righteousness, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Then the cantor immediately sings the following troparion in Tone 8 (on the propers leaflet):

* Note that the Parma book for baptism has the word "give" in place of "grant" in this troparion, but the melody is otherwise unchanged.

The priest proceeds with the chrismation of the candidates. When the words "The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Amen" have been said over all the candidates, the cantor leads the singing of "All you who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Alleluia!", three times.

Note 1: Decide with the priest whether to use the text in the baptism book ("have put on Christ") or in the Divine Liturgies book ("have been clothed with Christ"), and what melody to use.

Note 2: When this hymn is sung outside of the Divine Liturgy, it is only sung three times; "Glory... now and ever...." and the final repetition of "All you who have been baptized" are not added.

The service continues with Epistle and Gospel readings, so after "Peace be with all! Wisdom! Be attentive!", the cantor leads the singing of the following prokeimenon in Tone 3 (on the propers leaflet):

Note that this is really the same prokeimen on as sung on Bright Saturday and Lazarus Saturday (page 174 in the Divine Liturgies book; listen), but here we follow the text in the baptism service book. This is a good general rule: sing what the text that is in front of the people, unless what they are singing is SO familiar that they are likely to just ignore the book entirely. (And in that case, check with your priest first before singing a different text than is in the book being used!)

The Epistle reading is Romans 6:3-11, which can be found on page 202 of the Epistle book.

The Alleluia is appointed to be sung three times before the Gospel, but no tone is indicated and no verses are provided. The cantor can use any Alleluia melody, as long as it is familiar to the faithful. The Gospel responses are the same as for the Divine Liturgy.

After the Gospel, there is a final Litany of Fervent Supplication, the response being "Lord, have mercy", three times, and then Holy Communion is given to the newly baptized. There is no Communion hymn.

The dismissal can be sung using either the melody from the Divine Liturgy (page 89 in the Divine Liturgies book; listen) or the dismissal melody for the General Moleben (page 447; listen; same as the usual psalm tone).

Depending on local custom, the priest may conclude the baptismal service of an infant with the rite of churching, at the end of which the priest says or sings the Prayer of Simeon ("Now you may dismiss your servant, O Lord") before the Royal Doors, while holding the newly baptized child. In rare occasions, the priest may want the cantor to sing this; music can be found on page 452 of the Divine Liturgies book (listen).

Baptism at the Divine Liturgy

When a baptism is celebrated as part of the Divine Liturgy (other than on Holy Saturday night), the baptismal service completely replaces the first part of the Divine Liturgy, up through the readings. You will need a copy of the baptismal service as used in your parish, a copy of the green Divine Liturgies book, and this leaflet with propers for the baptismal service.

According to the Parma baptism book, the reception into the catechumenate, the exorcisms, and the profession of faith are done privately before the Divine Liturgy (for an infant) or as part of the catechumenate (for an adult). In either case, the cantor may be asked to lead the responses; follow the description above for baptism outside the Divine Liturgy. And of course, it is possible that the priest may wish to celebrate these at the start of the Divine Liturgy instead. Again, follow the description above.

In the normal case, the Divine Liturgy will begin the middle of the church, with the opening blessing, "Blessed is the kingdom." The cantor leads the singing of "Amen" and the responses at the "Litany of Peace": there are additional petitions for the blessing of water, and for the candidates for baptism. If this part of the service takes place in a separate baptistery, at least one cantor should go with the clergy and candidates in procession.

The responses at the blessing of water are simply, "Amen", "And with your spirit", "To you, O Lord", sung as usual.

After the priest blesses water and oil, he pours some of the oil upon the water in the form of the cross, "singing Alleluia three times with the people." Neither the Slavonic nor the English service book appoints a tone for this Alleluia. If the priest begins singing Alleluia, follow his lead and use the same melody. If the priest expects you to begin the singing of the Alleluia, you may use any of the ordinary Alleluia melodies — but it would be best to discuss this with him beforehand!

After the candidates have been baptized, the priest will wash his hands and clothe the candidates in white garments, saying

The servant of God N. is clothed in a robe of righteousness, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Then the cantor immediately sings the following troparion in Tone 8 (on the propers leaflet):

* Note that the Parma book for baptism has the word "give" in place of "grant" in this troparion, but the melody is otherwise unchanged.

The priest proceeds with the chrismation of the candidates. When the words "The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Amen" have been said over all the candidates, the cantor leads the singing of "All you who have been baptized...", as usual for the Divine Liturgy.

Note 1: Decide with the priest whether to use the text in the baptism book ("have put on Christ") or in the Divine Liturgies book ("have been clothed with Christ"), and what melody to use. This may be a good place to "switch" from the baptism book to the Divine Liturgies book for the remainder of the service.

Note 2: When this hymn is sung during the Divine Liturgy, "Glory... now and ever.... Have been clothed with Christ, Alleluia!" and the final repetition of "All you who have been baptized" are added. This is mentioned in the peoples book from Passaic, but not in the priest/deacon's book.

If it is a feast of the Lord or the Theotokos, or a Sunday from Pascha through All Saints', use the prokeimenon, Epistle, Alleluia, and Gospel of the feastday or Sunday.

Otherwise, use the prokeimenon, Epistle, Alleluia, and Gospel of the baptismal service. The prokeimenon in Tone 3 (on the propers leaflet):

This is really the same prokeimen on as sung on Bright Saturday and Lazarus Saturday (page 174 in the Divine Liturgies book; listen), but here we follow the text in the baptism service book. This is a good general rule: sing what the text that is in front of the people, unless what they are singing is SO familiar that they are likely to just ignore the book entirely. (And in that case, check with your priest first before singing a different text than is in the book being used!)

The Epistle reading is Romans 6:3-11, which can be found on page 202 of the Epistle book.

The Passaic baptism books are inconsistent as to what Alleluia is sung before the Gospel. The priest/deacon's book mentions (in an appendix) that, at the Divine Liturgy, the Alleluia for baptism should be sung in Tone 8 (page 163 in the Divine Liturgies book):

with the following verses:

V. The lord is king, in splendor robed; robed is the Lord and girt about with strength
V. He has made the world firm, not to be moved.

But no tone or verses are provided in the main body of this book, or in the people's book. Consult with the priest, or use your judgment.

From this point on, the Divine Liturgy proceeds as usual. Sing the Communion hymn(s) of the day; in general, the newly baptized and their sponsors should be the first to receive Holy Communion, after the priest and deacon.

Depending on local custom, the priest may conclude the baptismal service of an infant with the rite of churching, at the end of which the priest says or sings the Prayer of Simeon ("Now you may dismiss your servant, O Lord") before the Royal Doors, while holding the newly baptized child. In rare occasions, the priest may want the cantor to sing this; music can be found on page 452 of the Divine Liturgies book (listen).

Baptism at the Paschal Vigil

When baptisms conducted at the Vigil Divine Liturgy on the night of Holy Saturday, the reception into the catechumenate, exorcisms, and profession of faith will already have been done.

There are additional petitions at the Litany of peace for the bless of water and for those being baptized, but otherwise the service continues as usual until the festal entrance and the singing of "O joyful light."

If there is a separate baptistery, the clergy, candidates for baptism, sponsors, and a cantor will go in procession to the baptistery for the rite of baptism and chrismation, beginning with the blessing of water. The baptisms are done as usual, with the cantor leading the ordinary responses. After all the candidates have been baptized and clothed in white garments, the cantor sings this troparion in tone 8 (from the propers leaflet):

and the priest chrismates the newly-baptized.

During this time, in the nave of the church, the reader or a second cantor has been chanting the Old Testament readings — as necessary. At the close of the final reading (Daniel 3:1-90), the priest exclaims from the baptistery, "For you are holy, our God, and we render glory to You, Father Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever and forever." The cantors respond "Amen", and begin the singing of the hymn, "All you who have been baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. Alleluia!" During the singing of this hymn, those in the baptistery go in procession back into the church, and the Divine Liturgy of Great and Holy Saturday continues as prescribed.

If there is no separate baptistery, then a selection of Old Testament readings may be taken. After the final reading (Daniel 3:1-90), the baptisms are performed in the middle of the church, beginning with the blessing of water; the cantor leads the responses as usual. After all the candidates have been baptized and clothed in white garments, the cantor chants the troparion "O most merciful Christ our God (above), and the priest chrismates the newly-baptized.

Then priest exclaims, "For you are holy, our God, and we render glory to You, Father Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever and forever." The cantors respond "Amen", and begin the singing of the hymn, "All you who have been baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. Alleluia!" During the singing of this hymn, the clergy, the newly baptized and their sponsors, and the cantors go in procession once around the church, and the Divine Liturgy of Great and Holy Saturday continues as prescribed.

Chrismation

If the mystery of chrismation is celebrated apart from the mystery of baptism for any reason, then:

The service of Chrismation begins with the priest's blessing and the usual beginning prayers, which can be straight-chanted according to local custom. This is followed by the Litany of Peace, to which petitions are added for those being chrismated.

The priest prays and then chrismates those who are to be sealed. As soon as the chrismation is complete, the cantor leads the singing of "All you who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Alleluia!". three times (music on pages 32-33 of the Divine Liturgies book).

Then the cantor leads the singing of this prokeimenon in Tone 3 (from the propers leaflet):

The Epistle reading is Romans 6:3-11, which can be found on page 202 of the Epistle book.

The Alleluia is appointed to be sung three times before the Gospel, but no tone is indicated and no verses are provided. The cantor can use any Alleluia melody, as long as it is familiar to the faithful. The Gospel responses are the same as for the Divine Liturgy.

After the Gospel, there is a final Litany of Fervent Supplication, the response being "Lord, have mercy", three times, and then Holy Communion is given to the newly baptized. There is no Communion hymn.

The dismissal can be sung using either the melody from the Divine Liturgy (page 89 in the Divine Liturgies book; listen) or the dismissal melody for the General Moleben (page 447; listen; same as the usual psalm tone).