What Justin Martyr Said About Confirmation in the 2nd Century Will Blow You Away
by Matt Vander Vennet
Justin Martyr lived in the 2nd century, and was the first Christian dedicated to apologetics. There’s a reason that he has the surname “Martyr” — he believed so much in what he was defending that he eventually was killed for being a Christian. With so many people entering the Church over Holy Saturday at the Easter Vigil, I wanted to see how the early church welcomed in their new members as well. Justin tells us exactly what happens when one wants to be a part of Christ’s Church.
On catechesis prior to confirmation:
“As many as are persuaded and believe that the things we say are true, and undertake to live accordingly, are instructed to pray and ask God with fasting for the remission of their past sins, while we pray and fast with them.” – Justin, Apology 1, 61.2On Baptism:
“And we think it for the good of all people that they are not prevented from learning these things, but are even urged to consider them.” – Justin, Apology 1, 10.5
“Those who likewise choose what is pleasing to Him are, on account of their choice, counted worthy of incorruption and of fellowship with Him.” God further ordains that man may “follow those things that please Him, choosing them by means of the rational powers He has given us, He both persuades us and leads us to faith.” – Justin, Apology I, 10.3-4
“They are led by us to where there is water and they are reborn in the kind of rebirth in which we ourselves were also reborn. For at the name of the Father of all and Lord God and of our savior Jesus Christ and of the holy Spirit they then wash in water.” – Justin, Apology I, 61.3On the Eucharist:
“Since at our first birth we were born of necessity without our knowledge, from moist seed by the intercourse of our parents with each other, and were brought up in bad habits and wicked behavior; in order that we should not remain children of necessity and ignorance, but of free choice and knowledge, and obtain remission of the sins formerly committed, there is named at the water over him who has chosen to be born again, and has repented of his sinful acts, the name of God the Father and Master of all; they who lead to the washing the one who is to be washed call on this [name] alone.” – Justin, Apology 1, 61.10
“And this washing is called illumination, as those who learn these things are illuminated in the mind. And he who is illuminated is washed in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and in the name of the Holy Spirit, who through the prophets foretold all the things about Jesus.” – Justin, Apology 1, 61.12-13
“But we, after thus washing the one who has been convinced and has assented [to our instruction], lead him to those who are called brethren, where they are assembled; and we offer prayers in common for ourselves and for the one who has been illuminated and for all others everywhere, that we may be accounted worthy, having learned the truth, by our deeds also to be found good citizens and guardians of what is commanded, so that we may be saved with eternal salvation.” – Justin, Apology 1, 65.1
“There is brought to the Ruler of the Brethren bread and a cup of water and [a cup] of wine mixed with water, and he taking them sends up praise and glory to the Father of the Universe through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and offers thanksgiving at some length for our being accounted worthy to receive these things from Him.” – Justin, Apology 1, 65.3
“And this food is called among us eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake except one who believes that the things which we teach are true, and has received the washing that is for the remission of sins and for rebirth, and who so lives as Christ handed down. For we do not receive these things as common bread nor common drink; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior having been incarnate by God’s logos took both flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food eucharistized through the word of prayer that is from Him, from which our blood and flesh are nourished by transformation, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who became incarnate.” – Justin, Apology 1, 66.1-2
It’s fascinating that the process by which Christians of Justin’s day were incorporated into the Church and to see what they actually had to believe in order to become a part of the Church.
For more information on Justin, check out his First and Second Apologies and his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew.