Another reader writes in:
Looking ahead a little to Easter (yes, already!), one of the customs suggested in the Liturgy of the Hours is the revival of “Baptismal Vespers.” It is also mentioned in other places such as Paschalis Solemnitatis and the Ceremonial of Bishops.
What might this look like in practice in the following settings (a) parishes with many baptisms at the Vigil (b) parishes with extremely few or no baptisms during the Vigil (c) religious houses, formation centers and seminaries, and other atypical contexts? What resources exist for such a service?
Might such a service be extended through some or all of the days the Easter Octave, as a parallel to the frequent baptismal references at Mass for those days?
The idea of a Baptismal Vespers is intriguing to me. I had to do a bit of research when I received this question. Michael Kunzler’s The Church’s Liturgy was particularly helpful (see p.357-358). According to Kunzler, Baptismal Vespers is a Vespers service “in which baptism is commemorated by a procession with hymns and prayers to the place where baptisms take place” (p.357). It appears that they stem loosely from the processions in Jerusalem during the Octave of Easter (the source is of course Egeria).
Another source is Ordo Romanus 27 which describes the Roman Baptismal Vespers circa 7th-13th centuries. Kunzler notes the structure of the service: “the first part of the Vespers ended after the third psalm, Magnificat and Easter prayer, and the participants processed to the baptistry [sic] and to the Consignatorium (Confirmation chapel), at each of which the last two psalms were sung, followed each time by the (second and third) Magnificat with corresponding prayer” (p.357). After a quick glance at the text, OR 27 appears to be an actual baptismal service and not simply a commemoration (#59 reads: Tunc baptizat – then he baptizes). Nevertheless, the Roman Baptismal Vespers was disseminated across Europe and persisted in France through the 19th century.
The Ambrosian Liturgy perhaps best preserves the Baptismal Vespers. Martimort’s The Church at Prayer: The Liturgy and Time briefly references the Ambrosian Baptismal Vespers (p.365) as does Rubén Leikam in Chupungco’s Handbook for Liturgical Studies: Liturgical Time and Space (p.109). The Ambrosian Baptismal Vespers was such a significant part of the historic Ambrosian Liturgy of the Hours that a commemoration of baptism was included in the new revised rite: Liturgia Ambrosiana Delle Ore.
I will be curious to know if anyone has any experience planning or participating in one of these services. If you have, what resources have you drawn from?