Blessed salt in Christianity

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Blessed salt has been used in various forms throughout the history of Christianity. Among early Christians, the savoring of blessed salt often took place along with baptism. In the fourth century, Augustine of Hippo named these practices "visible forms of invisible grace".[1][2] However, its modern use as a sacramental remains mostly limited to its use with holy water within the Anglican Communion and Roman Catholic Church.[3]

History[edit]

In the Old Testament, in 2 Samuel 8:13, "David struck down 18,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt."[4] In addition, 2 Kings 2 "tells the story of the prophet Elijah pouring salt onto Jericho's water springs."[4]

For centuries since the advent of Jesus, salt that had been cleansed and sanctified by special exorcisms and prayers was given to catechumens before entering the church for baptism. According to the fifth canon of the Third Council of Carthage in the third century, salt was administered to the catechumens several times a year, a process attested by Augustine of Hippo (Confessions I.11). Two specific rites, namely a cross traced on the forehead and a taste of blessed salt, not only marked the entrance into the catechumenate, but were repeated regularly. By his own account, Augustine was "blessed regularly with the Sign of the Cross and was seasoned with God's salt."[5]

Early in the sixth century, John the Deacon also explained the use of blessed salt, "so the mind which is drenched and weakened by the waves of this world is held steady".[6] Salt continued to be customarily used during the scrutinies of catechumens or the baptism of infants.

Current use[edit]

In recent times, the use of blessed salt is found within the Anglican liturgy of Holy Baptism.[3] In the section on Occasional Offices of the Book of Common Prayer, the following prayer, given under the rite for Blessing of Holy Water is said before the holy water is blessed and "salt is put into the water in the form of a cross":

Almighty and everlasting God, you have created salt for the use of man, we ask you to bless this salt and grant that wherever it is sprinkled and whatever is touched by it may be set free from all impurity and the attacks of Satan; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.[7]

The Roman Rite of the Catholic Church also mentions use of blessed salt.[8] The 1962 Rituale Romanum includes salt as component in three rites:

  • Baptism: Before the candidates enter the church or baptistry, salt is blessed with an exorcism, and a pinch can be put in the mouth of the candidates.[9] However, in modern practice this can be skipped.
  • Reconsecration of an altar: In one rite for the reconsecration of an altar which has been disturbed, salt is exorcized, blessed, and mixed with ashes, water and wine, the resulting mixture being used to make the mortar with which the altar is resealed.[10]
  • Blessing holy water: Salt is added to water in silence after a prayer in which God is asked to bless the salt, recalling the blessed salt "scattered over the water by the prophet Elisha" and invoking the protective powers of salt and water, that they may "drive away the power of evil".[11]

An additional rite provides for the blessing of salt for animals.[12]

Blessed salt is also used in prayer services of Pentecostal churches, such as the Apostolic Church Fullness of God's Throne.[13]

Salt as sacramental[edit]

Salt may also be blessed for use as a sacramental, using the same prayer as is used during the preparation of holy water. This salt may be sprinkled in a room, or across a threshold, or in other places as an invocation of divine protection. This will keep demons and possessed persons away from a home and crossing a line made of salt. It may also be consumed.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tad W. Guzie, 1982 The book of sacramental basics ISBN 0-8091-2411-4 page 46
  2. ^ Everett Ferguson, 2009 Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy ISBN 0-8028-2748-9 page 768
  3. ^ a b The Anglican Service Book. Good Shepherd Press. 1991. p. 231. ISBN 9780962995507. 
  4. ^ a b Martinez, Jessica (27 June 2014). "Brazilian Pastor Pours 110 lbs. of Salt on Church Floor". The Christian Post. Retrieved 9 July 2014. Despite the backlash on social media, many have defended Duke's actions by saying the practice was inspired by the biblical story found in 2 Samuel 8:13 about how David struck down 18,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt. Others speculate that the act was derived from 2 Kings 2 which tells the story of the prophet Elijah pouring salt onto Jericho's water springs. 
  5. ^ William Harmless, 1995 Augustine and the Catechumenate ISBN 0-8146-6132-7 page 80
  6. ^ Aidan Kavanagh, 1991 The Shape of Baptism: The Rite of Christian Initiation ISBN page 59
  7. ^ "Occasional Offices". Book of Common Prayer. Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea. 2014. 
  8. ^ Catholic encyclopedia on salt
  9. ^ trans. Weller, Philip T. "Rituale Romanum: Rite for baptism of adults". 
  10. ^ trans. Weller, Philip T. "Rituale Romanum: Blessings of places designated for sacred purposes". 
  11. ^ Peter M. J. Stravinskas, 1998 Our Sunday Visitor's Catholic Encyclopedia ISBN 0-87973-669-0 page 893
  12. ^ trans. Weller, Philip T. "Rituale Romanum: Blessings of things designated for ordinary use". 
  13. ^ Martinez, Jessica (27 June 2014). "Brazilian Pastor Pours 110 lbs. of Salt on Church Floor". The Christian Post. Retrieved 9 July 2014. An Apostolic church in Brazil has atrracted controversy online after a photo was posted on their Facebook account in which the pastor is seen praying and kneeling on the floor over 110 lbs. of anointed salt. Apostolic Church Full of God's Throne based in Sao Paulo held a service last week where the practice took place. 
  14. ^ Hampsch, John H. "Blessed Salt". Claretan Teaching Ministry. 

Further reading[edit]

  • The Roman Ritual (Rituale Romanum), Vol 2: Christian Burial, Exorcism, Reserved Blessings Preserving Christian Publications (2007)