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Consolamentum, known as heretication to its Christian opponents, was the unique sacrament of the Cathars. In common with Christianity, Cathars believed in original sin, and, like Gnostics, believed temporal pleasure to be sinful or unwise. The process of living thus inevitably incurred 'regret' that required 'consolation' to move nearer to God or to approach heaven. It occurred only twice in a lifetime: upon confirmation in the faith and upon impending death. It was available to both men and women who made a commitment to the faith.Lambert, Malcolm (1998). The Cathars. Oxford: Blackwell. pp. throughout. ISBN 0-631-20959-X. Following the ceremony the consoled individual became a "Cathar Perfect".
According to the Albigenses and other Cathars, the consolamentum was an immersion (or baptism) in the Holy Spirit. It implied reception of all spiritual gifts including absolution from sin, spiritual regeneration, and the power to preach and elevation to a higher plane of perfection.
Reference to the trinity was systematically replaced with the name of Christ since the doctrine of the Albigenses and Cathars professed a single unified deity (their Christology resembled modalistic monarchism in the West and adoptionism in the East).
The ritual took various forms; some used the entire New Testament scripture whilst others relied on extracts such as the Gospel attributed to John while administering consolation. There were reportedly some remote cases where holy water was used as a cleansing agent during consolamentum being profusely poured over the recipient's head until he/she was completely wet (as opposed to sprinkling).
In contrast to mainstream Christian ceremonies the form used by the majority of Cathars only required verbal blessings and scriptures administered to the person to be consoled, and did not involve tokens such as consecrated bread or wine because these would pass through the body and become befouled. Dying persons might abstain from food in order that their bodies be as pure as possible as it passed into eternity.
According to a few known cases in the latter years of Catharism, the terminally ill would voluntarily undertake a complete fast known as the endura. It was only undertaken when death was clearly inevitable. It was a form of purification and separation from the material world which was controlled by the evil one. They believed that this final sacrifice ensured their reunification with the Good God.
Laying on of hands were always part of the ceremony. Some historians have stated that incidences of ecstatic utterances during consolamentum was actually glossolalia, or "speaking in tongues," which demanded that the rite be even more secretly guarded since this phenomenon occurring outside of the Church was considered witchcraft and was punishable by death.
Once consoled, Parfaits were required to be vegetarian, to be celibate, and to dedicate their lives to travelling and teaching Albigensian and Cathar doctrines. These Parfaits were the leaders of the Albigensian and other Cathar communities (Albigenses were a branch of Cathari in what was to later become southern France. Most people use the term Albigenses when referring to those that adhered to a branch of Cathari that was less dualistic and more closely resembled orthodoxy).
The vast majority of the population did not receive consolamentum until on the verge of death. Once given the consolamentum, the same rules applied to them, though they were obviously not expected to travel or preach from their deathbed. This allowed most believers to live somewhat normal lives and receive consolamentum shortly before passing away.