The Rites of Christian Initiation: Their Evolution and Interpretation, Revised and Expanded Edition / Edition 2

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Originally published in 1999, The Rites of Christian Initiation was haled for its clarity and comprehensiveness. Kalian McDonnell, OSB, called it the best overall treatment of Christian initiation available, and Paul Bradshaw predicted it would be the standard textbook on the subject for very many years to come." The current edition draws on new translations of early texts on baptism as well as recent scholarship on the early traditions in the East and West. It is sure to replace itself as the new standard reference on the rites of Christian initiation.

Maxwell E. Johnson's expanded and revised text provides a more complete view of the history and interpretation of the rites in the Eastern Church, including two chapters that explore the pre-Nicene Eastern and Western traditions in detail. Revisiting the theology of baptism, this edition also provides more nuanced positions on the Eastern and Western traditions. Finally, recent liturgical developments in American Protestant churches, particularly Lutheran, as well as the ongoing development of the RCIA and confirmation practices of Catholics, made it necessary to revisit the place and meaning of these rites in the church today.

Maxwell E. Johnson, PhD, is professor of liturgy at the University of Notre Dame and an ordained minister of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He has published in Worship and is the editor of and contributor to Living Water, Sealing Spirit: Readings on Christian Initiation (Liturgical Press, 1995) and the revised and expanded edition of E.C. Whitaker, Documents of the Baptismal Liturgy (Liturgical Press and S.P.C.K., 2003), to which this study serves as a companion volume.


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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Max Johnson has done it again. If you have room in your library for only one reference book on initiation, this is the one to choose. . . . This revision paints and even broader, deeper, and therefore even more complex picture of how Christians have ritualized and understood Christian identity and the making of Christians.

Those who know Max Johnson’s work in the area of sacramental initiation need no introduction to this new edition of The Rites of Christian Initiation. In fact, they probably already own it. The 1999 edition was the definitive work on the history and theology of the liturgical rites of initiation and a major contribution to their spirituality. It has been widely used as a textbook, and I am sure that those who have used it have found its clarity and insights as challenging as I have. The new edition, with extensive updating and rewriting, is even better. . . . The book is indispensable for anyone interested in sacramental initiation.
Catholic Books Review

No Catholic library should be without this revised and expanded version of The Rites of Christian Initiation: Their Evolution and Interpretation.
Catholic Library World

[A] necessary reference book for every initiation ministry team. . . . This book will offer helpful insights to those open to history and the wisdom of diverse communities within the Church. It’s perfect for those who know it’s time for a personal update—and this book highlights the fact that it is indeed time for most of us—or for use in any initiation course that goes beyond the surface of what is in the current liturgical books.

Used as a textbook in university undergraduate and graduate religious studies programs, the work is accessible and informative to any reader interested in a historical perspective on Christian initiation rites.
Midwest Book Review

If you think Maxwell Johnson has already written the definitive book on the history of Christian initiation rites, you are right. But now he has made it better. A revised and expanded edition is only necessary because scholars have new insights into the history of these rites, and because their contemporary celebration continues to develop.

Johnson has written a textbook case of writing good textbooks: clear in organization, generous in quoting sources, precise in analysis, and provocative in expositing contemporary theological issues. Maxwell Johnson is a mystagogical Titan at the top of his form.
Paul Turner, STD

Author of When Other Christians Become Catholic (Liturgical Press)

The revised and expanded edition of Maxwell Johnson’s The Rites of Christian Initiation: Their Evolution and Interpretation further enhances the reputation of the Liturgical Press for publishing first-rate liturgical studies that both keep abreast of the field and ahead of it. The first edition clearly established itself as the best overall treatment of the subject and the most widely used textbook available. This new edition captures the fast-moving developments in scholarship on the rites of both eastern and western Christianity. Particularly instructive is Professor Johnson’s discussion of the most recent fruitful engagement of Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant churches on initiation, including directions to be taken in the future. Most arresting, however, is his penetrating theology and spirituality of the rites of initiation. For everyone interested in the rites of Christian initiation, no matter from what faith tradition, this revised and expanded edition is must reading and stud

The first edition has already established itself as the standard history of the rites of initiation, and the updating in this second edition will further enhance its reputation.
Rev. Paul Bradshaw, PhD, Professor of Liturgy, University of Notre Dame

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814662151
  • Publisher: Liturgical Press, The
  • Publication date: 12/28/2007
  • Series: Pueblo Bks.
  • Edition description: Revised
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 536
  • Sales rank: 1,324,788
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Maxwell E. Johnson, PhD, is an oblate of Saint John's Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota, and an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He is professor of liturgy at the University of Notre Dame. His articles have appeared frequently in Worship. He is the author of Living Water, Sealing Spirit, The Rites of Christian Initiation, and Between Memory and Hope, published by Liturgical Press.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     x
Abbreviations     xii
Preface to the Second Edition     xiii
Introduction     xvii
The Origins of the Rites of Christian Initiation     1
Christian Initiation in the Pre-nicene East     41
Christian Initiation in the Pre-nicene West     83
Initiation in the Christian East During the Fourth and Fifth Centuries     115
Initiation in the Christian West During the Fourth and Fifth Centuries     159
Excursus: Baptismal Preparation and the Origins of Lent     201
Christian Initiation in the Middle Ages     219
The Rites of Initiation in the Christian East     269
Christian Initiation in the Protestant and Catholic Reforms of the Sixteenth Century     309
Christian Initiation in the Churches Today     375
Back Home to the Font: The Place of a Baptismal Spirituality and Its Implications in a Displaced World     451
Index     479
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  • Posted January 22, 2009

    A reviewer

    Used as a textbook in university undergraduate and graduate religious studies programs, the work is accessible and informative to any reader interested in a historical perspective on Christian initiation rites. Johnson--who is a professor of liturgy at Notre Dame and ordained Evangelical Lutheran Minister--brings in theology inhering in such rites to the degree that their purposes and symbolisms can be realized and so that historical modifications of rites within a religion and differences in them between religions, primarily Catholicism and Protestantism, can be realized as well. This comparative treatment within the broad historical movement brings to light similarities as well as differences while demonstrating the import, centrality, and continuity of initiation rites to Christian religions. While recognizing the value of anthropology in understanding the presence and the role of initiation rites, the author stresses Christian initiation rites are decidedly and patently different from cultural rites in general which are the interest of anthropology in that the Christian rites 'are about initiating people who already [in italics in original] belong in some way to the community to a new level of membership or status within the same community'. Christian initiation rites thus have a quality of specificity and volition, and thus of meaning not found with a community's general, traditional rites. 'What the [Christian] churches continue to do today in their initiation rites has its origins in the explicit command of the risen continue a process of evangelization, of making disciples and teaching (catechesis) and of baptizing.' From this origin, over centuries, the rites have varied as early Catholicism was beset with schisms the Eastern Church separated from the Western Church centered in Rome Protestantism arose and modern society's notions of ecumenicism, spirituality, and community affected both the language and intent of many initiation rites. This new edition (earlier one, 1999) revises translations of excerpts from primary texts to reflect recent scholarship. Other revisions range from added nuances to changes in organization from somewhat revised perspectives taking into account studies in recent years. One organizational change is the two chapters on the pre-Nicene period instead of the one of the previous volume. Such changes keep this fundamental text on Christian initiation pertinent for classroom use while not affecting its accessibility and value for general readers.

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