You bring up two very strong points, perhaps the two best offered so far in denfense of this late-in-coming Latin practice. However, in them, I do not perceive so much a rebuttal of the observation that the RC practice on Baptism is not
minimalistic or falling away from the ideal - rather, it is a pseud-absolution of the RC practice, by pointing to the perceived short comings of Eastern practice (IOW, at best, an argument for silence on the grounds that to do otherwise, Easterners become hypocrites.)
But while we are speaking of deviating from Apostolic practice the Eastern Churches have done this also. The Didache states quite clearly that the norm is immersion in running water as Our Lord was, to my knowledge this is rarely, if ever, done. Immersion in a font is itself a deviation, although to a different degree than affusion, from the Apostolic norm but this is never brought up.
This is a good point (keeping in mind however, the Didache is only one
source on this subject - but a good point nonetheless, particularly given the antiquity and acceptance in early Christendom of this document). However, I do not find it a convincing argument, for the following reasons...
- The Didache, going down a descending list of norms for Baptism says "if thou hast not" (ex. but if thou hast not running water, baptize in some other water, and if thou canst not baptize in cold, in warm water;). I think a stronger argument can be made for the impracticality of finding a suitable river to baptize someone in, than the alleged impracticality of finding any sufficient amount of water to baptize someone in (by immersion.)
- I also happen to know, that when the situation allows it, most Orthodox Priests will
opt to Baptize someone in a lake or river (this is particularly true of monasteries, which are very often established near bodies of water.)
Most significant however, is how we should read the Didache in light of the broad Tradition of the Church, the canons, etc. The Didache, while briefly offering norms on this subject, gives little in the case of details. For example, this is all we read...
7:1 But concerning baptism, thus baptize ye: having first recited all these precepts, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in running water;
7:2 but if thou hast not running water, baptize in some other water, and if thou canst not baptize in cold, in warm water;
7:3 but if thou hast neither, pour water three times on the head, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
7:4 But before the baptism, let him who baptizeth and him who is baptized fast previously, and any others who may be able. And thou shalt command him who is baptized to fast one or two days before. (Didache, Chapter 7)
However, we know
full well that as far as the Church (including the West, even up until after the "Great Schism") was concerned, there was an immense amount of qualification to be added to the above formula.
For example, while baptizing in a river ("living water"...which I would imagine would not be a lake even, but moving, flowing water, like in the River Jordan) may have been "more the ideal" based on it's outward simultude to the historical manner of Christ's Baptism at the hands of St.John the Baptist (and the primitive Apostolic practice immediately after Pentecost, which was largely a matter of practicality - unless one can think of a better way of baptizing crowds of converts), this was not regarded by the Canons of the Church or the popular thought of the Church in any age as touching upon the "essential symbolism" of the sacrament.
OTOH, save until the rise of the post-schism Latin practice (and perhaps some anomalies, like the apparent Russian example you mentioned - it's also worth mentioning that this wouldn't have been the only situation where local anomalies in baptismal norms occured...Spain had a much more serious one than this, for example...yet the Church never cited this as "precedent"), no canonical jurisprudence or Patristic comment would have envisioned the relationship of the practice of "pouring" as being on par to the relationship of "immersion in a font" to "immersion in a river". In fact, the contrary is quite explicit, as I'm sure you'd recognize as well - Baptisms "by pouring" were viewed as only being permissable in situations where it was absolutely necessary (a genuine lack of sufficient water, or the infirmity of the person to be baptized.)
IOW, the relationship between "Baptism by immersion in a river" to "Baptism by immersion in a Baptismal Pool/Font" was one of "ideal historical simultude" (to the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan), which if practical, certainly would be a preferable option...where as the relationship between "Baptism by immersion in a Baptismal Pool/Font" and "Baptism by pouring" was viewed (in the case of the latter) something only justified by real necessity.
And this comes back, once again, to the "why"; why is this? Because the term "Baptizo" itself, undoubtedly refers to immersion
. That is simply what the term means, no matter what anyone wants
to believe. This is undoubtedly preserved, in the practice of Baptizing in the still waters of a Baptismal Pool inside of a Church. However, it is only by the most strained reasoning, that the basic meaning of this word is in any way satisfied by the practice of letting water flow over the head (and presumably, wherever else it may run down on the body.)
It is because of the generosity of the Church, that this most "strained" practice barely cuts the mustard as far as "validity" is concerned. Given this, the problem of actually prefering
this practice (let alone making it the norm, and even disciplining those who advocate the Apostolic norm) remains.
My point is affusion was/is acceptable although not preferred by the East. To claim that this is invalid or unacceptable is, in my opinion wrong, and an attempt to creat yet further division by decrying the practice of another.
While some make it an issue of "validity", I am not one of them (nor would it seem does the Russian, or even at various times, including our own, the Greek custom - since both have/do receive RC converts without Baptizing them again, and certainly both recognize, as did the Fathers, the "validity" of Baptizing someone, in the case of an emergency, via pouring).
Rather, what is under discussion, is the prudence/wisdom of making such an exceptional
practice (with lengthy explanations of why
it remains exceptional in Orthodoxy, and was such in the pre-schism Latin Church as well) "the norm", as well as the consequences of such a decision.
Why did the Latin Church do this? Out of convenience and minimalism? In part probably. But please note that Latins could say the same thing about our practice of having priests chrismate instead of the bishop.
This is the second "good point" I think you've made (but once again, it's strength is not undoing the criticism of "illegitimate minimalism" or other criticisms - rather, it's sole strength is in perhaps making the Orthodox seem hypocritical for pointing out someone else's short comings, while not acknowleding their own alleged
short comings in similar matters).
The question of Bishops (as opposed to Priests) Chrismating neophytes is more complicated than the surface explanation you're giving would make it seem. This subject is very much related to the historical growth throughout the entirity of Christendom
of the Bishop's territory.
In the earliest times (as I am quite sure you are aware) each city would have had it's own Bishop - and it was entirely likely, that every Sunday Liturgy would have been celebrated by him, with the Christians of that city congregating to his Altar.
The same would have been true of the reception of new Christians (young or old) - he would not only have Chrismated all of them, but also would have Baptized
all of them as well.
Given this, it would have been extremely
abnormal in early Christianity (save for emergency cases) for someone to have been Baptized and Chrismated at different times - the two Mysteries were not viewed as being autonomous, but as being part of the same reception into the Church ("be Baptized" and "receive the Holy Spirit" - it's hard to picture St.Peter, in saying these words, imagining them as anything but part of a singular initiation.)
As the Bishop's territory grew beyond a city, typically to ecompass also the country side, or other neighbouring, smaller cities (or within larger cities, the congregation grew to a point where several local Temples were needed at different parts of the city), the role of his Presbyters increased as well. In many respects, the role now played by Presbyters in parishes is very similar to that of Bishops in the early Church. The Presbyters increasingly became the resident "vicar" of their Bishop in a given Parish. This is basically the same situation Orthodoxy finds itself in today (the same is true of the RCC.)
Given these factors, I think (if anything) it is the LATIN practice which seems more
questionable in this regard - the unity of Baptism-Chrismation is more "of the essence" than the latter's ministration by a Bishop (while leaving the former to the parish Priest). The argument might go differently, if the Latins insisted that Bishops be both solely responsible for Chrismation and Baptism
, but this is not the case - in principle, they recognize the rectitude of extending these ministries of the Bishop through the hands (which are really an extension of his own) of the Presbyters.
Now, I understand that there is some decent rationale for at least leaving part of the "initiation rite" to the Bishop (symbolizing in a more direct way, his acceptance of the persons being Chrismated as his own...hence, at least part of the meaning of the western term "Confirmation.") However, I think (as would Orthodoxy in general) that this is outweighed by the good in keeping Baptism-Chrismation together. Not to mention the really strange abnormality to appear in the West, of non-Chrismated persons receiving Holy Communion (while still awaiting for their Chrismation; an abnormality which survives to this day in many of the fondest memories of Roman Catholics - their first confession/communion taking place years prior to their being Confirmed.)
However, if there was any doubt on this subject (which practice is to be preferred - the Orthodox one, or the latter RC one), they are put to rest by the admission of the RCC itself after Vatican II. At least in the case of adult converts, the RCIA program for their reception, takes for granted that they will be baptized and confirmed
by their parish priest, at the same time, and then giving said persons communion immediately afterwards.
Thus, rather than a case of sheer pragmaticism (and certainly not minimalism), I think even the Latins themselves recognize that the Orthodox practice in this regard, best preserves the highest good, even when faced with new/trying circumstances (the highest good being the unity of the "rites of initiation", to borrow an RC phrase.)
Also we tend to forget the Roman Rite of antiquity was very sober. The simplest action was preferred and it seems this one out in baptism. Anything that resembles the East in the Roman Rite is a Gallican Rite import.
- Yes, the ancient Roman Rite (the form you're speaking of is so remote, that it even predates St.Gregory the Great) was quite sober (perhaps in some ways being similar to the Armenian practices) - but they also Baptized by immersion (saw pouring as a matter of economy), and kept the unity of Baptism-Chrismation.
- I'm not convinced that the more "spartan" character of ancient
Latin practice, is tantamount to "minimalism" or a "minimalistic" attitude. I think it is simply a difference between simpler and more elaborate forms. For example, if you went back far enough in the Christian East, you'd probably find similarly "simpler" practices, like those of Rome. The Liturgy of the Church, has undoubtedly undergone a flowering and greater explication. I think the only thing we get out of the Roman situation (being "more spartan") is the observation that the Latins were a little "behind" in this regard (sorry for the use of that term...I do not mean it in a depractory way, I just mean in terms of liturgical expansion and elaboration). That they eventually began incorporating Gallican elements, and expansions of the liturgy of their own making, is evidence enough of this continuum of development.