Pomps of the Devil

Pomps of the Devil a term used in the form of solemn renunciation which preceded baptism in the ancient Christian Church. The form referred to is given by the author of The Apostolical Constitutions in these words, "I renounce Satan, and his works, and his pomps, and his service, and his angels and his inventions, and all things that belong to him, or that are subject to him." By the pomps of the devil appear to have been meant the shows and games of heathen idolatry. And even after idolatry was in a great measure destroyed, and the public games and shows in honor of the gods were discontinued, the expression "pomps" was still used in the form of renunciation to eradicate the vanity, lewdness, and profaneness which so extensively prevailed. Some have attempted to trace this renunciation back to apostolic times, founding it on the exhortation of Paul to Timothy: "Lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses." Others, again, are content to derive it from ancient tradition. That it existed from a remote period in the history of the Christian Church is admitted on all hands; and such was the importance attached to this renunciation that, as soon as baptisteries were built, a place was assigned peculiarly to this service, the porch or anteroom being set apart for this purpose. Tile catechumens on entering were placed with their faces to the west, and then commanded to renounce Satan and all his pomps, with some gesture and rite expressing indignation, as by stretching out their hands, or folding them, or striking them together; and sometimes by exsufflation, or spitting at him as if he were present. In this ceremony the faces of the catechumens were turned towards the west as being the place of darkness, and therefore suitable for the renunciation of him who is the prince of darkness. The form of renunciation was repeated three times, either because there were three things which were renounced in their baptism-the devil, his pomps, and the world or to signify the three Persons of the Trinity, by whom they were adopted as sons upon renouncing Satan; or because it was usual in cases of civil adoption and emancipation of slaves for the master to yield up his right by a triple renunciation. See Bingham, Christian Antiquities; Riddle, Christian Antiquities; Staunton, Eccles. Dict. s.v.

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