Saturday, July 2, 2011
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". However, its modern use as a sacramental remains mostly limited to its use with holy water within the Roman Rite.For centuries, 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." 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". Salt continued to be customarily used during the scrutinies of catechumens or the baptism of infants.In recent times, the use of blessed salt is only found within the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church. 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. 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. 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". An additional rite provides for the blessing of salt for animals. Salt as sacramentalSalt may also be blessed for us 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 a invocation of divine protection. It may also be consumed.