Baptismal Promises

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q:  Are you able to clarify for me the variation in the Renewal of Baptismal Promises as to be used for the new rite for the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation in Australia and as to be used in the Renewal of Baptismal Promises in the Easter Vigil/Octave of Easter?

A:  In the Confirmation ceremony the first question reads: Do you renounce Satan, and all his works and empty promises?Whereas in the new Roman Missal the question at the Easter Vigil/Octave of Easter reads:

  • Priest:  Do you renounce Satan?
  • All:  I do.
  • Priest:  And all his works?
  • All:  I do.
  • Priest:  And all his empty show?
  • All:  I do.

The question is the variation in “promises” and “show”. Which one is the correct translation?

Here’s an excerpt from my book In These or Similar Words.

Empty show. The faithful are invited to renew their baptismal promises at the Easter Vigil through a set of renunciations and beliefs. An alternative formula for the renunciations was added after Vatican II.

The revised translation has changed one of the questions in the first formula. After asking the faithful if they renounce Satan and all his works, the priests asks, “And all his empty show?” He used to ask, “And all his empty promises?” The Latin word is pompis, and the very existence of an alternate formula that avoids the word shows how the post-Vatican II missal thought it would be difficult to render in vernacular languages.

A pomp is an ostentatious display. It refers to the extravagant temptations to which humans may succumb. The word is used of court ceremonies. As an adjective, pompous, it refers to a person who demands ceremonious deference. The alternate formula speaks instead of “the lure of evil.”

The Rite of Confirmation as revised after Vatican II shared the same hesitancy. It replaced the Latin word pompis with seductionibus.

The revised translation for the Easter Vigil obviously thinks “empty show” better explains the glossy temptations of this world. For sure, pompis does not mean “promises”.

And here’s a sneak peek at my forthcoming book from Liturgy Training Publications, a guide for parish celebrations of Confirmation.

When the rites of baptism and confirmation were being revised during the Second Vatican Council, the reformers made an effort to replace the Latin word pompis with seductionibus, a word taken from 2 Thessalonians 2:10. Both in the Rite of Baptism for Children and in the Roman Missal’s Easter Vigil, these two words remain in the alternative forms of the questions of renunciation. In the confirmation ceremony, the word seductionibus was chosen as the only option. Therefore, you would expect the bishop to ask the confirmation candidates to renounce “the lure of evil.” However, the revised English translation has kept the words used in the first English translation at this point. It was thought by translators that children know all too well the meaning of “empty promises,” which they may perhaps renounce even more readily than the lure of evil.