McDonnell, Kilian & Montague, George T. "Chapter Seventeen: John Chrysostom: From Jordan to Calvary." Christian Initiation and Baptism in the Holy Spirit: Evidence from the First Eight Centuries. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1991, 226-248.
McDonnell takes up John Chrysostom as an individual steeped in the Syriac understanding of baptism but gradually moving away from that tradition to look for any development in baptismal liturgy which could diminish the understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit (McDonnell & Montague 1991, 226). Chrysostom was a resident of Antioch, Syria, from his birth about 343 until he became patriarch of Constantinople in 398 (McDonnell & Montague 1991, 227). He was classically educated in rhetoric and was considered an outstanding rhetorician.
McDonnell explains that at the time rites would be observed based on the jurisdiction of the patriarch rather than based on the language of the region. Though Chrysostom always usedGreek, never Syriac, the rite was still that of the Syriac liturgy (McDonnell & Montague 1991, 228). Antioch and Jerusalem both held to the Syriac rites. McDonnell also observes that the 20th century saw the discovery of a number of homilies of Chrysostom. Prior to 1909 we had only two of his baptismal homilies, but we now have twelve (McDonnell & Montague 1991, 228-229). These are all from around 388, while Chrysostom was in Antioch.
While Hippolytus understood a pre-baptismal chrismation as an exorcism, the Syrian rite understood it as a means of imparting the Holy Spirit (McDonnell & Montague 1991, 230). The concept of death and rebirth, based on Romans 6, was not emphasized in Antioch until the late 4th century, so McDonnell takes Chrysostom to view the entire baptismal act as an initiation which imparts the Spirit (McDonnell & Montague 1991, 231). The connection between baptism and an anointing with the Holy Spirit can easily be recognized in the New Testament.McDonnell notes this is evident in the earlier chapters of this book, written by George Montague (McDonnell & Montague 1991, 233). However, the New Testament makes no demand for an anointing with oil at the time of baptism. It was an early development but was not specifically required by the New Testament texts (McDonnell & Montague 1991, 234). The chrismation was then practiced in various ways, sometimes happening twice before baptism, sometimes once, sometimes once before and once after, sometimes only once, afterward. Chrysostom effectively considered that the reception of the Holy Spirit was tied to the water baptism (McDonnell & Montague 1991, 235). McDonnell observes that at the same time, the chrismation took on a relationship to exorcism.Not only were the catechumens exorcised, but the oil, the bread, and the water were also exorcised (McDonnell & Montague 1991, 236). By its very nature, then, the rite was distanced from Jesus' baptism. After all, there was no exorcism applied to Jesus. The impartation of the Holy Spirit then is tied to the water or to the imposition of hands along with prayers.
McDonnell does take the eventual position of the chrismation before the water baptism as indicative of the Holy Spirit's work in the convert prior to a reception of Christ in water baptism (McDonnell & Montague 1991, 239). The water baptism and the laying on of hands which places the convert into the water and then draws him out is seen as the completion of the work of conversion. Thus, the person who emerges from the water is a Christian, possessed of the Holy Spirit (McDonnell & Montague 1991, 240). Chrysostom does tie reception of the Holy Spirit to baptism in an inseparable manner. He then is able to apply the act of baptism to the Pauline theme of death and resurrection (McDonnell & Montague 1991, 241). The baptism can then also be seen as a fusion of the eschatological and historical elements of the Christian life, rather than being one or the other (McDonnell & Montague 1991, 242). The same symbol is applied to multiple situations.
Over time, McDonnell notes that baptismal rites took less notice of the baptism of Jesus and focused more on the eschatological role of death and resurrection. This shift may well be tied to Chrysostom's view as opposed to that of Cyril (McDonnell & Montague 1991, 244). The reduced emphasis on the baptism of Christ may also have played a role in combatting the adoptionist perspective, by which some theologians saw Jesus as not receiving his role as God the Son prior to his baptism. This was a view which had been held by several third century bishops of Antioch (McDonnell & Montague 1991, 246).