Our Great Commission, from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ:
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I AM with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Saint Peter’s Pentecost Sermon:
‘Let all know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified… when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles,
“what shall we do?” And Peter said to them,
“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”‘ (Acts 2:36-38).
Baptism is God’s most beautiful and magnificent gift. . . .– Saint Gregory of Nazianzus
We call it gift, grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality,
bath of rebirth, seal, and most precious gift.
It is called gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own;
grace since it is given even to the guilty;
Baptism because sin is buried in the water;
anointing for it is priestly and royal as are those who are anointed;
enlightenment because it radiates light;
clothing since it veils our shame;
bath because it washes; and
seal as it is our guard and the sign of God’s Lordship.
What Happens at Baptism
The Rite of Baptism includes:
- Reception at the entrance of the Church
- Signing with the Cross
- Liturgy of the Word of God (if the Baptism is outside of Mass)
- Prayer of Exorcism
- Anointing with the strengthening oil of catechumens
- Prayer over the water, recalling the Holy Spirit of God hovering over the waters of Creation
- Rejection of darkness, turning to the light of Christ
- Profession of Faith
- Baptism in water
- Anointing with sacred chrism oil, incorporating the baptized into Christ, who is the anointed priest, prophet, and king
- Clothing with a white garment, the Baptized have ‘put on Christ’ (Galatians 3:27)
- Lighting of a baptismal candle from the paschal candle; enlightened in Christ, the Baptized are to be light to the world (John 8:12)
- Ephphetha (see Mark 7:34), praying that they may soon hear the Word of God and profess the faith.
- the Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father
- Dismissal, after Blessings for the grace of God to be poured out on the mother, the father, and all present to witness the Baptism
Symbols in Baptism
The Sacrament of Baptism gives an indelible, eternal, mark or character of consecration, permanently configuring them to Christ, and incorporating the Baptized person into Christ’s Church
(see the Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1272- ).
However, we human beings need visible, natural signs to point us to invisible realities.
Like the child comforted in their mother’s arms in Psalm 131, what is seen and felt conveys their mother’s invisible loving care.
So with Sacraments, we have perceptible signs accessible to our human nature (CCC § 1084).
The humble, natural signs set apart and made Holy for Christian Baptism lead us into the enlightenment of Faith in Christ, enabling us to see reality with eyes of Faith (see 2 Corinthians 4:18).
Sacraments are effective signs on their own, they do not depend on us or our action (CCC § 1131).
With the Sacrament of Baptism, the gifts of the Holy Spirit will be given: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of God.
We may not see these directly, but in their effects, as we may see the effects in the good, humble life of the nurtured child from Psalm 131.
It is for us to work with the graces of the Sacrament. Reflecting on the symbols of Baptism can help us, even if we will never fully understand the Sacramental Mysteries in our earthly life.
Water – a natural miracle from three molecules, a gift from our Triune God, giving life to all Creation. Water is required for life. The water of Baptism is required for life eternal, new life in Christ. Through the waters of Baptism, the Christian becomes a living temple of the Holy Spirit, a partaker of Divine Nature, in a new relationship with the three persons of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Baptismal font – a sanctuary, a place worthy to serve Christians to be reborn through the waters of Baptism and the Holy Spirit. The water is to be blessed at its source, clean and pure, for the truth and beauty of the Sacramental sign to be apparent. The font may permit immersion, or the water may be poured. Pouring with a scallop shell is a tradition attributed to Saint James, baptizing early Christians in Spain.
The Paschal (Easter) Candle – the Light of Christ has been symbolized in candles since the dawn of Christianity. ‘Jesus Christ is the light of the world’ (John 8:12).
The tall candle with its flame recalls the pillar of fire leading God’s people Israel out of the darkness of slavery and fear and into God’s protective light (see Exodus 13).
At our Easter Vigil, we sing the Exsultet, dedicating the offering of the wax candle, the work of bees and our hands.
The Paschal Candle is marked with the Sign of the Cross, the sign of Christ.
Incense is engrained into the cross, marking the wounds of Christ’s crucifixion. ‘By His wounds you have been healed’ (1 Peter 2:24).
Christ is the beginning and end of our salvation, as marked on the candle with the Alpha and Omega characters (Revelation 21:6-7).
Baptismal candle – The Baptized person receives their candle lit from the Paschal candle. They receive the light of Christ, to be enlightened in Christ with the gift of the light of Faith. The candle serves as a reminder of the Christian’s Baptismal call, to be the light of Christ in the world.
Holy oils – olive oil is used in daily life for nourishment and as a healing ointment. Blessed oils are used in consecration, as when Christ recalled the words of the prophet Isaiah, ‘the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me, to proclaim the good news to the poor’ (Luke 4:18).
The Oil of Catechumens – a strengthening oil of salvation, to live as a child of God.
Holy Chrism oil – mixes olive oil with balsam, an aromatic resin. Holy Chrism, blessed by the bishop, is used for the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders. Christ is the Anointed One, priest, prophet, and king. With thanksgiving, the Baptized is anointed with the chrism of salvation to live as a member of the body of Christ and gain a share in everlasting life.
Requirements of Parents and Godparents for the Baptism of Children
From the introduction of the Order of Baptism of Children (CCCB, 2020):
- It is of great importance for the parents of the child being Baptized to be present at the celebration in which their child will be reborn of water and the Holy Spirit.
- After the conferral of Baptism, the parents, grateful to God and faithful to the duty they have undertaken, are bound to guide their child to a knowledge of God, now His child of adoption. They are also bound to prepare the child to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation and to participate in the Most Holy Eucharist.
- If one of the parents is not a Catholic, they may remain silent at the profession of Faith, but they must provide for or at least permit the instruction of the child in the Baptismal Faith.
- A Godparent should be present at the Baptism of the child in order to represent both the wider spiritual family of the one to be Baptized, and the role of the Church as mother. A Godparent helps the parents so that the child will come to profess the Faith and express it in life.
- Godparents must:
- have the aptitude and intention to carry out this responsibility;
- be mature enough to fulfill this responsibility;
- be a member of the Catholic Church
- be initiated with the three Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist;
- be living a life consistent with the Faith and the responsibility of a Godparent;
- be neither the father nor the mother of the one to be Baptized
- Godparents must: