The sacrament of Baptism is the beginning of life with Christ! For me; it’s always best to begin with the Catechism of the Catholic Church which states:
1234 The meaning and grace of the sacrament of Baptism are clearly seen in the rites of its celebration. By following the gestures and words of this celebration with attentive participation, the faithful are initiated into the riches this sacrament signifies and actually brings about in each newly baptized person.
1235 The sign of the cross, on the threshold of the celebration, marks with the imprint of Christ the one who is going to belong to him and signifies the grace of the redemption Christ won for us by his cross.
1236 The proclamation of the Word of God enlightens the candidates and the assembly with the revealed truth and elicits the response of faith, which is inseparable from Baptism. Indeed Baptism is "the sacrament of faith" in a particular way, since it is the sacramental entry into the life of faith.
1237 Since Baptism signifies liberation from sin and from its instigator the devil, one or more exorcisms are pronounced over the candidate. The celebrant then anoints him with the oil of catechumens, or lays his hands on him, and he explicitly renounces Satan. Thus prepared, he is able to confess the faith of the Church, to which he will be "entrusted" by Baptism.39
1238 The baptismal water is consecrated by a prayer of epiclesis (either at this moment or at the Easter Vigil). The Church asks God that through his Son the power of the Holy Spirit may be sent upon the water, so that those who will be baptized in it may be "born of water and the Spirit."40
1239 The essential rite of the sacrament follows: Baptism properly speaking. It signifies and actually brings about death to sin and entry into the life of the Most Holy Trinity through configuration to the Paschal mystery of Christ. Baptism is performed in the most expressive way by triple immersion in the baptismal water. However, from ancient times it has also been able to be conferred by pouring the water three times over the candidate's head.
1240 In the Latin Church this triple infusion is accompanied by the minister's words: "N., I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." In the Eastern liturgies the catechumen turns toward the East and the priest says: "The servant of God, N., is baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." At the invocation of each person of the Most Holy Trinity, the priest immerses the candidate in the water and raises him up again.
1241 The anointing with sacred chrism, perfumed oil consecrated by the bishop, signifies the gift of the Holy Spirit to the newly baptized, who has become a Christian, that is, one "anointed" by the Holy Spirit, incorporated into Christ who is anointed priest, prophet, and king.41
1242 In the liturgy of the Eastern Churches, the post-baptismal anointing is the sacrament of Chrismation (Confirmation). In the Roman liturgy the post- baptismal anointing announces a second anointing with sacred chrism to be conferred later by the bishop Confirmation, which will as it were "confirm" and complete the baptismal anointing.
1243 The white garment symbolizes that the person baptized has "put on Christ,"42 has risen with Christ. The candle, lit from the Easter candle, signifies that Christ has enlightened the neophyte. In him the baptized are "the light of the world."43
The newly baptized is now, in the only Son, a child of God entitled to say the prayer of the children of God: "Our Father."
1244 First Holy Communion. Having become a child of God clothed with the wedding garment, the neophyte is admitted "to the marriage supper of the Lamb"44 and receives the food of the new life, the body and blood of Christ. The Eastern Churches maintain a lively awareness of the unity of Christian initiation by giving Holy Communion to all the newly baptized and confirmed, even little children, recalling the Lord's words: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them."45 The Latin Church, which reserves admission to Holy Communion to those who have attained the age of reason, expresses the orientation of Baptism to the Eucharist by having the newly baptized child brought to the altar for the praying of the Our Father.
1245 The solemn blessing concludes the celebration of Baptism. At the Baptism of newborns the blessing of the mother occupies a special place.
1253 Baptism is the sacrament of faith.54 But faith needs the community of believers. It is only within the faith of the Church that each of the faithful can believe. The faith required for Baptism is not a perfect and mature faith, but a beginning that is called to develop. The catechumen or the godparent is asked: "What do you ask of God's Church?" The response is: "Faith!"
1254 For all the baptized, children or adults, faith must grow after Baptism. For this reason the Church celebrates each year at the Easter Vigil the renewal of baptismal promises. Preparation for Baptism leads only to the threshold of new life. Baptism is the source of that new life in Christ from which the entire Christian life springs forth.
1255 For the grace of Baptism to unfold, the parents' help is important. So too is the role of the godfather and godmother, who must be firm believers, able and ready to help the newly baptized - child or adult on the road of Christian life.55 Their task is a truly ecclesial function (officium).56 The whole ecclesial community bears some responsibility for the development and safeguarding of the grace given at Baptism.
1272 Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, the person baptized is configured to Christ. Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation.83 Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated.
1273 Incorporated into the Church by Baptism, the faithful have received the sacramental character that consecrates them for Christian religious worship.84 The baptismal seal enables and commits Christians to serve God by a vital participation in the holy liturgy of the Church and to exercise their baptismal priesthood by the witness of holy lives and practical charity.85
1274 The Holy Spirit has marked us with the seal of the Lord ("Dominicus character") "for the day of redemption."86 "Baptism indeed is the seal of eternal life."87 The faithful Christian who has "kept the seal" until the end, remaining faithful to the demands of his Baptism, will be able to depart this life "marked with the sign of faith,"88 with his baptismal faith, in expectation of the blessed vision of God - the consummation of faith - and in the hope of resurrection.
So; what does all that mean? To begin with; due to the affects of original sin, we come into the world with a soul which is in essence dead. We come into the world with only the human nature. Our spiritual life or nature which is the result of God’s personal and intimate presence within us, is absent from the soul prior to the sacrament.
Original sin is literally the absence of God from our souls, our life. God wants to have the personal and intimate relationship that should be there. Hence, Jesus instituted the sacrament of Baptism to apply to each individual soul. Jesus does not force His gift upon us. He presents this wonderful gift to us and hopefully, each of us freely and willingly accepts it.
A point that should never to be forgotten is that we are potentially in heaven the moment we are baptized!
Two big things happen to us when we are baptized.
We receive the supernatural life, called sanctifying grace, which dissipates the spiritual emptiness of original sin.
And there is imparted to the soul a permanent and distinctive quality which we call the character or the mark of Baptism.
This impression or mark of the baptismal character upon the soul makes us members of Jesus’ Church. This “mark” of Baptism is what differentiates between those who are members of the Church, Christ’s Mystical Body, and those who are not.
Now that we are a member of the Mystical Body we have an obligation which means we MUST always work everyday to:
Lead a life according to the pattern that Christ has given us
Give obedience to Christ’s representatives, our bishops and especially our Holy Father the Pope.
No one can escape the necessity of Baptism. “Unless a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” Jesus told Nicodemus (John 3:5). And His command to the Apostles was: “Go into the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned” (Mark 16: 15-16).
It is an article of faith that anyone who dies in the state of original sin is excluded from heaven, from the vision of God. However, the Church has never officially taught that the souls of infants who die without Baptism do not see God.
The ordinary minister of Baptism is a priest or a deacon. I will cover this more in the next blog.
But in an emergency, anyone can baptize—even a non-Catholic or non-Christian. All that is required is that the person baptizing:
Intend to do what the Catholic Church does in this sacrament
Pour water upon the head (ordinary tap water is fine in an emergency)
Say audibly the words of Baptism while pouring water, similar to: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
These are words that every Catholic should know as someone’s eternal salvation may one day depend upon the knowing of these words.
We will continue this topic in another blog to come, hope you enjoyed this one!