Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
January 13, 2019
All of us need a reminder once in a while just what a great gift baptism really is in our lives! Here are a few interesting things about your baptism that you may not have known:
The reason Catholics make the sign of the cross is that this is a reminder of our baptism. The priest or deacon makes the sign of the cross on the forehead of the one to be baptized, claiming the child or adult for Christ our Savior by invoking the Holy Trinity. As baptized Christians, we have the Holy Name of God (Father, Son and Spirit) written on our foreheads. We make the sign of the cross reverently as a prayer and a reminder of this very first cross placed there. This imparts great dignity to the baptized. We belong to God!
The Rite of Baptism and the Funeral Rite are both mirror images of each other. Pay attention at funerals and baptisms and notice how much they have in common. For example, the newly baptized baby or adult wears white to symbolize the washing away of sin and the gift of eternal life; the casket is covered with a white pall to symbolize the deceased’s entrance into eternal life. A baptismal font is often placed at the entrance of the church to show that baptism is the gate by which we enter the church; funeral liturgies usually begin at the entrance of the nave of the Church to symbolize the deceased’s entrance into life. The baptism candle is always lit from the fire of the large Paschal Candle which is renewed each year at the Easter Vigil and this same candle is prominently displayed at a funeral Mass; again, both symbolize eternal life. The immediate family usually accompanies the body or ashes into the church, just as the newly baptized was surrounded by his or her family.
Baptism confers the forgiveness of sin. A baby, obviously, has only original sin to be cleansed, but an adult who is baptized has all his or her sins washed clean. After Baptism, the church offers the Sacrament of Reconciliation which has the effect of “re-immersing” us in the cleansing waters of baptism so that we can be cleansed again.
Baptism is only performed once in a lifetime. For a baptism to be valid, we must use the words that our Lord commanded us to say: “Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19-20). The church accepts baptisms performed by all other Christian churches, provided the person was baptized with water and has used these words. In an emergency, anyone can validly baptize another person, provided they have used the proper words.
Baptism is a seed that is planted; it is not magic. The family and godparents of the newly baptized child or adult promise to educate the newly baptized member of the Church in the faith. The newly baptized are entering a community of believers; they are not a church of one. This is why, ideally, baptisms ought to be performed at Mass or when the community has gathered.