Deepening the meaning of Baptism
Signs and sacraments
For a more meaningful and engaging celebration of the sacrament of Baptism, we ought to internalize the meaning of sacraments, which are fully divine and fully human. Sacraments are media of encounter between humans and God. The sacraments of the Church do not abolish, but purify and integrate all the richness of the signs and symbols of the cosmos and of social life.” (CCC 1152). Baptism is the basis for the entire Christian life, that is to say, the doorway to the life in the Spirit. The sacrament of Baptism therefore gives access to the other sacraments. In Baptism, the candidate is freed from sin, becomes a member of Christ and His body the Church. The symbols and signs used are visible signs which point to invisible graces that God gives:
Cleansing through water
The use of the baptismal water commemorates the historical events of salvation. Water is a symbol of life and fruitfulness. At baptism, there is new creation. There is a crossing over from the chaos of sin to beauty (cosmos). When one is baptized, one passes over from the dominion of sin into the freedom of the children of God.
In the consecration of the baptismal water, Mother 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 Spirit (CCC 1238). It is here that the one being baptized hears with Christ the beloved Son of God the confirmation: “You are my beloved child; my favor rests on you.” (Mt 3, 17; Mk 1: 11; Lk 3: 22) This word makes one rooted in God. Baptized in the Name of the Most Holy Trinity allows the candidate to be initiated into the Trinitarian life which is love.
Clothed with Christ
After the anointment with the holy Chrism, the candidate is clothed a white garment. This garment symbolizes the new identity of the baptized. He/she has put on Christ and is raised to new life with Christ. This garment is to be kept without the stain of sin. When God looks at one clothed with Christ, God sees His beloved child. Perhaps, this is the garment with which everyone must appear to partake in the eternal banquet prepared by the Father. It is an identity which one shouldn’t distort. It is the wedding garment which the eternal king expects.
You are the light of the world
At baptism, the candidate is given a burning candle lit from the Easter candle to signify the light one receives from the Risen Lord. This light is to be kept burning, so that the baptized may go out to meet him with all the saints. Reference can be made here to the wise virgins who meet with extra oil for their lamps as they waited for the bridegroom (Mt 25). One lives wisely if one keeps on nourishing the flame of faith in oneself. The Holy Spirit, which dwells in the baptized, prompts him/her to righteous living, so that the life of virtue can steadily increase.
A journey of faith
It is important to note that Baptism is a sacrament of faith. This faith needs the community of believers. With baptism, one starts a journey of discipleship on which Christ as the Good Shepherd leads his followers to the fullness of life. One needs a companion on this journey. The godparents are meant to be firm believers, able and ready to walk with the newly baptized on the road of Christian life.
The entire Christian community is called to assume the responsibility to foster the life of grace given at Baptism. Being the Body of Christ, the members (Christians) live as living stones being constantly built into a spiritual house by the Holy Spirit that dwells in them.
Fr. Anthony Kibira MCCJ