Sacraments of Initiation
Part 3 The Rite for Adults and Children

Chapter i36 Baptism

Preliminary Questions

Bibliography

Metaphors for Baptism

Symbolic Actions of Christian Initiation

The Symbol of Water

The "Subject" of Baptism

Baptism:  Source of Ministry

The Effects of Baptism

Original Sin

Contemporary Ritual Issues

To Think About

Preliminary Questions

If someone asked you "What is baptism?" how would you respond? Describe your baptism / confirmation / first Eucharist.  Does the fact that you are baptized have any practical effect on your day to day living? Do you every avert to the fact that you are baptized?

Make a list of the symbols used in the rites of Christian Initiation. List as many symbolic actions and metaphors as you can. Put them in order as they occur in the rites of initiation. Compare your list with that given in this chapter.

What do you know about baptism? Have you formally studied the liturgy or the sacraments in college? Where did you learn what you know about baptism? What has shaped your thoughts and attitudes toward the sacrament? What are the theological conclusions which follow from the initiation symbols? Would you be able to baptize in an emergency? Able to confirm?

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Bibliography

The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. The Rite of Baptism for Children. The Rite of Confirmation. Any official edition; for example: The Rites of the Catholic Church, Volume I (Third edition). Collegeville: The Liturgical Press. A Pueblo Book, 1990. ISBN 0-916134-15-6.

Kenan B. Osborne, O.F.M. The Christian Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist. New York: Paulist Press, 1987. ISBN 0-8091-2886-1. $10.95.

Joseph Martos. Doors to the Sacred. Liguori, MO: Triumph Books, Expanded edition 1991. ISBN 0-89243-493-7.

Kavanagh, The Shape of Baptism, pp i-xv, and pp 1-11.

This is the Night: A Parish Welcomes new Catholics. Liturgy Training Publications (video), 1992. ISBN 0-929650-87-5. 30 minutes.

Adult Baptism: Exploring Its Meaning, Catholic Update Video, St. Anthony Messenger Press, July, 1995. Order # 2030.

"Adult Baptism: Exploring Its Meaning." Catholic Update Video, V2020, $39.95. Order from St. Anthony Messenger Press; 1615 Republic Street; Cincinnati, OH 45210. 1-800-488-0488.

Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M. "Instituted Lay Ministries: the History and Future of Canon 230," Proceedings of the Forty-Ninth Annual Convention of the Canon Law Society of America, pp 35-44. Washington, DC: Canon Law Society of America, 1988.

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Metaphors for Baptism

Review the notion of metaphor (see Chapter d41 Symbol and Metaphor)

1. ...is being ADOPTED
a. Born by the spirit makes us children of God.
b. As a new-born child is named, we receive a baptismal name.

2. ...is being BORN
a. "Unless you are born again of water and the spirit. . . ."
b. the pool or font in the shape of a womb
c. Coming
up out of the font, = coming up out of the womb.
d. We only come out of our mother's womb ONCE; we are baptized only ONCE.
e. water in this context is seen as the water of birth
f. The milk and honey formerly given to the newly baptized was the traditional food for the new born.
g. The Paschal Candle impregnates the womb of the font.

3. ...is being CLEANSED
a. "Washed clean in the blood of the lamb."
b. water in this context is seen as washing, cleansing
c. cleansing from sin -- original and actual
d. to be cleansed from sin = redemption

4. ...is DYING
a. "If you have died with Christ, you will surely rise with him..."
b. Death, death on a cross -- signed with the cross. "Can you be baptized with the baptism with which I will be baptized?"
c. The pool or font in the shape of a "tomb".
d. Going
down into the font = Going down into the tomb.
e. We only die once; we are baptized only ONCE.

5. ...is SEEING in a new way, or being ILLUMINATED
a. "We have come into his marvelous light."
b. Baptism is illumination; final preparation (Lent) period of illumination and enlightenment.
c. Receive this candle, receive the light of Christ.
d. The Paschal Candle impregnates the womb of the font.

6. ...is being INITIATED or INCORPORATED
a. coming into a community.
b. giving salt as sign of hospitality.

7. ...is PUTTING ON CHRIST
a. You have put on Christ.
b. ANOINTING WITH OIL - (messiah / Christ / anointed one)
c. You are a new creation in Christ -- priest, prophet, king -- sacramental CHARACTER.
d. Clothed with a white garment as you have been clothed in Christ.

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Symbolic Actions of Christian Initiation

1. the community gathers
2. being introduced among the catechumens
3. being signed with the cross
4. receiving a cross
5. receiving a member of the community as a helper (godparent)
6. having name inscribed in the book of the catechumens
7. publicly choosing to be baptized
8. being elected to initiation this Easter
9. enrolling one's name in the Book of the Elect
10. being examined (scrutinized) in the assembly
11. being anointed with strengthening oil (Oil of Catechumens)
12. the elect and the community abstain from food three days
13. receiving the Creed
14. receiving the Lord's Prayer
15. being in darkness
16. standing around the new fire
17. entering the church
18. proclaiming the Scriptures
19. blessing God over the water (BRK)
20. plunging the candle (Christ) into the Womb of Life
21. being marked with a cross
22. receiving a new name
23. receiving instruction
24. calling upon all the saints (litany)
25. renouncing Satan (three times)
26. turning from west (darkness) to east (light)
28. professing faith (three times)
29. hearing the flowing water
30. taking off clothing
31. going down into the tomb
32. being immersed in water
33. being submersed under water
34. having water poured on head
35. being sprinkled with water
36. coming up from the grave
37. emerging from the womb of life
38. whole body rubbed with oil
39. smelling the perfume
40. drying off
41. imposition of hands
42. having the cross traced on forehead with oil
43. putting on new clothes
44. putting on white clothes
45. receiving a torch or lighted candle
46. entering the assembly of the faithful (procession)
47. entering into light
48. the assembly welcomes the newly baptized (applause)
49. praying with the faithful assembly
50. being received into the assembly by the leader
51. imposition of hands
52. being anointed (Christ) with Chrism
53. smelling the perfume which fills the church
54. receiving the embrace of the leader (and community)
55. being invited to share a meal of bread and wine
56. praying the Lord's Prayer together with the faithful
57. bread is broken and wine shared
58. drinking milk and honey

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The Symbol of Water

1. Water, our experience of

a. flood
b. swimming
c.  boats
e. malls and fountains
f. Niagara falls
g. cool relaxation
h. bath
i. thirst quenching
j. toys
k. rain lots
l. drowning

2. Experience in Scripture

a. genesis
b. spirit over the waters
c. creation
d. red sea
e. Noah
f. Moses and the Nile
g. dry bones in Ezekiel
h. Water from the temple
j. Jordan
k. Woman at the well in John 5
l. Healing Pool
m. Water from the side of Christ
 

3.  The question has been asked:  when baptizing by immersion must the person's head (adult or infant) be fully submerged.  Answer:  No.

A priest baptized an infant by immersion, but only the lower portion of the child's body was immersed. His head did not get wet. Is the baptism valid?  Response [private response by J.H. October 29, 2001] Neither the liturgical laws nor the Code require that the head be immersed when baptism is performed by immersion.  The rule of canon 10 is applicable. The baptism must be considered valid. It is also licit, as there is no law against it. 

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The "Subject" of Baptism

1. Adult who were not Jews. Sign of conversion. Children were analogous to children of naturalized citizens in the USA: it is the parents who, coming from a foreign land, undergo the naturalization process. Children born to the naturalized citizens are citizens by birth and need no process or rituals.

2. Families, with slaves and children.

3. Families with infants. How can infants be baptized? Original Sin.

4. Original Sin: Why infants must be baptized. -- quam primum see above.

5. Reformers: need for catechesis. Faith. Believer Baptism.

6. Missionary experiments.

7. RCIA.

8. Delay of Infant baptism as in Canon 868.

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Baptism:  Source of Ministry

Liturgists have always trusted the axiom Lex orandi lex credendi. This principle would seem to imply that the problem will not be solved until a person's baptismal day is more important than that person's ordination day. When the rites of ordination become more elaborate and take precedence over rites in initiation, the principle of Lex orandi lex credendi assures us that the resulting defective ecclesiology will inevitably birth a deformed theology of ministry. (For more on this point see Ray Brown's book on the Church the Disciples left behind, chapter on the epistle of John.)  As Thomas O'Meara concludes in his Theology of Ministry:

The church is ministerial. Ministry is not a rare vocation or a privileged office but belongs to the nature of the new covenant; God's religious destiny happens in community but is intended for the entire human race. As with its universal source, baptism, ministry exists in the churches as an aspect of every Christian's life. Thomas Franklin O'Meara, O.P. Theology of Ministry, New York: Paulist Press, 1983.p 209.)

Ministry is not a rare vocation but a necessary consequence of Christian Initiation. We have always taught that the sacraments are efficacious signs but I wonder if we really trust the power of the sacraments.

I once heard of a catechumen, a young man about 27 years old, who was a participant in an RCIA program in a Midwest diocese. The catechist had told the catechumens that ministry was a consequence of initiation, and after the sacraments of initiation, during the mystagogical period, there would be a special commissioning ceremony in the parish at which each of the neophytes would be asked to fulfill a certain ministry in the Church. The young man was wondering what he might be asked to do. Several weeks later a missionary spoke to the catechumens one evening about the missionary activity of the Church in general and in particular about a new mission in Guatemala that the Diocese was sponsoring. That night the catechumen couldn't sleep; he wondered if the parish might ask him to go as a missionary to Guatemala. For quite some time before his baptism, he struggled with this idea: What if the commitment to Baptism involved leaving his job and home town? What if the Church would ask that of him? But finally he resolved the issue for himself and decided that if that's what Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist demanded, then he was ready for the challenge. I remember the disappointment in his voice when he told how, after his baptism at the parish commissioning ceremony, he was asked, not to go to Guatemala, but to take up the collection at the 11:30 Mass on the second Sunday of each month!

The Church is structured liturgically: sacraments make Church. The sacraments are powerful, efficacious signs. It is time to trust the efficacy of the sacraments and to courageously face the implications of baptism. "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal 3:27-28 RSV) (Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M. "Instituted Lay Ministries: The History and Future of Canon 230," Proceedings of the Forty-Ninth Annual Convention of the Canon Law Society of America, Washington, DC: Canon Law Society of America, 1988, pp 43-44.)

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The Effects of Baptism

1. We pass from the Order of Catechumens to the Order of the Faithful.

2.  We are initiated into the Church, the Body of Christ.

3.  Makes us adopted children of God. (Caution: Baptism does not make the Christian a child of God and imply that Jews, Muslims and others are not children of God. All infants are children of God.)

4.  We put on Christ; we are initiated into Christ; we become Christ's Body.

5.  We are saved. (i.e. being 'saved' = being 'in Christ.')

6.  Our "need for salvation in Christ" (i.e. Original Sin) is removed.

7.  We receive the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit (i.e. Sanctifying Grace)

8.  As air replaces vacuum in the bell jar, Grace takes away all sin, mortal and venial.

9.   Gives Christian mission. Baptism is the sacrament of commissioning. "We are baptized into a community which is essentially and unavoidably ministerial... Christianity, however, is repeatedly tempted to turn its ministerial faith into passive and liturgical membership, to alter the body of Christ into a caste system to understand baptism as insurance rather than as commission." (O'Meara, Theology of Ministry, p 3.)

10.  Gives character (Baptism changes us so radically that it never needs to be or can be repeated).  See CHARACTER in the Glossary of these notes.

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Contemporary Ritual Issues

A.  The Words (Baptismal Formula)

1.  Do we need to mention "Father, Son, Spirit" for validity?

See the excellent article by Gail Ramshaw "In the Name:  Towards Alternative Baptismal Idioms" Proceedings of the North American Academy of Liturgy, Annual Meeting, Reston, VA January 3-6, 2002.  pp 143-154.

B.  The Action (Water)

1.  Do we need to immerse three times?

2.  Do we need to immerse the head? 

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To Think About

1. Compare and contrast the symbolism of baptism by immersion and by infusion or aspersion in the light of the biblical statements on baptism, conversion and initiation. Down into the river, down into the tomb, etc.

2. Symbols speak to the whole person. They are more than any one given intellectual explanation of them. What connotations or families of meaning are evoked from Scripture, Tradition, Culture and Ritual Experience for the following: Birth, Initiation, Water, Oil, Imposition of hands, light and darkness, down and up, East and West, signing and marking (with oil, a cross, etc), nakedness. Explain how the symbol functions in a contemporary understanding of the rites of initiation.

3. Work with these symbols as an artist would to become familiar with the medium of the art.

a. Take each of the initiation symbols, e.g. being plunged into the water.
b. Trace it through our story, both the Hebrew scriptures and the Christian Scriptures. Use a concordance. Make a list. What role does this symbol play in our story and vision?
c. Then get in touch with your feelings about the symbol as archetype. Make a list of your experience of the symbol as archetype.
d. Then examine how you are praying and might pray with this symbol, archetype, metaphor.

Example: Plunging into Water (Note: Symbols are more verb than noun.)  i. Scripture: Genesis, flood, flowing from temple, Jesus in Jordan, Water and blood from his side, etc.  ii. Experience: thirst, bath, swimming, life from water, our physical composition mostly water, etc.

4.  Compose a berakah blessing God over the water for baptism.

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Copyright: Tom Richstatter, Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, Cincinnati Ohio, Order of Friars Minor. All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made, to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 05/15/15 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at trichstatter@franciscan.org