In today’s article we will talk about one of the most important rites for the Catholic Church: the Sacrament of Catholic Baptism . We will explain what it is and what it consists of, what its meaning is, how this practice began and much more. Stay with us so that you learn everything you need to know about this topic, since baptism is the first step to initiate you in the Christian life.
What is the sacrament of baptism?
For those wondering what is Catholic baptism ? You should know that it is the first rite we perform when we enter the Catholic faith. In fact, it is the sacrament that allows us to be reborn to life as children of God. From the etymological point of view, the word “baptism” comes from the Greek “baptizein”, which means: immerse or introduce into the water.
For the Christian faith, the fact of immersing ourselves in the water represents a way of freeing ourselves from the original sin committed by Adam and emerging regenerated as children of God, grafted into the church. From this point we become participants in the dogma and we have the responsibility to transmit what we learn to others. On the other hand, baptism expresses the will of parents to pass on their faith by presenting their children to the church. Seeking to purify their sins and give strength to the precepts of the gospel of Jesus Christ, they will thus be able to consecrate him before God and the Holy Spirit.
Another way of understanding baptism is that it symbolizes the act of burying the catechumen in the death of Christ, who then comes out through the resurrection with him transformed into a new creature. This explanation is not given by the apostle Saint Paul in his writings to the Corinthians and the Galatians.
During the sacramental baptism, the godparents must be present, who have the function of ensuring that the baptized person and new believer can assimilate the teachings of Jesus Christ into their lives and strengthen their love for God. In this way, he will be able to generate fruits that he can then pass on to other people.
During the rite of the sacrament, different topics of interest for the life of the Catholic are usually addressed: the meaning of life and death, the denial of sin, the influence of the devil and how he seduces us to fall into temptation and above all; the affirmation and surrender to the father, the son and the holy spirit. Another way in which baptism is mentioned is as a “bath of regeneration and renewal of the holy spirit.”
Elements that the Sacrament of Baptism Possesses
In order to carry out the rite of the baptismal sacrament, a series of elements loaded with spiritual symbology are needed. These are:
- Holy water : means purification and life. Touching the person to be baptized frees him from original sin.
- The anointing with oil : it is related to the strength that the holy spirit possesses.
- Fire : means the flame of faith in God that illuminates our lives.
- The use of white clothing : it is a way to represent the purity of Jesus Christ that lives within us.
Why was Jesus Baptized?
Although Jesus from his birth was already someone special, from the public point of view, he began to be noticed by the people from his baptism by Saint John the Baptist in the Jordan River. After the resurrection occurs, he entrusts this task to his apostles, telling them that now the task would be theirs, that they have the responsibility of baptizing all the disciples to start their journey with the church, and that said baptism must be done in the name of the father, of the son and of the holy spirit. From that moment, the person will be ready to learn the teachings that Jesus left.
When the Lord was baptized, he voluntarily submitted to the baptism of Saint John so that the Holy Spirit descended on him. Thus the father informed him that she was his beloved son. On the other hand, with his death and resurrection, Christ opens the source of grace to all of us. This is the reason why, after we are baptized, the original sin is erased and we do not confirm as children of God.
From when you begin to baptize in the Church
Baptism is implemented and begins to celebrate after the day of Pentecost. Saint Peter communicates to the faithful that baptism is a tool that will allow them to convert to the faith of the Lord Jesus, in addition to allowing them to obtain the remission of sins committed and obtain grace and the gift of the Holy Spirit. From that moment, the apostles and ministers begin to offer the ritual of baptism for everyone who believes in Jesus. This includes the pagans, the Jews who originally feared the Lord, etc.
From its beginnings, baptism has been intrinsically linked to faith, as Saint Paul expresses it to the one who guards it in the Philippi prison where he comments: you must have faith in the Lord Jesus, so that you can be saved as well as your house. Then the jailer would be baptized along with his people.
Similarly, Saint Paul mentions that through baptism all believers can be part of the death of Christ, being buried and resurrected with him. Because by being baptized, we are also baptized into the death and resurrection of the Lord. This resurrection is what tells us that we are born again and that from that moment we have a new life.
Another way of looking at baptism is that this ritual means being clothed with the body and soul of Christ, and then being bathed in the holy spirit, thus achieving purification, holiness, and justice.
How is the Sacrament of Baptism Celebrated?
We must understand that at the moment of performing the rite of the baptismal sacrament, it symbolizes the death of sin and the entry into the life of the most holy trinity through configuration with the paschal mystery of Christ. At the moment of baptism there is a great significant charge through the triple immersion in the baptismal water.
Although a curious fact occurs here, in ancient times the first baptisms were carried out in the river where the person’s head was submerged three times, but this was often impractical and uncomfortable. In addition, it brought the complication of having to move to the river. Over time, the tradition was modified a bit so that the baptism could be carried out by pouring water on the person being baptized three times.
For the Latin Church today, every time an immersion or infusion of water is performed, the father mentions the following words: (the name of the person being baptized), I baptize you in the name of the father, of the son And of the holy spirit. On the other hand, in the celebrations that take place in the east, the catechumen must face east and the father must say the following words: the servant of god, (name of the person) is baptized in the name of the father, of the son and of the holy spirit. At the same time that he is saying these words he spills the water or immerses the person three times.
In addition to the words and immersion in water, there is also an anointing with holy chrism, a perfumed oil consecrated by the bishop. This means the gift of the holy spirit for the newly baptized who arrives on that day to become a Christian. In other words, that the holy spirit is anointed in the person and incorporates him into Christ.
If we review the liturgies of the Eastern churches, this post-baptismal anointing is considered the sacrament of “Chrismation”, which has been what we know as confirmation. In the Roman texts, this anointing means a call to a second later anointing of the holy chrism that will be granted by the bishop. Ritual that is commonly known as confirmation, where redundancy is valid; we confirm and attest to the fullness of the baptismal anointing.
The person to be baptized must be dressed in white, since this means “clothed in Christ” and therefore risen with Christ. On the other hand, the candle that is lit symbolizes the light of Christ that illuminates the neophyte. Once the baptism is finished, the person becomes a new child of God and light of the world.
Baptism and Confirmation
As you can see, baptism and confirmation are rituals that are closely linked to each other, both imply a beginning and acceptance of the teachings of Christ in our lives, baptism being a first step and confirmation a verification that we have chosen the path of God. Where the keyword is “choice”. Since in many cases baptism is performed by our parents when we are very young. For what we do not have decision capacity, it is not that we choose to accept Christ in our lives. In a certain way it is an imposition on the part of those who decide that we should be baptized.
But when we confirm ourselves this changes, because during this rite it is we, fully aware of what we are doing, who voluntarily decide to surrender to the Lord’s teachings and receive the grace of the Holy Spirit.
What is needed to be Baptized?
There are only two conditions or restrictions that prevent a person from being baptized, the first is that they have received the sacrament of baptism. Since this rite is performed only once during our lives. The second and even more important condition is faith; which must be publicly confessed during the celebration of the sacrament (eucharist).
This implies that there is no age range, nor limitation by sex, race, sexual orientation or ethnicity. As the Lord tells us, the kingdom of God is open to all who wish to enter it. No matter who you are. In addition, everyone who becomes a Christian changes their conception of the world and enters the correct path of learning that will allow them to become a new person imbued with the grace of the Lord.
Additional Aspects and Doubts About Baptism
You must never forget that baptism represents the path that leads us from the realm of death to life, that it functions as a gateway to the church and is the beginning of our lives in communion with God. That is, an alliance with the Lord. For this reason, many consider the sacrament of baptism to be fundamental, being a precondition for all the sacraments that will follow.
Why does the church still perform infant baptism?
This question is very much related to the previously mentioned topic about the differences between baptism and confirmation. Since some consider that baptism should not be allowed in young children, since they still do not have the power to choose to follow and accept the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Father God. Nor are they able to understand what that means. So that; why does the church still allow it?
The reason is very simple, when we confirm it means that we choose to follow God, but the truth; God had already chosen to accompany us. For this reason there is no problem with small children being baptized. Since even though a baby or very young child does not have the same power of choice as an adolescent or adult, they can still receive the grace of God. Namely; an undeserved gift is given to him as a demonstration that we are unconditionally accepted by god the father.
There is also the fact that our parents want the best for us and this implies, of course; be baptized to eliminate in us the original sin and the power of death. On the other hand, receiving baptism at such a young age means that the child will be educated in the faith, which is usually a greater good for the infant. Otherwise, it ends up being an injustice to deprive the child of baptism simply out of misunderstood liberality. Not baptizing him is in a certain way depriving him of love until he decides to choose this path as he grows up.
An example that explains this point in a simple way is the ability to speak characteristic of the human being. We are all born with the ability to speak, but no one is born knowing how to speak. The same goes for our ability to believe and love. It is something that we must learn as we grow and baptism allows us to learn to know the faith. Although careful; At no time do we want these words to be misunderstood and people think that baptism should be an obligation or imposition for the child. For this reason it is that after being baptized, we all must make the confirmation after having grown up and we have the ability to make decisions for ourselves.
Who is authorized to celebrate baptism?
In the first instance, the celebration of the baptismal sacrament must be carried out by a bishop, a deacon or a priest. But in case the need arises and there is no one nearby, any Christian or even; Anyone can get to perform a baptism. The important thing is that at the time of pouring out water, say the words: “I baptize you in the name of the father, and of the son, and of the holy spirit.” Taking into account that as he mentions each one of them, he must perform an immersion or spill of water, adding a total of three times.
The importance of baptism is such that even someone who does not belong to the Catholic faith can get baptized if necessary. Although this is uncommon and rarely seen. As for the person who is going to carry out the celebration, what matters most is that he has the intention of doing the baptism as the church demands.
Can I only attain salvation through baptism?
It depends on how much you know about the teachings of the gospel and the life of Christ. For those who are aware of the word and what is the correct path of truth and life, the answer is yes. Since baptism becomes the only way to access God and salvation.
Although in the same way, we must not forget that Christ died for all of us. Reason why, those who did not have the opportunity to know the word of God or faith in Christ still have the possibility of achieving salvation. These people are not forgotten by god and they are also blessed with his grace. For those who seek God with a sincere heart and lead a life according to the teachings of Jesus, they will be able to achieve the “baptism of desire” even if they have never heard of faith in Christ.
In addition to the above, we must remember that God related salvation to the sacraments. So it is the obligation of the church and its representatives to offer them frequently and constantly to anyone who requires it. For those who do not, they can be considered betraying God’s commission.
Are there differences between Christian Baptism and Catholic Baptism?
No, both baptisms represent the same sacramental rite.
What does the sacrament of baptism bring us?
It initiates us on the path of faith, of the church and of the teachings that Jesus Christ transmitted to us. On the other hand, he allows us to purify our bodies from original sin and come closer to the gates of salvation.