Monday, June 23, 2014

The Sacrament of Baptism: Part One

We finally received the news that due to some complications of pregnancy, I am to be induced into labor this upcoming Friday, which also happens to be the feast of the Sacred Heart. What an amazing birthday to have, God willing! If baby comes on Friday, I have 2 weeks to spend on a discourse about the Sacrament of Baptism. My missal divides this into four main sections. I had planned on doing one section a week in June, but that obviously worked so well.

There are 5 subsections in the first part of the Baptismal ceremony, which takes place outside the church doors, in the foyer. The very place is symbolic: the child is not yet part of the Church, so he cannot enter it alone. The priest immediately asks the child “What do you ask of the Church of God?”, and the response is “Life Everlasting”. Extra Ecclesia nulla salus: Outside of the Church there is no salvation. Baptism is the gatekeeper to all other sacraments, and the person who wishes to be baptized must accept that there is no way to eternal happiness except through the Church.

The second and third subsections are equally uplifting. Firstly, the priest breathes on the child, reminding the witnesses of “a sound of a mighty wind coming, filling the house where they were sitting”: that is, the descent of the Holy Ghost upon Our Lady and the Apostles, that we celebrated at Pentecost. The Holy Ghost has kept the Church alive since Christ ascended into Heaven, and His seal is imprinted on every soul who is baptized. After this exsufflation, the priest blesses the child twice with the Sign of the Cross, the very symbol of a Catholic, proclaiming both the redemption of man through Christ’s sufferings, and the dogma of the Holy Trinity. The child is blessed on his head, symbolic of the intellect, and on his chest/heart, symbolic of the will, that these two higher parts of the soul become strong and willing to do the will of God above all other things.

The fourth and fifth subsections bring the first part of the ceremony to an end and to a transition into Part Two. These are the Imposition of Hands and the Imposition of Salt. During the ceremonies of Ordination, the priest’s hands are repeatedly blessed, and great power is bestowed upon them. By imposing his hands on the child’s head, the priest is invoking the blessings of God, and rejecting the infections of the devil. By putting grains of blessed salt on the child’s tongue, he is preserving the soul from evil, reminding us of our need to seek wisdom, and calling to mind the duty of Catholics to be “the salt of the earth”.