I have received a series of excellent questions about baptism that I have often been asked. I will respond to them in a few bulletins. Let’s begin with some basics. First of all we need to clarify that much of what is being asked about baptism is not really a question about our faith, but rather about how we have come to practice our faith, and as I mentioned earlier, that means the practice is often affected by cultural (not faith-based) norms.
- So what does our faith say about baptism? During a baptism we sing “all you who have been baptized into Christ, have put on the person of Christ.” Here is the core of our baptismal faith. Through baptism we are united with Christ. But that unity comes in steps: rejecting a life without faith, recognizing that we are loved by God as revealed in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (water baptism), that through that recognition the Holy Spirit is gifted to us (Chrismation) so that we become members of the Church—the Body of Christ—and can receive the Eucharist, which is the ultimate sign of our union with the Father, through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit.
- But how does all this happen? By God’s action through the Church, the Body of Christ. Here we turn to history and historical practice. From the Early Church we know that baptism in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit was established as the action by which adults and children were marked as members of the Church and, most importantly, participants in the death and resurrection of Christ. We are all saved, united with God, because of the death and resurrection (this is the significance of Easter). In the Early Christian Community those being baptised entered naked into a “pool” and were immersed in the water three times (as a sign of Christ’s resurrection on the third day) as the bishop or presbyter proclaimed them baptised in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. So, initially everyone was baptised by immersion. Once out of the pool they were anointed with Chrism (Chrismation) and then could enter the room (the church) where they then could participate in the Eucharistic celebration.
Therefore, the answer to the first question of “best time” for baptism is cultural and personal and not prescribed by any Church rules. Of course, as people of Faith, we want to share the joy and love of our Christian community with our children as soon as we are able (whether at day 1 or year 2). When we participate in the Eucharist, why would we deny our beloved child this sign of God’s love? Most importantly we can ensure that we understand the significance of our sacramental rites so that we can always show our children that they are so loved by God.
Please send in your questions! What do YOU want to know about YOUR Faith?