This being “born anew,” this becoming a “New Creature,” this being engrafted into the “Tree of Life,” this “receiving the new life of the Spirit” is what Baptism is all about.
The service of Baptism which you will witness today is divided into two parts.
FIRST PART OF SERVICE
The first part consists of prayers of exorcism, the renouncement of the Devil, the acceptance of Christ, the recitation of the Nicene Creed, and the giving of a Christian name to the candidate for Baptism.
The spirit of evil and confusion of thought is asked to come out of the candidate. He then is asked to renounce the works of the devil and to accept Christ as King and God.
When the candidate is an infant, the Godparent renounces the Devil and accepts Christ on behalf of the child. He becomes his spiritual friend who supports and encourages the child in his Christian life and growth. He assumes the responsibility of nurturing the child up to the time he can grow spiritually to accept Christ personally.
Following the recitation of the Nicene Creed, the candidate is given the name of a saint. Each year he celebrates his rebirth on the feast day of the saint after whom he is named.
SECOND PART OF SERVICE
The actual Sacrament begins when the priest raises the Gospel over the baptismal font and proclaims, “Blessed be the kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” He proceeds to offer petitions beseeching the Lord “for the sanctification of the water by the power of the Holy Spirit, for sending down on it the grace of redemption, for the candidate that he may be declared a child of light and inheritor of eternal blessings.”
BLESSING OF WATERS
Prayers for the sanctification of the water are then offered:
“O Master of all, show forth this water, a water of redemption, a water of sanctification, a purification of body and soul, a loosening of bonds, a forgiveness of transgressions, an illumination of souls, a washing of regeneration, a renewal of spirit, a gift of sonship, a garment of incorruption, a foundation of life.”
BLESSING OF OIL
Making the sign of the cross the priest blesses a vessel of olive oil which is a symbol of reconciliation. Just as the twig of olive branch carried by the dove following the flood indicated to Noah the deliverance from the Flood, so too, the oil symbolizes our deliverance from Death.
The priest proceeds to anoint the candidate with the “oil of gladness” making the sign of the cross on his breast “for the healing of soul and body,” on his ears “for the hearing of faith,” on the feet “for the following of the footsteps of the Lord,” on the hands proclaiming, “Thy hands have made me and fashioned me,” on his back saying, “he who would come after me let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”
The Godparent then also anoints the body. Just as a warrior was anointed in preparation for his physical combat in the arena, so too the new soldier of Christ is anointed for the spiritual combat against evil in the arena of life.
The priest then baptizes the candidate by immersing him into the sanctified water and raising him out of the water three times saying, “The servant of God, [name] is baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
The immersion into the water symbolizes our union with Christ in his three day burial.
The raising out of the water symbolizes our resurrection with Him out of the grave, freed from the power of death.
Following the Baptism, the new Christian is immediately anointed with Holy Chrism.
The Sacrament of Holy Chrismation or Holy Confirmation is administered to a Christian on the day of his baptism, and is not delayed for some future date.
In actuality, today you will have witnessed two sacraments: Baptism and Chrismation. Through Chrismation a Christian receives the gifts of the Holy Spirit to carry on his Christian life with the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, not alone or unaided.
The Chrism is composed of 40 different perfumes which symbolize the many gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
The Christian is “sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit” when the priest anoints the various parts of the body with the Holy Chrism, for as St. Paul says, “You were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 1:13).
This “sealing with the gifts of the Holy Spirit” likewise means that the Christian is God’s property. He is given tools to live a Christian life once he has been cleansed by the washing of regeneration in Baptism. He no longer has to face life alone, for he is united to Christ and has the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The hair of the candidate is then cut in a crosswise fashion symbolizing the new Christian’s willingness to come to Christ as a servant or salve, or to do His will willingly. The paradox is that while we approach Christ as a slave we receive the gift of Sonship and freedom from sin.
GIVING OF A NEW GARMENT
A new garment is given the Christian as the priest says, “The servant of God is clothed in the garment of righteousness….” This garment symbolizes the new reality we have attained as reborn members of the Kingdom of God.
CIRCLING THE BAPTISMAL FONT
Once the Christian is fully clothed in his new clothes, he is given a lighted candle symbolic of the light of Christ, and he, with his Sponsor at his side, circles the baptismal font three times. The following verse of scripture is chanted, “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. Alleluia” (Galatians 3:27).
Two passages of Scripture are then read (Romans 6:3-11 and Matthew 28:16-20). In the first, St. Paul reminds us that through Baptism we unite ourselves not only with Christ’s death, but also with his resurrection. “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).
The Baptismal service ends with the reading from the Gospel where we hear the words of Christ, “Go ye, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 6:11).
This passage reminds us not only of our obligation to baptize all people, but also of our obligation to observe all of his commandments.
REBORN CHILD RETURNED TO PARENTS
At the close of the service, the Sponsor solemnly delivers the child into the arms of the mother. As she receives her child, now baptized, sealed, illuminated, she kisses the hand of the Sponsor as a token of the spiritual relationship that is established between the Sponsor and the family. It is a Christian expression of gratitude and respect.
MEMENTO FOR WITNESSES OF BAPTISM
As you depart Church, you will receive a memento of your participation to be worn, indicating that you witnessed the holy event of the Baptism of a child of God, and his union with Christ Jesus.
YOUR PRAYERS REQUESTED
We ask that you will join your prayers with those of the entire Church that the candidate for Baptism truly be reborn and grow in the Holy Spirit, and that together we can grow with him in Christ’s love and peace and joy.