Why Baptism? Two Catholic Perspectives

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The following is a part of a seven-article series on the sacraments, written by two University of Notre Dame students. We encourage you to read both perspectives and check our website regularly for the rest of the series!

Why Baptism? By Pat Gouker

Baptism, through the immersion of a person into the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, restores the person to friendship with God, incorporates him into the Mystical Body of Christ, infuses him with the virtues, and opens the person up for an indwelling of the Trinity into his soul, by naming him into the Trinity.[1] In other words, in baptism one “becomes an adopted son of God in the sense that, while retaining all of his creaturehood, he receives by grace a participation in the divine nature.”[2] Participation in the divine nature, the divine life, implies possessing friendship with God, participating in the love of the Trinity, and having all the virtues, as a member of the Body of Christ. Yet, choosing to shar in Christ’s Baptism requires a person to participate in the Passion, Death, and Resurrection.[3]

Baptism bestows a character[4] that acts “as the key which opens the door to the sacramental or visible life of the Church; or, … like a plug of an electrical appliance; it makes the connection between the sanctifying activity of Christ in the visible structure of the Church and the spiritual life of the faithful.”[5] Baptism thus disposes a person to participate in the fullness of the divine life by qualifying them to receive the other sacraments in due course through the reception of the faith. The Baptismal liturgy begins with a question: What do you ask of the Church?[6]The answer is The Faith.[7] In baptism a person seeks the faith since “through faith in Christ Jesus you are all now God’s sons.”[8] And, just as faith makes all people adopted children of a common Father so too do they share a common Mother, the Church. By giving the gift of faith, baptism thus grafts us onto the Body of Christ, as a vine grafted to the branch that is Christ,[9] the Church and incorporates us into the Church, allowing us to participate in her other sacraments in the future.

Adoption requires a certain disappropriation,[10] for one freely chooses to estrange oneself from Satan, becoming an orphan so that he might be adopted by the Father Who was always there, beckoning him home. In adopting us as His children through Baptism, God takes us for His own. He reclaims us from the sin to which we were born. “Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.”[11] But God does not rip us from the arms of Satan, rather, He waits on the Cross for us with open arms, waiting for us to return to Him. Just as our First Parents freely chose to abandon God, so by a free choice we return to Him.[12] Thus, the baptismal liturgy has both exorcisms to cast out the power of Satan and also a triple renunciation of Satan. This renunciation corresponds to a threefold profession of faith wherein the catechumen professes faith in God. First in the Father, then the Son, then the Spirit Who will dwell within him by virtue of his baptism into Their Name. By saying “no” to Satan, one simultaneously says “yes” to God’s grace, just as how by pulling up weeds one makes room for flowers.

Turning from Satan we “abandon the ways of darkness and put on the armor of light.”[13] The virtues make up this armor of light. Through baptism they infuse themselves within us. Fire and hammer forge armor, so temptation forges virtue by creating a crucible by which we endure vice and yet resist giving in to it. The triumph over vice grows virtue. So too is it through the trial of the Paschal Mystery that God “accomplished this marvelous deed, by which [H]e has freed us from the yoke of sin and death, summoning us to the glory of being now called a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [His] own possession, to proclaim everywhere [His] mighty works, for [He] has called us out of darkness into [His] own wonderful light.”[14] Baptism shows forth the light into which God calls us from the darkness of sin. We enter into the Paschal Mystery of Christ to be tried by death to sin[15] and so join in His resurrection to a new life in light.

Baptism plunges us into water to drown our sin and wash us clean. The water, like that of the Red Sea, becomes a barrier between we, God’s chosen people, and our captor, Satan and his wiles. Baptism anoints us a royal priesthood, a prophetic people to proclaim His mighty works, and kings summoned to glory. In Baptism we restore our friendship with God and become His anointed[16], the Body of Christ, virtuous from our triumph over sin. We enter a new life, freed from sin, anointed priest, prophet, and king, clothed with Christ and in possession of the greatest dignity as one who knows his identity as a child of God, enlightened by Christ to hear and speak through his newly opened ears and mouth.[17] The waters of Baptism become the stream from which we begin to first taste the divine life and establishes an appetite satiated only in the reception of the divine life in the other sacraments and eventually fulfilled in full participation of that divine life in the life of the Trinity as one of the blessed in Heaven.

This cope, made in 1889 by Joseph-Alphonse Henry according to the design of Gaspard Poncet, currently resides in the Diocesan Museum in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Having been privileged to handle this cope personally and use it in liturgies, I have been able to examine this Grand Prize-winner of the Paris Exhibition of 1900 closely. It has embroidered on it all of the saints canonized up to the year 1900. It depicts all of the saints gathered at the Coronation of Mary as Queen. I chose these two images of the cope because they capture the reality of Baptism. Through Baptism these saints were restored to the friendship of God and now participate in the divine life of the Trinity as members of the Mystical Body of Christ who lived virtuously on earth and now, as Lazarus’s scroll reads, “Vivent in Aeternum,” that is, “Live in Eternity.”

Sicut cervus, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina

Lyrics based on Psalm 42 :1

Sicut cervus desiderat ad fontes aquarum,
ita desiderat anima mea ad te, Deus.
As a hart longs for the flowing streams,
so longs my soul for thee, O God.

This beautiful motet, often used as a Communion motet, captures the nature of Baptism’s communication of the divine life to us. The waters of Baptism become for us living waters from which we drink and first taste the divine life. We find ourselves, nailed to our own crosses in life, saying with Christ “I thirst.” We thirst not for water, but for living water, as does the Woman at the Well of John 4. Our heart which longs for God is not restful until it rests in Him, as Augustine put it. Baptism gives us an appetite for the divine life by giving us a taste of it. We satiate our appetite by participating in the divine life in the reception of the other sacraments, but we know that only in death will we be able to rise fully into that new life, that divine life which God has prepared for us.

[1] These four effects of Baptism come from Fulton Sheen’s discourse on the sacrament in his work These Are the Sacraments. This work is a beautiful summary of the sacraments which includes analysis of their history, their rituals, and their effects. (It should be noted, however, that Sheen’s analysis of the rituals of the sacraments considers their liturgies as they were prior to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.) A full understanding of Baptism can be reached by defining the sacrament in terms of all of the effects that Sheen considers as has been done here. Fulton Sheen, These Are the Sacraments. (New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc, 1962), 14-15.

[2] Colman E. O’Neill. Meeting Christ in the Sacraments. Edited by Romanus Cessario. (New York, NY: Alba House, 1991), 110.

[3] The sacraments, the means by which we participate in the divine life, therefore, must necessarily “derive their power and efficacy from the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord.” Sheen, 5.

[4] This character, like the other two sacramental characters (given in Confirmation and Holy Orders) is indelible. It is fitting, therefore, that these sacraments use Chrism, made from olive oil, in their liturgies since this oil is used as a preservative. “The early councils of the Church…reference[d] chrism as something set apart for sacred purposes and making for the sanctification of men” (Morrisroe, Patrick. “Chrism.” CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Chrism. New Advent. Accessed May 19, 2021. https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03696b.htm.). This is because of its symbolic significance. “For olive oil, being of its own nature rich, diffusive, and abiding, is fitted to represent the copious outpouring of sacramental grace, while balsam, which gives forth the most agreeable and fragrant odors, typifies the innate sweetness of Christian virtue. Oil also gives strength and suppleness to the libs, while balsam preserves from corruption. Thus anointing with Chrism aptly signifies that fulness of grace and spiritual strength by which we are enabled to resisted the contagion of sin and produce the sweet flowers of virtue. ‘For we are the good odor of Christ unto God’ (2 Corinthians 2:15)” (Morrisroe). A sacramental character is “a special supernatural and ineffaceable mark, or seal, or distinction, impressed upon the soul…and it is by reason of this ineffaceable mark that none of these three sacraments may be administered more than once to the same person” (Ryan, Michael James. “Character (in Catholic Theology).” CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Character. New Advent. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03586a.htm.). The characters of Baptism and Confirmation are frequently compared with “the insignia of soldiers, with the mark placed by shepherds upon sheep, with circumcision, [and] with the marking of the doorposts of the Israelites in Egypt” (Ryan).

[5] O’Neill, 114.

[6] The current ritual for Baptism begins with the question “What name do you give your child?” This question is followed by a second, “What do you ask of the Church of God?” The latter was the first question asked in the pre-Vatican II baptismal liturgy. Since both forms contain the second question and place it at the beginning of the liturgy, we treat it with the utmost importance as the answer to it is clearly meant to set the stage for the remainder of the liturgy of the sacrament.

[7] Here again there is a discrepancy in the pre-Vatican II and post-Vatican II baptismal liturgies. In the Vatican II liturgy, the answer is “Baptism” or perhaps something like “faith or the grace of Christ or entrance into the Church or eternal life.” Unfortunately, the ability to change the answer is not helpful in setting a clear focus for the liturgy of the sacrament or understand what is going to happen therein. Specifically, the answer “Baptism” does not help either the parents, godparents, or catechumen understand what is about to take place in this liturgy and what work God will perform by means of this sacrament. For this reason, I select the pre-Vatican II answer to the question (“the Faith”) because it more clearly lays a theological ground work for what is to take place in this conferral of the sacrament of Baptism. The comparisons of the liturgies I make are done by considering the sacramental rituals found in The Rites of the Catholic Church: Volume One and The New Sanctuary Manual 1961.

[8] 2 Cor. 12:4.

[9] See Jn 15.

[10] Disappropriation, which is an act of taking something/someone away from something/someone else, is a key element in the Trinitarian theology of Baptism laid out by Kimberly Hope Belcher. Though I will not expand on it here in this essay there is much value to considering what and whom is being disappropriated and by whom the dissappropriation occurs in Baptism, particularly in the baptismal liturgy. Kimberly Hope Belcher. Efficacious Engagement: Sacramental Participation in the Trinitarian Mystery. (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2011.)

[11] Ps. 51:5.

[12] This sentence has a twofold meaning. Indeed, we must freely choose to renounce Satan and our sins to return to God, but this alone is not sufficient. (To believe that our free choice and our work alone would merit our salvation would be Pelagianism.) We also need the free choice of God Himself, the choice to freely give His Only Begotten Son and offer Him for our transgressions; and, the free choice of the Son to be obedient even unto death on a cross (Phil. 2:8) and commend His Spirit into the Father’s hands (Lk. 23:46).

[13] Explorations of the use of lighted candles in the baptismal liturgy to demonstrate our donning of the armor of light can be of great value. The light of the baptismal candle must not be divorced from the other instances in which it is used. For example, often the baptismal candle would be used or at least recalled at ordination to the priesthood or profession of final vows in a religious order. The Paschal Candle from which the baptismal candle was lighted also stands before the casket at the funeral of the baptized person. This, in particular, reminds us that baptism finds its fulfillment in death. For it is through death that we, like Christ, are able to rise to a new life. This new life is one of a divine nature wherein we participate in the very nature of the Trinity. Rom. 13:12.

[14] Preface of Sundays in Ordinary Time I.

[15] Our death to sin and Christ’s death to sin are different. While our death to sin means that we must reject sin and turn towards the Lord, Christ was sinless and had no sin to die to. Rather, His death to sin was such that He died for our sin. Thus, His is a death not to His own sin like us, but a death to our sin for He was the Pure Victim.

[16] Christ is God’s Anointed One. Since we become His anointed in Baptism, we thus become Christ in some manner, namely as the Mystical Body of Christ.

17 A description of the life after Baptism according to the explanatory rites of Baptism. The Rites, Baptism for Children, n.98.


Why Baptism? By Mary Biese

            Baptism makes incarnate the dynamism of the triune God, particularly through the imagery and use of water, blood, and breath.[i] Through the action of the ecclesial community,[ii] this sacrament places the recipient’s name within God’s name[iii] and vice versa;[iv] this exchange of names establishes a mutual indwelling of the Trinity.[v] Through the Baptismal waters, God the Father[vi] transforms His creation through the infant[vii] and renews His covenant through Christ’s victory over sin (original and personal) and death. Blood imagery evokes Christ’s Paschal Sacrifice and the call to imitate His disappropriation—His handing-over of his entire self—and to enter into His Death and Resurrection.[viii] The breath of the Holy Spirit, the unitive and relational action of the Trinity, transforms the Church community by means of silent witness.

            Baptismal water, a physical reality, expresses[ix] the “freely given grace that cleanses and refreshes” humankind[x] to the point of rebirth, resurrection,[xi] and salvation.[xii] Through Baptism, God renews both creation and humankind’s relationship to creation by consecrating the human senses.[xiii] Christ, sent by the Father, cleanses, comforts, sustains, and transforms creation with water, with the Holy Spirit, with fire, and with blood.[xiv] In baptism, the child, who enters into and thus belongs to the Trinity, acts as a microcosm of the community of the Church, with the Church as a microcosm of humankind and humankind as a microcosm of creation: all belongs to the Trinity.[xv] The infant’s body, as a site of grace, prophetically proclaims God’s transcendent love and salvation that calls forth the community’s call to transformation.[xvi] The Father confirms and renews the salvific covenant by sending the Son to establish a people for himself[xvii] and thereby cast out original sin and heal its relational brokenness.

            The blood of Christ[xviii] contains His disappropriation—especially His suffering, Death, and Resurrection—through which the initiand cooperates with God for the sake of Baptismal adoption, healing, and a new life of grace and witness. By imitating Christ’s kenosis, obedience,[xix] and mission, the baptized recognize Christ’s identity and find healing like the Samaritan woman at the well.[xx] As Christ pours out the gift of the Holy Spirit and of Himself, both parents and assembly freely disappropriate their authority over the infant so that both they and the infant may return Christ’s gift.[xxi] The surrender of parental authority allows for God’s adoption and begetting of each baptized son or daughter;[xxii] He reveals each one’s new dignity as His own sons and daughters.[xxiii] Through Baptism, the recipient travels into death and out into resurrection and rebirth, making him or her dead to sin and now a member of Christ’s Body, the Church.[xxiv] The promise of both violence and redemption[xxv] points to our participation in Christ’s suffering: a participation for which Baptism provides us strength[xxvi] and constitutes us for witness, even unto shedding our own blood.[xxvii]

            The Holy Spirit, whose life-giving action both resembles and gives breath, unites and renews the persons of the Church through Baptism.[xxviii] The Church receives the child at the church doors; its minister proclaims Christ’s Presence in the Word,[xxix] enacts and completes the rite of Baptism, and blesses all present before the Eucharistic altar. As a response to the action of God and of the community, the baptized person commemorates, renews, refracts, enters into, commissions, and encourages the baptismal life of all the assembly.[xxx] The Holy Spirit’s breath brings about new life and new identity for created persons[xxxi] through the chrism oil used in Baptism.[xxxii] This rebirth, initiated by the disappropriation of the community and the initiation of the recipient into the living Body of Christ, rehabilitates relationship between persons; it images and enters the initiand into the relationship between Christ and the Church, and between the persons of the Trinity.[xxxiii] The Holy Spirit works as the agent in breathless moments—such as Christ’s Birth, Baptism, and Death[xxxiv]—silently, as do the Baptismal substances of water, blood and breath, which themselves symbolize the Trinity’s restorative and sustaining action of grace incarnate in Christ’s body and the body of all the baptized.[xxxv]

Why Baptism: Family Photo

This photo is from the baptism of my youngest brother, Xavier, who just turned one in December. As the oldest child, my parents selected me as the stand-in godparent: I held the child as an offering to the Lord for the sake of the members of the Church who could not be present at the time. My mother is in the front, her hands folded in a prayerful way, representing the disappropriation parents make for their children’s salvation. Besides Xavier, four of my ten siblings are also in this picture, pointing to the familial and unitive aspect of Baptism. The font is shaped like a cross, which calls to mind Christ’s sacrificial Paschal Mystery. Recalling that as well is the altar at the very back of the photo, towards which the congregation moved at the end of the ceremony, though at the time the movement had more to do with needing a family photo than pointing towards Eucharistic communion, since this Baptism took place outside of Mass.

Why Baptism: Be Thou My Vision by Audrey Assad

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart

Naught be all else to me, save that thou art

Thou my best thought, by day or by night

Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light

Be thou my wisdom, and thou my true word

I ever with thee and thou with me, Lord

Thou my great Father, and I thy true son

Thou in me dwelling and I with thee one

High King of heaven, my victory won

May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s sun

Heart of my own heart, whatever befall

Still be my vision, O ruler of all

Heart of my own heart, whatever befall

Still be my vision, O ruler of all

The speaker/singer asks God to act, as He does in Baptism, through and alongside the senses. The second and fourth lines of the second verse points to the interlocking and combining of names that Baptism enacts and the indwelling of the Trinity. “I thy true son” speaks to the baptized person’s new identity and rebirth as a son or daughter of God. The last verse points to the eschatological reality—union with the Creator and “Ruler of all”—that Baptism initiates. In Audrey Assad’s iteration of this classic hymn, she incorporates many gentle instrumental pauses and long breaths, which reminds me of the Holy Spirit as space, movement, action, and breath. Traversing through life conscious of God’s presence, and “ever with thee,” brings to mind the life to which the baptized are called—a life of recreation (presence of the Father), of prayer (presence of the Spirit) and of Eucharist (presence of Christ).

[i] Fr. Kevin Grove, CSC (3.11.2021). Water, blood, and breath feature heavily in each set of readings for the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, as well as Balthasar’s reflection on said readings. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Light of the World, 37-38, 159-160, around 207-208. (Final pagination unclear in photocopy.)

[ii] “Faith does not come to the human individual as an isolated ‘I’; he receives it from the community of those who have believed before him and who tell him of God as an accepted reality of their history. The historicity of faith signifies at the same time its communality and its power to transcend time: to unite yesterday, today and tomorrow by trust in one and the same God.” Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987). Chapter 1: “On the Relationship of Structure and Content in Christian Faith,” section 1, “The We-Structure of Faith as Key to Its Content,” 30.

[iii] This paper begins with the name exchange because through it, the baptizand grounds “participation in the trinitarian mystery of salvation” through love of God as His sons and daughters and the freedom to enter into relationship with God and others. Belcher, Kimberly Hope, Efficacious Engagement: Sacramental Participation in the Trinitarian Mystery (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2011), 146.

[iv] Benedict XVI characterized this as “an immersion in the name of the Trinity, a being inserted in the name of the Trinity, an interpenetration of being in God and of our being, a being immersed in God the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus. “’Lectio Divina’, 11 June 2012, in the Basilica of St. John Lateran for the inauguration of the Ecclesial Convention of the Diocese of Rome” (L’Osservatore Romano, 2012). This entry into the life of the Trinity culminates in the rite’s prayer “in the name of this child.” Church, Catholic. The Rites of the Catholic Church: the Roman Ritual Revised by Decree of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and Published by Authority of Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II. Study ed. (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1990), 405.

[v] “The bestowal of the trinitarian identity in infant baptism reveal[s] the trinitarian economy in action.” See Belcher, Engagement, 129. The one receiving Baptism is throughout referred to as an individual, recipient, infant, “initiand,” or “baptizand.” Belcher, Engagement, 140, 143.

[vi] This essay will explore each person of the Trinity as associated with water, blood, and breath, respectively. However, the author has worked to maintain the Trinity’s unity, particularly in her inability to restrict each section to only one Trinitarian person. The focus on infant baptism reflects Belcher’s insights in Engagement, though the study of Baptism extends beyond that focus.

[vii] Both Belcher and Ratzinger give helpful accounts of “Why Infant Baptism?”. For more on Ratzinger’s description of Baptism as anticipatory gift, see “We-Structure” 41-43.

[viii] “Baptism is the inception of resurrection, inclusion in the name of God and, by the same token, in the indestructible aliveness of God.” Ratzinger, “We-Structure” 32.

[ix] The baptismal rite summarizes the role of water in salvation history. See Rites 399.

[x] Readings for Year B of the Baptism of the Lord (Is 55:1-11, Is 12:2-3, 4bcd, 5-6; Letter of John 5:1-9; Mk 1:7-11). Balthazar, Light, 159-160.

[xi] Water symbolizes both death and life: “Insofar as it represents the sea, it symbolizes the adversary of life, which is death; but insofar as it reminds us of its source, it is at the same time the symbol of life itself… water is life. Water fructifies the earth. Water is creative. Man lives by water… Death and life are here uniquely combined… this becomes wonderfully clear in the twofold symbolism of water in which the unity of death and resurrection proclaims itself in a single symbolic action.” Ratzinger, “We-Structure” 39.

[xii] This grace “cleanses and refreshes” the entire cosmic reality as well. This Baptismal washing “is far more than a cleansing: it is death and life, it is death of a sort of existence and rebirth, resurrection to a new life.” Benedict XVI, “Lectio Divina.”

[xiii] See the “Ephphetha or Prayer Over Ears and Mouth”: “The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak. May he soon touch your ears to receive his word, and your moth to proclaim his faith.” Rites, 405. This results in the consecration of “the whole interface between person and world.” Belcher, Engagement, 142.

[xiv] See readings for Year C of the Baptism of the Lord (Is 40:1-5, 9-11; Ps 104:1-4, 24-30; Titus 2:11-14, 3:4-7; Lk 3:15-16, 21-22).

[xv] See Section 5.1, “The Community Belonging to the Trinity.” Belcher, Engagement, 129. “The world is summed up” through the Baptismal use of water, which is universal to all peoples as sustaining and pointing to the divine. Benedict XVI, “Lectio Divina.”

[xvi] “Sacramental grace… is… a matter of the proclamation of God’s salvific will already being put into effect… it can be considered prophetic, because in declaring the work of God it also evokes a recognition and response that becomes, for the hearer, justification and liberation.” The disappropriation in the sacrament involves “a prophetic recognition because in it the community recognizes the infant as a real locus of God’s grace and simultaneously alters the infant’s status in the community.” Belcher, Engagement, 134-135.

[xvii] See readings for Year A of the Baptism of the Lord (Is 42:1-4, 6-7; Acts 10:34-38; Mt 3:13-17). See also Balthazar, Light, 36-38.

[xviii] The addition of blood to the action of water and the Holy Spirit derives from Balthazar, Light, 160.

[xix] “Self-emptying is kenosis, which results in exaltation, which itself operates firstly as God’s gift.” This self-gift or self-offering, as disappropriation, involves love, obedience, and a handing-over of one’s own will, akin to the Aqedah. See Belcher, Engagement, 131, 132.

[xx] See Jn 4. Though at first resistant to Jesus’ claim on authority, her openness to receiving His gift and her listening to Christ’s revealing words allows her to recognize Christ’s identity, admit her own brokenness, and bear witness to Him to her wider community.

[xxi] “By ‘disappropriating’ its rightful (but human and limited) authority of the infant [including the authority of parents], the church enacts its identity as Body of Christ.” This rightful authority is based in blood but transformed through the salvific nature of Christ’s blood. In the rite, parents and godparents give their verbal consent and make the sign of the Cross, symbolizing Christ’s sacrifice of water and blood, on the child’s forehead. Belcher, Engagement, 129, Rites 421.

[xxii] “We ourselves are destined to be sons, to enter into the Son’s relationship with God and so to be transported into the unity of the Spirit with the Father. Being baptized would thus be the call to share in Jesus’ relationship with God… no one can make himself a son. He must be made. He must receive sonship before he can make himself a son.” This sonship imitates Christs; He “is always open to the living God… The Son does not simply design his own existence; he receives it in a most profound dialogue with God.” Ratzinger, “We-Structure” 32. This dialogue with God underlies the entire sacramental economy, particularly in the sacraments of Confession, Marriage, and Holy Orders. See also Ratzinger, “We-Structure” 34-35.

[xxiii] See readings for Year B and C of the Baptism of the Lord, which focus on adoption and rebirth.

[xxiv] Christ “does not wish to burden his own with anything he has not gone through.” Balthazar, Light, Year C. See also Romans 6, a foundational text for the Sacrament of Baptism.

[xxv] “The sign of the cross is simultaneously a reminder of violence and a pledge of redemption.” Belcher, Engagement, 141.

[xxvi] In the anointing of the initiand’s chest. The anointing on the top of the head, later in the rite, symbolizes a participation in Christ’s kingship, priesthood, and prophetic/pastoral ministry.

[xxvii] See Heb 12:4. Witness to Christ builds upon the rejection of Satan and his culture, which in its turn frees the baptizand to accept and live out Christ’s life.

[xxviii] “The Spirit renews the Body of Christ in the church, not in the abstract, but through the rituals of the church’s communal life.” Belcher, Engagement, 131.

[xxix] Just as Christ is present in the Word, so too is the Holy Spirit present in prayer, which constitutes a large portion of the rite of Baptism itself (including but not limited to the Intercessions in the rite): “Prayer always happens in the Spirit… because the prayer itself reconfigures the assembly into the Body of Christ in the Spirit.” Belcher, Engagement, 131. This presence saves the assembly by its participation in infant baptism. See Belcher, Engagement, 130.

[xxx] See Jn 4 for the woman at the well, who goes out into her community after encountering Christ’s Presence and Word, as the community encounters both of those things in the Rite of Baptism. The Spirit bridges historical Judaism and the encounter with Christ: “When the infant’s ritual experience of baptism is the focus of a trinitarian theology, it becomes clear that the Holy Spirit bridges the gap between Christian ritual processes as anthropogenic, historically conditioned cultural constructions and sacraments as acts of God in the world.” Belcher, Engagement, 129. Parents and godparents commit themselves to the pastoral care of the child, and the entire community finds unity in a common baptism and a common call to holiness (see Lumen Gentium chapter 11).

[xxxi] See Jn 3, a foundational text for the Sacrament of Baptism. The Spirit breathes life into creation in Genesis and continues that supplying of breath, of new life, in Baptism.

[xxxii] Through the anointing of the “chrism of salvation” (Rites 404), the child enters into Christ’s identity as priest, prophet, and king. Chrism oil, only used in sacraments with an indelible mark, can only be consecrated with the Bishop’s breath, which symbolizes the breath of the Holy Spirit.

[xxxiii] “This act of disappropriation realizes—makes real in a new place—the bonds of love between the Church and Christ and between Christ and God ‘in the Spirit.’… The Spirit is the distance and the bridge between Son and Father and is likewise the principle by which Christians transcend historical (‘natural’) determination in order to affirm a future of love.” Belcher, Engagement, 130.

[xxxiv] She lists them as “birth, baptism, and passion.” See Belcher, Engagement, 149-151.

[xxxv] At a certain point these two bodies converge, as each baptized person is a member of Christ’s Body, the Church.

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