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제목 On the Sacrament of Baptism (2016-10-08)
작성자 관리자 작성일 2016-10-10




On the Sacrament of Baptism


My dear brethren,


Baptism is the first of the seven Sacraments: one cannot receive any other Sacrament unless one is baptised first. It is the door to the other Sacraments, especially the most Holy Eucharist. Already St Justin said: “And this food is called among us "Eucharistia" [Εὐχαριστία = the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined.” The true Faith, Baptism and a life in the state of grace, these conditions for receiving Holy Eucharist are the same today as they were the beginning of the Church.


Baptism is the first because it is a birth: the beginning of life! “Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3). That new birth is “of the water and of the Holy Ghost” (Jn. 3:5). And it is a birth to everlasting life: that new life received at baptism blossoms in Heaven. Here below it can be lost; in Heaven it can no longer be lost. But it is essentially the same life.


The Church teaches that our Lord has instituted Baptism when He was baptised in the Jordan, thus sanctifying the waters. After He was baptised by John the Baptist, the heavens opened, the voice of the Father was heard and the Holy Ghost came under the visible appearance of a dove: this signifies that by Baptism we are made children of God and temples of the Holy Ghost. Then our Lord Himself started to baptise: He baptised His first apostles and then they baptised the other disciples as St John says (4:1-2): he was one of the very first two Apostles, perhaps baptised by our Lord Himself.


The matter of baptism is natural water, or rather the washing by natural water. It can be administered in three ways, either by immersion as was common at the beginning of the Church, or by pouring water in such a way that it flows over the body, or by aspersion (with enough quantity to make a real washing). Indeed if you need a wash, you can either take a bath, or wash under a tap or take a shower. The common way to baptise now is by pouring water, being the more practical way. Immersion especially in cold countries proved rather dangerous, especially for little children!


The matter signifies the washing of the soul from sin and from the punishment of sin: but it also signifies the “burial with Christ”: baptism by immersion clearly signifies it, but also the simple pouring of water does have that signification: indeed in a burial ceremony usually the faithful put either some flowers, or some dirt on the coffin without necessarily covering it entirely. Now St Paul says: “Know you not that all we, who are baptized in Christ Jesus, are baptized in his death? For we are buried together with him by baptism into death; that as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4).


In order to be valid, it is necessary that the water flows on the skin: some Protestants sometimes are so sloppy in their way to administer Baptism that it is invalid. I knew a case in the USA where a young man, who wanted to become Catholic, told me that he had been baptised by his uncle, who was a Protestant minister, and that uncle told him he had simply dipped his finger in water and traced the sign of the cross on the forehead with it. Now if you had fallen in the mud, and then dip one finger in the water and trace a sign of the cross on your muddy skin, are you going to be clean? Not at all! You need either to take a bath or to take a shower, or at least to wash under a tap! It is interesting to know that St Alphonsus in his Moral Theology explicitly mentions that case and says that in such a case the person needs to be conditionally re-baptised.


The signification of the “matter” is made clear by the “form” of Baptism. This form is explicitly found in the Holy Gospel: “Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Mt. 28:19). The invocation of the most Holy Trinity makes it clear that Baptism is a sacred washing, not just the washing of the body. It is by the power of the most Holy Trinity that all the sins and their punishment are completely removed from the soul of the baptised. Also the priest pours the water making three crosses with the water, in honour of the most Holy Trinity.


One needs to know that many protestants do not use this right “form” of Baptism; they read in the Acts that such and such persons were “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5). And they wrongly think that the form of Baptism consists in saying “I baptise you in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Such manner of baptising is certainly invalid, being contrary to what our Lord Jesus Christ Himself taught, contrary to the instruction He clearly gave to His Apostles in St Matthew’s gospel, and contrary to the universal practice of the Church since the beginning.


Why then did St Luke in the Acts of the Apostles say that “they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus”? First of all, the purpose of the Acts was not to write a book on liturgy, on how to perform the sacraments, but rather to describe the spreading of the Gospel by the ministry of Peter and Paul, to these Protestants draw an undue conclusion from St Luke’s words. Secondly, the expression “baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus” intends to make a contrast with the “Baptism of John”. This is manifest in the case of Ephesus: the first disciples of that city had been instructed by a man called Apollo who was a disciple of St John the Baptist and did not know explicitly the Holy Trinity; when St Paul arrived there, he found that they did not know even the existence of the Holy Ghost. So he asked them: “In what then were you baptized? They said: In John's baptism” (Acts 19:3). It is quite clear here that, if they had been baptised in the Baptism of Jesus, they would necessarily have known the Holy Ghost, precisely because they would have been “baptised in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost”; if they did not know the Holy Ghost, that meant clearly that they had not been baptised in the “Baptism of Jesus”. By not respecting the proper form of Baptism, many Protestant Baptisms are invalid.


Hence before Vatican II, the Church would systematically re-baptise conditionally the converts from Protestantism, unless their first baptism could be proven to be valid, being done with the proper matter and proper form and intention.


Sacraments produce that which they signify: thus Baptism not only signifies the washing of the soul, but does indeed completely wash the soul. The Church teaches that Baptism washes all the sins committed before it: it washes original sin and all mortal and venial sins. It also remits all the punishment due to these sins, so that if someone would die right after baptism he would go straight to Heaven, not having any purgatory to do.


We have seen that there is a third consequence of sin, which is the wound of sin, which is not completely healed by baptism: Baptism starts the process of healing, it applies medicine on the wound, but it will take time for that medicine to reach complete healing, and will require the cooperation of the faithful.


Baptism produces sanctifying grace in the baptised: this is the positive side of the same reality as washing away sin. Darkness is expelled by the light: sin is expelled by sanctifying grace. It is not possible to have the remission of sin without the infusion of sanctifying grace; and vice-versa it is not possible to receive sanctifying grace without sin being expelled. Indeed sanctifying grace and sin cannot co-exist in the same soul: in the same way that light and darkness cannot coexist in the same place: “No man can serve two masters” (Mt. 6:24). Sanctifying grace is a participation in the Life of God Himself; St Peter says: “he hath given us most great and precious promises: that by these you may be made partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4). To become partakers of the Divine Nature, of the divine Life, to receive such life from God, that means to become children of God. This does not happen except by becoming member of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God: we are children of God IN the Son of God, as members of the Son of God. It is not possible to live of the life of God except in the Body of Christ, which is the Church, the Catholic Church. Hence a valid and fruitful Baptism makes us members of the Catholic Church.


Another very important effect of Baptism is the character it imprints on the soul: by Baptism we are marked as children of God. That character will last for ever, for the glory of those who lived worthily of their baptism and go to Heaven, and for the shame of those who defile their baptism by an ungodly life and go to hell. That character is a wonderful source of actual graces throughout life, graces that help to live worthily as children of God.


The Sacraments work “ex opere operato – by the very performance of them”: that means that by the very fact one has received that sacrament, one has received the effects of it – but there is one condition: unless one puts an obstacle to such effect. Indeed, for instance, if a thief would receive baptism but at the same time would refuse to return that which he had stolen, that attachment to stolen goods would be an obstacle to grace: he would receive the character, but not sanctifying grace and not the forgiveness of sins, rather he would add a sin of sacrilege to his old sins!


The most common obstacle to the grace of baptism is heresy: the refusal of the true Faith, the Catholic Faith. This is the reason why Protestant baptism does not give grace – except in the babies, who of course do not put such obstacle. Such obstacle is removed by conversion, embracing the Faith of the Apostles, i.e. the Catholic Faith, and the sacrament of penance.


The ordinary minister of the Sacrament of Baptism is the priest; the priest can give the “solemn Baptism”, with all the beautiful rites of the Church. But in case of emergency, any faithful and even anyone, even non-Catholic, can give Baptism. Why so? Because God wants the salvation of everyone and therefore makes it widely possible for people to be baptised. Thus if a Catholic mother is giving birth and difficulties occur in the delivery, she may ask the nurse, even if that nurse is not Catholic, to baptise the child, making sure that the baptism is performed properly: that is, making sure that she pours the water on the skin of the child while saying “I baptise thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost”. Having the intention to do what the mother intends is sufficient for the intention to be right, because the mother intends to do what the Church intends, i.e. a valid baptism!


The right intention, i.e. the intention to do what the Church does, is require also: because the very signification of words and ceremony is ultimately determined by the intention of the minister. If the intention of the Church is explicitly rejected, as some Protestants do, then the lack of intention renders the sacrament invalid. Pope Leo XIII explained that for the sacrament of Holy Orders for the Anglicans: by rejecting a sacrificing priesthood, they did not have the right intention and so their ordinations were invalid. Usually the very performance of the Catholic ceremony is a guarantee that the intention is right.


The ceremony of Baptism is beautiful and source of additional graces. It starts with very important questions and answers: the priest asks: “What do you ask of the Church of God?” The catechumen answers: “Faith!” Then the priest asks: “What does faith offer you?” The catechumen answers: “eternal life!” And the priest concludes: “If you wish to enter life, keep the Commandments.” These short questions and answers embody the whole spirit and purpose of Baptism: the ultimate goal is eternal life in Heaven; throughout one’s Christian life, one must always keep such goal in front of one’s eyes. We are pilgrims here below, “exiled in this vale of tears”: “you are fellow citizens with the saints, and the domestics of God” (Eph. 2:19).


In order to go to heaven, one needs faith: so the catechumen asks the true Faith from the true Church: “What do you ask of the Church of God? Faith!” and this is what Baptism will give: it gives the infused virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity together with sanctifying grace as I explained some weeks ago. But faith alone is not sufficient, there is need of obedience to the Commandments, which are the path to heaven, hence the exhortation of the Church: “if you wish to enter life, keep the Commandments.” This is what our Lord himself had said to the young man who asked Him: “Good master, what good shall I do that I may have life everlasting?” (Mt. 19:16). Our Lord answered: “if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Mt. 19:17)


The Novus Ordo right of baptism has suppressed many things, and rendered these first questions and answers optional: no more asking the true Faith from the true Church; no more intending Heaven – or at least this has become optional.


Then the priest blows on the child, as a symbol of the coming of the Holy Ghost as a strong wind at Pentecost, and says: “depart from him, unclean spirit, and give place to the Holy Ghost!” Thus, one sees that there is a battle going on, a battle for the soul: God wants to save that soul, but the devil is out to deceive and lead it to perdition. Because of sin, original and actual, the unbaptised was in a certain way under the power of the devil, who does not like to lose his prey: Christ is going to deliver that soul from the power of the devil, as will be even clearer with the exorcisms.


The exorcisms are not mere prayers to God to deliver us from the devil; they are actual commands, orders, given to the devil in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, by the minister of Christ to whom our Lord had given such power. The devils tremble in front of such exorcisms, and lose their powers over the soul of the catechumen. The Novus Ordo rite of Baptism has suppressed all these exorcisms and kept only a mere prayer against the devil; there are no more commands to him to depart.


Then the priest makes the sign of the cross on the forehead and on the heart of the catechumen, saying: “receive the sign of the Cross on your forehead as well as on your heart, receive the faith of the celestial precepts and be so in your behaviour that you deserve to become the temple of God.”  Several other times the sign of the cross will be traced upon the catechumen: before the sacrament with the oil of the catechumen on the heart and on the shoulders to encourage the love of the Cross and the courage to carry it; after Baptism the cross will be made upon the top of the head with the holy Chrism to signify that the child has become a temple of the Holy Ghost. These sign of the Cross manifest that one becomes a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ crucified, that all grace comes from the Cross and that he will have to “deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Christ”crucified (Lk. 9:23). Again many of these signs of the Cross have been suppressed in the new rite.


The catechumen receives the blessed salt, symbol of incorruption and of spiritual good taste; it is also “the first food” and makes one hunger for the “super-substantial food” (Mt 6:11) which is the Holy Eucharist.


Then the catechumen enters into the church under the stole of the priest, symbol of entering the one true Church, the Catholic Church, and submission to the hierarchy of the church. The first thing he does in the Church is to profess the Creed which he has learnt in his preparation for baptism: for the children the god-parents profess the Catholic Faith in the name of the children and engage themselves to teach it to them. Indeed the true faith is the first and most fundamental bond of the unity of the Catholic Church. This is the faith that the catechumen will have to uphold during his whole life and put in practice. Then the catechumen recites the Our Father, which is the model of all prayers, because the Catholic life is essentially a life of prayer and friendship with God as children of God. He will have to use this prayer every day.


Then there is the triple renunciation to Satan and triple profession of Faith. This is most important: we must remember, especially in times of temptation, that once for all we renounced all these seductions of the devil; we said a resolute NO to sin. We must renew this when the devil tempts us: “I do renounce Satan; I do renounce hisworks; I do renounce his deceits.” I renounce Satan, because I chose resolutely for God: Yes to God, No to the devil!


There are many other beautiful prayers, which it would be too long to explain in detail. Just let me add that after baptism, we are given a white garment, symbol of the purity of our soul, and we are admonished to keep it unstained until the Tribunal of Christ, that is, until the end of our life when we shall be judged. Blessed are they, who, like St Thérèse of the Child Jesus, keep in their soul the innocence of their baptism! Those who lost it have to use the Sacrament of penance, and do real penance to recover it; but it is better and more pleasing to God not to lose it! This white garment is a reference to the “wedding garment” that the King expects for those admitted in the banquet hall of the wedding of the Son of the King (Mt. 22:11-12).


Lastly the baptised is given a burning candle, symbol of the light of faith and fire of charity that have just been enkindled in his soul: “receive this burning candle; keep thy baptism beyond reproach; keep the Commandments of God so that, when the Lord comes to the wedding feast, you may be able to be admitted in His presence with all the Saints in the heavenly courts and live for ever and ever!”  Thus the baptism ceremony which started with Heaven as its purpose ends with Heaven as its ultimate reward.


By baptism, we become children of God, members of Christ, and thus children of Mary. Our Lady adopts all the baptised as her children and has a very special care for each of us. Let us live as children of Mary, so as to please Her Son our Lord Jesus Christ!

Let us always remember our baptism: I am baptised, I cannot live as a pagan! I must live in a manner worthy of our baptism, as a worthy member of Christ, giving honour to Christ our Head, by imitating his virtues and living “through Him, with Him and in Him” unto the glory of the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost for ever and ever. Amen.


Fr. F. Laisney