Baptism – the Greatest Day of our lives
by Fr Sean Maguire
Bishop Dermot Farrell, the newly ordained Archbishop of Dublin said on the day of his episcopal ordination to the Diocese of Ossory that ‘the greatest day in the life of a bishop is not his ordination, but his baptism, the day of his mission to live the Christian life.’
So for the bishop and for each one of us, our baptismal day is the most important day in our lives. It was the day we were incorporated into Christ and so it is as important to us today as it was on the day itself. In this article, we will look at the different rituals that take place at the baptismal ceremony.
At the beginning of the baptismal ceremony, the Sign of the Cross is traced on our foreheads to remind us that Christ redeemed us by dying on the cross. So Baptism opens the door of heaven for us.
A prayer of exorcism is recited over the candidate to prepare them to renounce sin and be released from the spirit of evil. We pray to be set free from original sin, to be made a temple of God’s glory, and for the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. The candidate is then anointed with the Oil of Catechumenate. With this oil of salvation, we are called to reject sin in our lives and live in union with God.The candidates then profess their faith in God. Baptism is the sacramental entry into the Christian faith. Every day, we are invited to grow in love and trust with our Triune God, into whom we have been immersed in Baptism.
There are two ways in which a candidate can be baptised. The most common ritual for baptism is when water is poured over the person’s head, with the words: “I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” which brings out the cleansing aspect of baptism, that we are cleansed from original sin in baptism. Full immersion is the other ritual of baptism. This is when the candidate is immersed into the waters three times. When we are baptised, we enter spiritually into the baptismal waters with Christ, dying to self and rising to new life with Christ. Every day thereafter, we are called to die to ourselves and enjoy the new life of grace that the Lord has given to us.
The newly baptised is anointed with Sacred Chrism, which is a perfumed oil signifying the gift of the Holy Spirit. In baptism, we put on the “aroma of Christ” and thus are called to spread Christ’s fragrance in the world of today.
When a person is baptised, they share intimately in the life of Christ and thus they are anointed as priests, prophets and kings. In the bible, a priest is someone who intercedes for others and offers sacrifices for them. In the same way, the baptised are called to intercede for others. At baptism, we are anointed as prophets and thus are called to be authentic teachers and witnesses of Christ in the world. And finally, we are anointed as kings. A king in the bible is someone who guides and leads people to God and thus we are called to lead people to God by our example and words.
The newly baptised are then presented with a white garment to signify that they have put on Christ, have risen with him and are clothed in his protective love. This gesture highlights our baptismal dignity, something we try not to violate in our everyday lives.The baptised receive a candle lit from the Paschal candle which represents the Risen Christ. In baptism, we received the light of Christ in our souls and thus are called to radiate Christ’s light in the world.
In the words of Pope Francis, “let us ask the Lord from our hearts that we may be able to experience ever more, in everyday life, this grace that we have received at Baptism”.