Signs & Symbols of Baptism
While these gifts are not visible to the human eye, we come to understand them through the visible, tangible signs used in the sacrament.
“…God uses the sacrament of water to give his divine life to those who believe in him.”
“…cleanse him from sin in a new birth to innocence by water and the Spirit.”
- From the rite of baptism.
Reflecting on our history, we see how water was created to cleanse and give life. In the very beginning of creation (Gen 1:2), the spirit of God breathed on the waters of the earth. In the great flood, water marks the end of sin and a new beginning of goodness. The Israelites passed through the Red Sea and were delivered from slavery into freedom. In the waters of the Jordan, Jesus was baptized by John and anointed with the Spirit.
In baptism we “pass through water” - a sign of our participation in the death of Christ and his emergence into freedom. Freed from the power of evil; the power of God’s life and love will prevail.
“Receive the light of Christ.”
“These children have been enlightened by Christ. They are to walk always as children of the Light.”
- from the rite of Baptism
700 years before the birth of Christ, Isaiah the prophet told of a people walking in darkness seeing a great light. (Isaiah 9:1). Jesus announces to us that he is “the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
At Easter, the Paschal candle is lit as a sign of the risen life of Christ. This life is stronger than death. It cannot be put out but shines brightly in the world as a sign of hope and of the strength of love. At baptism, a small candle for each child is lit from the Paschal candle. The priest says, “Receive the light of Christ.” Parents are instructed to keep the light burning brightly and the flame of faith alive in their child’s heart.
“You have become a new creation , and have clothed yourself in Christ.” -From the rite of baptism
“Quickly, bring out a robe – the best one- and put it on him”
– Luke 15:22
At baptism the church wraps new members in a white garment – a sign of acceptance and belonging in the community of faith. The garment is white, like Jesus’ light, and covers us from head to toe. The child is dressed in this garment during the rite of baptism – a visible sign of Jesus’ light and life now present in the child.
Oil of the Catechumen
“Bless this oil and give wisdom and strength to all who are anointed with it in preparation for their baptism.”
-From the blessing of the oil of catechumens
“…may he strengthen you with his power…”
-From the rite of baptism
Oil softens, heals, comforts, and protects. The oil of catechumens is applied to the child’s chest with the sign of the cross. This oil, a sign of strength, imparts the power to resist evil. The child, strengthened by the gift of God’s Spirit, will be guided and guarded by God on every step of life’s journey.
Sacred Chrism Oil
“when they are anointed with this holy oil make them temples of your glory, radiant with the goodness of life that has its source in you.”
-From the blessing of the chrism
“As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.”
-From the blessing of the chrism
The chrism is composed of olive oil and balsam(fragrance). Perfumed oil has the unique quality of both attracting others and setting apart the one who is using it. This oil, placed on the crown of the head, calls us to be the “good fragrance of Christ.” 2 Cor 2:15.
Oil has been used through the centuries as a sign of God’s favor. In the Old Testament, solemn anointings indicated those called for a specific task in God' kingdom. Being baptized into the anointed body of Christ, we are called to be priest, by living a life of prayer; to be prophet, by announcing the Word of God; and to be king, by leading with integrity.