Baptism As Both Sign and Symbol
Throughout the course of organized religion both present and past, ritualistic acts of praise and worship have been practiced as a sign of both love and honor to God. Catholicism refers to these rituals as sacraments. As Christians and members of this faith, the first sacrament received by each member is Baptism. This sacrament has not only been practiced since the beginning of our faith, but has deep meaning and symbolic ties to the start of creation with Adam and Eve. I hope to prove through both illustration and published works how Baptism as a sacrament is both a sign and symbol of humanities desire to become closer to God by cleansing them of original sin through this ritual and rite of passage.
Although tied together and related a sign is not the same thing as a symbol. It is important in the understanding of Baptism as both a sign and symbol to discuss how the two are similar yet different. “A sign is something that points to another reality and means what it signifies; meaning it is mostly fixed.” (Muller 125) An example of this would be a deaf child at play sign on a street. The street sign informs people that a deaf child lives on that street however does not mean that the deaf child is currently playing. There is usually no guessing involved with signs even in biblical sense due to the fact that they are straight forward in the message it portrays.
A symbol on the other hand, “is a multidimensional sign that points to another reality and manifests the reality to which it points.” (Mueller 125) In many ways all of the seven sacraments are excellent examples of such things. Sacraments can be interpreted in many ways depending on who is looking at it. Even though they are signs that use such things as water to represent cleansing and host to represent the body of Christ, they are much deeper symbolic rituals that bring us closer to achieving the Divine-human encounter we seek as Christians. Baptism is one of the best sacraments that show how both signs and symbols work together to bring us closer to God.
Baptism is the first sacrament we as Catholics receive as a member of the church. It is seen as a rite of initiation through the cleansing of original sin. Every human being is believed to be born with original sin because of the act of wrong doing committed to God by Adam in the beginning of time. In the ritual, holy water is poured over either our head or body while the priest makes the sign of the cross and recites prayers. As an active member of the church, it is an amazing thing to witness and celebrate in because it truly demonstrates the immense love and forgiveness God has for each of his children. The necessity of such an act is detrimental to our salvation and growth as seen in Mark 16:16, “He that beleiveth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that beleiveth not shall be damned.” (Bible 1563)
Belief in Christ and our willingness to try and model our own lives after his is another way Baptism can be seen as a sign and symbol. As with all of the seven sacraments we are brought closer to Christ and are eternally bonded with him through symbolic rituals during every liturgy. “All members of the church must recognize that each and all of us, by virtue of baptism, share in the ministry and mission of Jesus Christ.” (Tkacik 27) Through such beliefs many have posed many questions even as basic as what does the sacrament do? Most simply and well put, “Baptism offers a foretaste of eschatological glory.” (Turner 379) Just as Jesus himself was baptized so we must also we washed and cleansed with the power and grace of God symbolized in the form of water. Christ himself once baptized was seen in the eyes of his father, God, as his own son. “Baptism serves as the door through which man enters into the House of Eternal Wisdom the Church for, without it, a man cannot be united completely with the Savior, become a member of His Church, receive the other Sacraments, and be...
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