Gateway to New Life
The word 'Baptism' comes from a Greek word baptizein that means to 'plunge' or 'immerse'. To 'plunge' someone in water represents the person dying, being buried and resurrecting with Christ as a 'new creature.' (C.C.C. # 1214) Some call this Sacrament 'the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit' because Baptism results in a new birth of water and the Spirit. Without it, no one can enter the Kingdom of God. [Jn. 3:5] (C.C.C. # 1215). This 'bath' is called 'enlightenment'. That is because those who are preparing to receive this Church Sacrament will receive spiritual teachings from the Holy Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Enlightened by Jesus Who is the Light of the world [Jn. 1:9], the new Christians now have the potential of becoming 'children of light'. [1 Thess. 5:5; Heb. 10:32; Eph. 5:8] (C.C.C. # 1216, 1228)
The Sacrament of Baptism is often called "The door of the Church," because it is the first of the seven sacraments not only in time (since most Catholics receive it as infants) but in priority, since the reception of the other sacraments depends on it. Because of original sin, we come into the world with a soul which is supernaturally dead. We come into the world with only the natural endowments of human nature. The supernatural life which is the result of God's personal and intimate indwelling, is absent from the soul.
Original sin is the absence of something that should be there. It is a darkness where there ought to be light. Jesus instituted the sacrament of Baptism to apply to each individual soul the atonement which He made on the Cross for original sin. Jesus will not force His gift upon us, the gift of supernatural life for which He paid. He holds the gift out to us hopefully, but each of us must freely accept it. We make that acceptance by receiving the sacrament of Baptism. When the sacrament of Baptism is administered, the spiritual vacuum which we call original sin disappears as God becomes present in the soul, and the soul is caught up into that sharing of God's own life which we call sanctifying grace.
Most significantly, baptism signifies the washing away of our sins. In some denominations baptisms involve the sprinkling of water, but in others one must become completely submerged and then emerge from the water. It is the first of the three Sacraments of Initiation, the other two being the Sacrament of Confirmation and the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Once baptized, a person becomes a member of the Church. Traditionally, the rite (or ceremony) of baptism was held outside the doors of the main part of the church, to signify this fact.
What are the other types of baptism besides the baptism of water? • The baptism of desire applies both to those who, while wishing to be baptized, die before receiving the sacrament and "Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do His will as they know it through the dictates of conscience" (Constitution on the Church, Second Vatican Council).
• The baptism of blood is similar to the baptism of desire. It refers to the martyrdom of those believers who were killed for the faith before they had a chance to be baptized. Those who die for the faith, those who are catechumens, and all those who, without knowing of the Church but acting under the inspiration of grace, seek God sincerely and strive to fulfill his will, can be saved even if they have not been baptized (cf. LG 16). This was a common occurrence in the early centuries of the Church, but also in later times in missionary lands. The baptism of blood has the same effects as the baptism of water.
What are the essentials of the Sacrament of Baptism?
While the Church has an extended rite of Baptism which is normally celebrated, which includes roles for...