Pope Francis continues his catechesis on the sacrament of baptism…
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Continuing with the reflection on Baptism, today I would like to pause on the central rites that are performed at the baptismal font.
We consider first of all the water, upon which is invoked the power of the Spirit, so that it has the strength to regenerate and renew (cf. John 3:5 and Titus 3:5). The water is matrix of life and wellbeing, whereas its absence causes the extinguishing of all fecundity, as happens in the desert. However, water can also be the cause of death, when it submerges among its waves or, in great quantity, sweeps away everything. Finally, water has the capacity to wash, clean <and> purify. Stemming from this universally recognized natural symbolism, the Bible describes God’s interventions and promises through the sign of water. However, the power to remit sins isn’t in the water itself, as Saint Ambrose explains to the newly baptized: “You have seen the water, but not all water heals: water heals that has the grace of Christ. [. . .] The action is of the water, the efficacy is of the Holy Spirit” (De Sacramentis 1, 15).
Therefore, the Church invokes the action of the Spirit upon the water “so that those that will receive Baptism in it, are buried with Christ in death and with Him rise again to immortal life” (Rite of the Baptism of Children, n. 60) The prayer of blessing states that God has prepared the water “to be sign of Baptism” and recalls the principal biblical prefigurations: “the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters (cf. Genesis1:1-2); the water of the deluge marked the end of sin and the beginning of the new life (cf. Genesis 7:6-8, 22); the children of Abraham were delivered from the slavery of Egypt through the water of the Red Sea (cf. Exodus 14: 15-31).
In regard to Jesus, the Baptism in the Jordan is recalled (cf. Matthew 3:13-17), the blood and water shed from his side (cf. John 19:31-37), and the command to the disciples to baptize all peoples in the Name of the Trinity (cf. Matthew 28:19). Strengthened by this memory, God is asked to infuse in the water of the font the grace of Christ dead and risen (cf. Rite of the Baptism of Children, n. 60). And so this water is transformed into water that bears in itself the strength of the Holy Spirit. And with this water with the strength of the Holy Spirit, we baptize people; we baptize adults, children, all.
Once the water of the font is sanctified, it’s necessary to dispose the heart to accede to Baptism. This happens with the renunciation of Satan and the Profession of Faith, two acts closely connected to one another.
In the measure in which I say “no” to the suggestions of the devil — he who divides — I’m able to say “yes” to God who calls me to be conformed to Him in thoughts and deeds. The devil divides; God always unites the community, the people in one people. It’s not possible to adhere to Christ by putting conditions. One must detach oneself from certain ties to be truly able to embrace others. Either you are well with God or you are well with the devil. Therefore, renunciation and the act of faith go together. One must cut bridges, leaving them behind, to undertake the new Life, which is Christ.
The answer to the questions — “Do you renounce Satan, all his works and all his seductions?” — is formulated in the first person singular: I renounce” And, the faith of the Church is professed in the same way, saying: “I believe.” I renounce and I believe: this is at the base of Baptism. It’s a responsible choice, which calls to be translated into concrete gestures of trust in God. The act of faith implies a commitment, which Baptism itself will help to maintain with perseverance in the different situations and trials of life. We recall Israel’s ancient wisdom: “My son, if you come forward to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for temptation” (Sirach 2:1), namely, prepare yourself to fight. And the presence of the Holy Spirit gives us the strength to fight well.
Dear brothers and sisters, when we dip our hand into holy water — on entering a church we touch the holy water — and make the sign of the Cross, we think with joy and gratitude of the Baptism we have received – this holy water reminds us of Baptism — and we renew our “Amen” — “I’m happy” –, to live immersed in the love of the Most Holy Trinity.
© Libreria Editrice Vatican
Translation from the Italian by Virginia M. Forrester, © ZENIT, www.zenit.org