Hypothesis: Baptism is an essential symbolic ritual of the Catholic religion that brings the adherent closer to God, has a number of effects on the adherent including original sin and has a continued affect on their life. An abundant amount of religions across the world use rituals to demonstrate their beliefs and bind adherents together in a sense of community. The Catholic Church does this by using the sacraments of initiation to embrace the adherents into the Catholic Religion. The sacrament of Baptism is the first of the seven sacraments of initiation and the start of lifetime with God.
Baptism is an essential symbolic ritual of the Catholic religion that brings the adherent closer to God, has a number of effects on the adherent including original sin and has a continued affect on their life. The significance of the ritual of Baptism will be discussed by examining the process of the ritual and its symbols and its resulting effects, the role of Baptism as an initiation ritual, and the on-going effect Baptism has in the adherent’s life. The ceremony of Baptism has several important steps.
These steps will in turn bring the adherent closer to God and welcome them into the Catholic Community. The first step of the ritual is the Sign of the Cross and the Baptismal Promises. When the Adherent first walks into the Church, the priest will trace the sign of the cross on their head. This symbolizes an invisible branding that says the adherent belongs to Christ. Evidently, this is then followed by the Baptismal Promises, where the adherent and the priest gathers around the Baptismal font, the priest will then ask the adherent what they want and they will reply with ‘Baptism’.
The adherent will then say the Baptismal Promises that binds them to God and rejects evil in all its forms committing the adherent to live a life “I felt the Baptismal Promises had the most impact on me during the ceremony of Baptism because it really felt like I was making a commitment to my religion and I understood what the Catholic Church was asking of me” (Donn, Personal Communication, 2013). The Baptismal promises then leads onto the second step of the Catholic Ritual of Baptism that is just as important as the other two steps. Subsequently, the second major step of Catholic Baptism is the anointing by the priest.
This significant step of the ceremony involves the priest anointing the adherent with the Oil of Chrism on the forehead and chest. The Oil of Chrism or Sacrum Chrisma consists of olive oil and balsam. The olive oil symbolizes the strengthening for the struggles of ahead, this concept is also supported in the bible where Psalm 23:5 reads, “You anoint my head with oil,” signifying favour and strength from the Lord; this idea dates all the way back to the time of Christ when the athletes used to cover themselves in olive oil to strengthen them.
The balsam used in the Oil of Chrism symbolizes the sealing with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This step in the Catholic Ritual is very important also because it gives the adherent the right to partake in the sacrament of Eucharist, one of the three sacraments of initiation. The most symbolic and possibly important step of Catholic Baptism is the Baptism by Water. This process involves the adherent standing, sitting, or kneeling in holy water and the priest then lowers the adherent under the water and then brings them back up out of the water.
This step is repeated three times symbolizing the Trinity (The father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). During this process the priest recites, “I baptise you in the name of Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit”. Thus cleansing them in all aspects of the Trinity. This originally came from Jesus’ famous last words to his apostles recorded by Mathew, “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28 NWT).
The water symbolizes cleansing and the washing away of the stain of original sin, “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. We have inherited Adam’s sin from the moment of our conception. This is why babies need Baptism – to wash away the original sin inherited from Adam and Eve,” (Psalm 51:5). Another symbol represented by the water is the Paschal Mystery, a central teaching of the Catholic Church. It shows the person dying of sin during Baptism and being resurrected to a new life with God.
These symbols have deep meaning for the whole community who have witnessed this ritual, which is why it helps to develop such a strong bond between all adherents. The stages of this ritual take the adherent to a new state in their life, which is also why it is so important to the catholic religion. Not only is it the first stage of the adherents new life it is also the first stage of the sacraments of initiation. Being baptised is so important for the Catholic Church and community because it is not only the basic and the first of the seven sacraments it is also the first of the three sacraments of initiation.
The Initiation Sacraments initiate the adherent into the Catholic Church; once the adherent completes all three sacraments they are truly considered a child of God, free from sin and a full member of the Catholic community. Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist lay the foundations of every Christian life and are celebrated every year at the time of Easter. The adherents are born anew by Baptism, strengthened by the Sacrament of Confirmation, and receive in the Eucharist the food of eternal life.
In the process of initiation there are three sacramental ‘moments’: Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist. These three sacraments together accomplish Christian Initiation: Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door that gives access to the other sacraments. “Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: ‘Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water and in the word’ “(CCC 1213).
These sacraments significantly impact the adherent especially the ritual of Baptism. After the Sacrament of Baptism the adherent is affected greatly in many different ways. They are removed of sin, welcomed into the Catholic Community, become a child of God, branded to a life with God and had a chance to publicly express their faith. These changes will significantly affect the adherent’s life now and later in life as it has impacted James Donn; “It has impacted me every day of my life since.
It changed the way I act and feel towards others, I seemed to have gained a tolerance that I never knew I had. It gave me the opportunity to partake in other sacraments and since then I have already completed the sacraments of initiation. Every Sunday I am attending Church and helping out as much as I can. I still feel I am at the start of my journey and have a very significant life ahead filled with God. ” (Donn, Personal Communication, 2013) The sacrament of Baptism has been shown to be a significant ritual in the Catholic Religion.
It is the first of the initiation sacraments; it removes original sin and has a number other effects on the adherent and it transforms the adherent into a child of God. The ritual of Baptism also has an ongoing impact in the life of the adherent because it allows the to participate in the other sacraments and they renew their promises yearly at Easter. Thus, participating in the ritual does make a difference in the life of the adherent and is essential to the Catholic religion. Once they have received the sacrament they are changed and this change affects them for the rest of their life.