The meaning and grace of the sacrament of Baptism are evident in the rites of its celebration. The ceremony begins with the family being welcomed by the celebrant on behalf of the Church. The priest or deacon enquires of the parents the name they have given their baby and he also asks them if they accept the undertaking of raising the child in the Christian faith.
The following gestures and words are important parts of the unfolding celebration:
The sign of the Cross marks the imprint of Christ. The celebrant, parents and godparents greet the candidate by tracing the sign of the cross on its forehead. This signifies that the child is going to belong to Christ.
Proclamation of the Word of God reveals the truth of God to those gathered. Prayer is important since Baptism marks the candidate’s entry into the life of faith.
Exorcism signifies our liberation from sin. Baptism is made necessary by Original Sin and so the celebrant prays that the child may be delivered from every evil. Anointing with the Oil of Baptism (or of Catecumens) supplements this prayer and is a sign of the strength to be derived from Christ.
Profession of Faith: In the case of an infant the parents and godparents renew their Baptismal Promises. Parents recite these on behalf of the candidate just as their own parents did for them. These promises are an important reminder of the obligation to raise the child as a faithful Christian.
Baptismal Water has been consecrated through the power of the Spirit so those baptized in it will be ‘born of water and the Spirit’. Ordinarily the water used will have been blessed at the Easter Vigil.
Baptism is the essential rite of the sacrament. It consists of triple infusion with water accompanied by the invocation of each person of the Most Holy Trinity. The priest or deacon will pour the baptismal water over the child’s head three times, saying: “N., I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Anointing with sacred chrism signifies the gift of the Holy Spirit and anticipates future Confirmation. “Christ” translates as the “anointed one” and so the child is now enrolled in the Church, the Body of Christ, and is tasked with the role of living as a Christian.
White garment: The baptized person has ‘put on Christ’, has risen with Christ. The infant is wrapped in the garment to signify he or she is newly clothed in Christ and is ready to be His witness in the world.
Candle: Usually the father or a godparent will be given a candle to light from the paschal candle. This is a sign that the baptized are now ‘the light of the world’ and that the light of Christ will radiate in and through their lives.
First Holy Communion is reserved for older children. For infants the connection is made through recitation of the Our Father before the altar.
Solemn blessing: The celebration of Baptism concludes with special prayers for each parent and for all who have participated in the joyous occasion.