10/5/09 – The Waters of Baptism

Baptistery in the Cathedral of Christ the Light, Oakland, California
Baptistery in the Cathedral of Christ the Light, Oakland, California

During the Easter Vigil, when we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus, we baptise those people who wish to die to their former selves and rise with Christ to new life through the waters of the baptismal font.  Once we bless the font and baptise our Church’s newest members, we renew the promises of our own baptism and are sprinkled with the baptismal water.

The baptismal font, therefore, is not only the place for baptism, but also stands as a constant reminder of our own baptism.  It challenges us always to live the mission of Jesus.  The space where the baptismal font is found in each church is called the baptistery.  It also houses the paschal candle outside of the Easter season.  In some churches, the holy oils are also kept there in an ambry.  Many communities are placing their baptistery now in its traditional location at the entrance of the church.  This means people bless themselves directly from the font; strengthening the remembering of their baptismal calling.

At present the size and location of the baptistery makes if difficult to celebrate baptisms there, and the baptistery is more a place where the font is kept when it is not used.  Parishioners throughout our renovation consultation process have recommended a new, dedicated place in the church for the celebration of baptism.  It has been suggested that it be near the entry to the church and have a fixed baptismal font that serves as a continual reminder of our baptism.

Don’t forget that your comments on the recommendations are welcome.  You can speak to Frs. Denis or Paul, to any other member of the Liturgy Committee, email us at litcomwenty (at) yahoo (dot) com (dot) au or comment below.

Photo: Baptismal Font and Paschal Candle by KiltBear

2 thoughts on “10/5/09 – The Waters of Baptism

  1. Thank you for your question; it’s one that I’m sure that many parishioners wonder about.

    The fact is that the baptismal font serves as a reminder of both our baptism and our confirmation. This is because confirmation, while a sacrament in itself, is a confirmation of our baptism (hence the name).

    In the early years of the Church, baptism and confirmation were celebrated together (along with eucharist). We see this today in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), as well as in some other Catholic rites (e.g. Maronite or Ukrainian Rite Catholics) and Orthodox Churches, which never changed their practices. After baptism by a priest or deacon, the bishop would then confirm the baptism by the laying on of hands and anointing with chrism.

    Eventually in the Roman Catholic Church, the sacraments of baptism and confirmation separated. This was primarily because the growth of the Church made it impossible for the bishops to be in attendance at every baptism, and the Roman rite insisted on confirmation remaining the duty of the bishop (whereas with adults now, and with the other Catholic rites, this duty became that of the baptising priest).

    In the sacrament of confirmation, we celebrate being sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit that is Christ present within us from the moment of baptism. Baptism gives confirmation its full richness and meaning. The two sacraments really cannot be considered in isolation, but together, along with eucharist, as elements of the journey that is Christian initiation. As such, the baptismal font can be a reminder of both baptism and confirmation.

    At the same time, I can understand wanting to acknowledge confirmation as a sacrament in its own right. As I mentioned in the article, many parishes now have in their baptistery an ambry, that is, a cabinet where the sacred oils are kept and displayed – our neighbouring parishes of Parramatta, Greystanes and Toongabbie all have an ambry near the baptismal font. As the sacred chrism is used in confirmation to anoint each candidate, perhaps I can suggest that the chrism be reserved and publicly displayed in an ambry? If it is clearly visible in an appropriate location, then people may be able to look to it as another reminder of the sacrament of confirmation.

    Thanks again for your thoughts and feedback. Keep them coming – they’re very useful, and it’s great to have people commenting on our site.

    Robert Barden
    Liturgy Coordinator


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