Meaning of Baptism
What is Baptism:
Baptism is the first sacrament of Christianity, which is practiced as an initiation ritual in all religious confessions that follow the message of Jesus Christ.
The word comes from the Greek βαπτίζειν or "baptízein" which means "to immerse". Immersion alludes to ancient purification rituals in which the penitent immersed himself in the waters and rose from them as a sign of spiritual rebirth.
It is believed that through baptism, people express the repentance of their sins, the birth to a new life oriented to the following of the Gospel and their incorporation into the community of believers, that is, into the Church.
Likewise, it is believed that through baptism the person receives the gift of the Holy Spirit, the redemption of sins and, consequently, the grace of God.
In the past, baptism was practiced in adulthood, just as it is still practiced in Protestant confessions today.
The practice of baptism in infants or young children dates from the end of the first millennium, long before the separation from the Church. It had to do with two things: on the one hand, the low life expectancy, since infant mortality was very high and parents hoped to guarantee that their children died in faith; on the other hand, the terrors of the end of the millennium that generate all kinds of superstitions about the end of the world.
Baptism, like all rituals, is loaded with a series of visible signs that symbolize its spiritual purpose and efficacy. Among these symbols are:
- Baptismal water: water is a symbol of the purification of the soul and body of the baptized. In the past, total immersion was practiced to account for the rebirth of the person. Although this is still practiced this way in some Protestant Christian religions, in the Catholic Church immersion has been replaced by the sprinkling of water on the forehead.
- The chrism or holy oil: this scented sacred oil consecrates the incorporation of the person to the community of believers. It is applied on the forehead in the shape of a cross.
- The oil of the catechumens: this oil gives the baptized person the gift of defender of the faith.
- The light (candle): it is a symbol of Christ, light of the world, bearer of hope. By giving this symbol to the baptizer or to the parents, the desire is expressed that the new believer will find the light of God in his life.