TUESDAY AFTER LOW SUNDAY
ON THE CEREMONIES OF BAPTISM
Consider first, that the ancient ceremonies used by the Catholic church in administering baptism are very instructive, inasmuch as they show forth both the effects of this sacrament in the soul, and the duties incumbent on them that receive it. The person that is to be baptized is initiated as it were in Christ, by professing his desire of coming to him, by faith and the observance of the commandments; and then receiving upon his forehead and upon his breast the sign of the cross, to signify that the cross and passion of Christ is the source of all our good; that by this sacrament we are dedicated to Christ crucified, and must ever wear his badge, both on our forehead and in our heart. Then the catechumen is seasoned as it were for baptism, by a grain of salt solemnly blessed for that purpose, to signify the salt of true wisdom and that Christian prudence and discretion, which ought to season all we do, as also the seasoning of divine grace, which is to keep the soul from corruption of sin. Moreover, to make room for the spirit of God to come and take possession of the soul and to fix his dwelling there, the devil is cast out by solemn exorcisms, exsufflations, and prayers, and the senses of the soul are opened as it were to God by the application of the spittle to the ears and nostrils, with the Ephpheta, pronounced in imitation of our Lord, Mark vii. 34. O how great must that grace be for which the soul is prepared by so many mysterious ceremonies!
Consider 2ndly, that after this follows the solemn renunciation of Satan and of all his works and of all his pomps, as a declaration of an eternal war against this mortal enemy; and then, to give us to understand what kind of arms we are to furnish ourselves with for this warfare, we are anointed with consecrated oil on the breast and between the shoulders, to signify by this outward unction the inward unction of the Holy Ghost and his fortifying grace here given, to strengthen our breasts with heavenly charity, to love and keep the divine commandments, and to give force to our shoulders to take up our cross and to bear in a Christian manner all the labours, difficulties, and adversities of this mortal pilgrimage. To which is added, immediately after baptism, another unction on the top of the head, with the holy chrism; to signify our being by baptism incorporated in Christ, the great anointed of the Lord, and being solemnly consecrated to God for ever, by the unction of his grace; as all such things as are anointed with the holy Chrism are by the church dedicated to God for ever. Hence all Christians are called by St. Peter a kingly priesthood, from partaking in the dignity of Christ, and bring anointed through him with that holy unction with which God has of old anointed his priests, prophets, kings, and martyrs.
Consider 3rdly, that immediately after baptism, we are also clothed with a white linen garment, which the minister of God gives us, with these words, ‘Receive this white garment, which thou shalt carry without spot or stain before the judgment-seat of our Lord Jesus Christ, that thou mayest have eternal life:’ Amen. And then, in allusion to the parable of the virgins that went forth with their lamps to meet the bridegroom, St. Matt. xxv., and of the servants that with the lights in their hands were ever ready to open the door to their Lord, St. Luke xii., we receive a lighted taper in our hand with these words, ‘Receive this burning light, and keep thy baptism, so as to be without reproof. Keep the commandments of God, that when the Lord shall come to his nuptials, those mayest merit him, together with all the saints, in the heavenly court, and mayest live with him for ever and ever,’ Amen. Which ceremonies put us in mind of the strict obligation of leading a holy and innocent life after baptism; of holding forth the light of faith in our lamps, to the edification of all men, and keeping them ever burning with the oil of charity and good works, till we meet our Lord in his heavenly kingdom.
Conclude from the consideration of all these mysterious ceremonies used in baptism, to settle in thy soul a great idea both of the dignity and of the obligations of a Christian, and to make it the business of thy life to correspond both with the one and the other. But O, take care above all things not to stain that robe of innocence by wilful sin.