Water and the Spirit: A Catholic Perspective on Baptism


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I had an interesting discussion about baptism and some of its implications from a Catholic perspective, so I thought I would expand on that as a general overview. Keep in mind that different denominations sometimes have radically different views, but this article covers most of the Christian concepts of the “high Church” and therefore more historically long term on the subject.

So, contrary to some representations, baptism, at its core, is not simply a choice of faith, which is why even infants can be, and usually are, baptized. It is a sacrament that permeates sanctifying grace, and it is the obligation of Catholic parents to ensure that their babies are baptized within a reasonable time after birth – for example, I was baptized a month after my birth. birth.

I have discussed in the past how we view sin not only as personal faults, but also as a cosmic condition. It is essentially the twisted reality of the human condition that is addressed here, and baptism that we see as a kind of spiritual inoculation if you will. It’s not so much about individual sins – since babies are obviously personally innocent – but rather getting to the root of the drive. To peach.

This raises several questions; what is this urge to sin? Is it the same as temptation? And isn’t temptation necessary for us to grow in the spiritual life? Well, for the record Christians believe that even Jesus was tested – as is clearly described in the gospels – but we also believe that he had a much higher resistance against this temptation because he did not suffer from lust. .

In essence, His spirit was in greater equilibrium with his flesh; they were in harmony instead of being in a battle against each other. We believe the same of the Blessed Virgin. We call it “the reed of God” for this reason. She was the ultimate channel for the pure transmission of the Word of God, that greater expression of Himself that became flesh. He comes as flesh to heal the flesh and breathe supernatural life into it.

Even non-Christian religions, like Islam, have some idea of ​​this concept of the reed. We read in the poetry of Sufi mystics such as Rumi, Hafez and Ibn Arabi, and in the Islamic conceptions of the prophets and other holy people, including Issa and Maryam. In essence, they are so fully submitted to the will of God that their flesh was in harmony with their spirit and their spirit in harmony with divine purpose and oneness.

It could be said that saints and mystics of all ages, regardless of their origin, share this mystery to varying degrees. Indeed, we could go further and say that any human being who experiences even a moment of pure inspiration towards good, truth or beauty, has known this sparkle of the life of grace, and will have known , at least once, what it means to accept it.

Does this contain within itself the mystery of desire, or what might be called baptism by desire? I think so. And what about those deaths that we can’t help but call heroic, those who sacrifice themselves so much for the good of others that we might call them martyrs? Is it the mystery of the real value of blood, or what we would call baptism by blood? I think so.

But to come back to the sacrament itself – we as Christians are called to be “born again of water and of the Spirit”. This way we are born a second time, but this time in the life of grace. We become members of the Mystical Body of Christ, and therefore are made more than creations of God; we are made Sons and Daughters of God. In this way, our perspective changes from other religions and our aspiration reaches a new level.

In living the sacramental life, we strive to adopt the mind of Christ and to live in union with Him as one who holds together so many apparent oppositions, heaven and earth, spirit and flesh, divine and human. It’s like tearing off the temple curtain in the middle; it is sort of the crux of the Christian concept of the purpose for which Christ came to earth. He tears apart what separates.

There are centuries of theology dealing with the concept of becoming a “new creation”. It is one of the major facets that make Christianity unique; we don’t just believe in being the best creatures possible, but in being truly transformed into Christ – and through sacramental life, into something higher.

So the idea is that God has deigned to come down to us in order to draw us into something new, reflecting the concept of Christ’s own death and resurrection. Because, if you look at the gospel story, the body of Christ has been transformed into something of a higher plane and of more subtle substance – and yet it still bears the marks of the cross. It is the great bridge that spans the realms of reality.

On a spiritual level, this is what we believe the sacraments do for us; they give us resuscitated souls, and baptism is the initiation into Christian and sacramental life. Do I believe this makes unbaptized babies, or people in general, less worthy or even beyond God’s ministry or mercy? No, I do not believe that God is bound by his own sacraments and I believe that he knows the quality of each heart, the sincerity of each soul.

This does not mean that baptism is not an incomparable gift and the normative means of entering into the saving mystery. Receiving this fundamental sacrament does not mean that we will not continue to face the struggle between the demands of the flesh and the calls of the spirit. But it does mean that we have been given the supernatural “energy” to fight the battle, and new Christian names to bear, which testify to the transformation underway within us.

To conclude, I want a beautiful reflection on all these fruits of the sacramental life which are manifested in our interior disposition, which can be found in the poem of Simeon the New Theologian:

We wake up in the body of Christ
as Christ awakens our bodies,

and my poor hand is Christ, he enters
my foot, and is infinitely me.

I move my hand, and wonderfully
my hand becomes Christ, becomes all of Him
(because God is indivisibly
whole, seamless in His Divinity).

I move my foot, and immediately
It appears like lightning.
Do my words seem blasphemous? – Then
open your heart to him

and let you receive the one
that opens up to you so deeply.
Because if we love her sincerely,
we wake up in the body of Christ

where our whole body, everywhere,
every most hidden part of it,
is fulfilled in joy like Him,
and He makes us, quite, real,

and all that is hurt, all
which seemed to us dark, hard, shameful,
mutilated, ugly, irreparably
damaged, is transformed in Him

and recognized as a whole, as charming,
and shining in its light
he wakes up like the Beloved
in every part of our body.

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