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Baptism, Sacrament of
New Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. 2nd ed. Detroit, MI: Gale, 2003. p60-67.
Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale, COPYRIGHT 2006 Gale, COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning
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BAPTISM, SACRAMENT OF

"Baptism," derived from the Greek baptizein meaning "to plunge or to immerse." The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), quoting in part from the 1439 Council of Florence (DS 1314), describes baptism as "the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit, and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission" (CCC 1213). Drawing upon the insights of the Early Church, many theologians today often speak of baptism, along with the sacraments of confirmation and the Eucharist, as the Church's "sacraments of initiation." Baptism is not a private affair between the individual Christian and God, for baptism establishes one as a member of the Universal Church and as a member of a particular faith community, enabling one to participate fully in the Church's sacramental life. Baptism is also the basis of all ministry within the Church. This entry surveys: (i) the history, and (ii) the sacramental theology of Christian baptism.

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History

Baptism is discussed extensively in the Acts of the Apostles and Pauline epistles, and this sheds some light on the baptismal rite. That Baptism took place by immersion is evidenced by Paul's presenting it as a "being buried with Christ" (Rom 6.3–4; Col 2.12). The same is true of his description of Baptism as a bath (λουτρόν, Eph5.26; Ti 3.5; see also Heb 10.22), which leaves open the question whether or not a complete submersion is meant so that the head must also disappear under the water. The form of the bath also manifests itself in the manner in which the Ethiopian was baptized (Acts 8.36–38), and finally in the word that is generally used for this, βαπτίζειν (A. Oepke, "βάπτω" G. Kittel, Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament 1:527–544).

According to the DIDACHE, pouring the water was permissible; if immersion was not feasible, one could "pour water on the head three times, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (7; J. Quasten, ed., Monumenta eucharista et liturgica vetustissima 10). It is clear from this that from the very beginning there was great freedom with regard to immersion. The activity of the minister was emphasized throughout; it seems to have consisted either in pouring water on the head of the candidate, or at least in touching the candidate with a slight pressure suggesting the motion of immersion.

Iconography seems to favor this latter notion. The pictorial representations of the baptism of Christ beginning with the 2nd century generally show John the Baptist placing his hand upon the Lord. However, this touch can also signify a washing with the moistened hand. By means of the pouring or sprinkling the (more or less complete) bath was made an "immersion." Extant baptisteries from a few centuries later (see Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, ed. F. Cabrol, H. Leclerq, and H. I. Marrou, 2:382–409) show, by the very shallowness of the water receptacle, that an immersion for adults was no longer considered the general rule, and that therefore the pouring of water must have rounded out a partial bath. By comparison, the full immersion even for adults was still used by Otto of Bamberg (d. 1139), the apostle of Pomerania (Vita 2.15; Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie 2.1:398–399). A complete immersion for infants must have remained in use longer, for St. Thomas Aquinas acknowledged it to have been the more common practice (Summa theologiae 3a, 66.7).

Formula. With regard to the formula used for Baptism in the early Church, there is the difficulty that although Matthew (28.19) speaks of the Trinitarian formula, which is now used, the Acts of the Apostles

(2.38; 8.16; 10.48; 19.5) and Paul (1 Cor 1.13; 6.11; Gal3.27; Rom 6.3) speak only of Baptism "in the Name of Jesus." It has been proposed that we assume that the one being baptized had to confess the name of Jesus and that then the minister pronounced a Trinitarian formula (Crehan 76, 81). This remains, however, an arbitrary conjecture.

While it is more obvious in the Matthaean formula (Mt 28.19) that Baptism establishes a relationship to the triune God, it is no less true when Baptism is given "in the name of Jesus." Since Baptism is an incorporation into Christ, it bestows at the same time the Holy Spirit (Acts 2.38; Eph 1.13; Gal 3.14; 4.6) and makes us daughters and sons of the Father (Gal 4.6). It is also conceivable that "in the name of Jesus" meant nothing more than that the candidate was given over to Christ, consecrated to him, and submerged in him (in his death). Though there is no clear proof that this phase was really used as a liturgical formula, the possibility of its being used thus even as late as the 3rd century cannot be excluded (StenzelPage 62  |  Top of Article 88–93). The validity of Baptism "in the name of Jesus" was still accepted in the age of scholasticism.

An explicit reference to the Trinitarian formula of Baptism cannot be found in the first centuries. The Didache, for instance, merely repeats Mt 28.19. In the East, St. John Chrysostom (d. 407) is the first to report it: "N. is baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" [Baptismal Instructions 2.26; ed. P. Harkins, Ancient Christian Writers, ed. J. Quasten et al. 31 (Westminster, Maryland 1963) 52–53]. A similar form is also found in the Apostolic Tradition (21; B. Botte, La Tradition aposolique de saint Hippolyte; Essai de reconstitution 48–51). However, ancient Christian tradition until the 4th century (Western-Roman tradition until the 8th) shows that the baptismal formula was spoken as questions that the candidate answered.

It was natural to expect the candidate for Baptism to make a profession of his Christian faith—all the more necessary in view of the fact that at that time other groups had a baptism, e.g., the baptism of John (Acts 19.3). The Ethiopian chamberlain, for instance, had first to make a profession of his faith: "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God" (Acts 8.37). The profession could be more or less explicit. As a matter of fact, the Christological part of the APOSTLES' CREED came into use first (1 Cor 15.3–4). Trinitarian formulas, however, also spread at an early time, and they could have appeared as an extension of Christological formulas (see the formula Paul uses for the greeting at the beginnings of his letters).

Around the 3rd or 4th century there is evidence that this profession of faith was the baptismal formula. Thus, the Apostolic Tradition reports that the minister places his hand on the candidate's head and asks: "Do you believe in God, the Father almighty?" The candidate answers: "I believe." Then he baptizes (immerses?) him once. The minister asks again: "Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, died, and on the third day arose from the dead?" The candidate answers: "I believe," and is baptized a second time. The minister once again asks: "Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Church and the resurrection of the body?" The candidate replies: "I believe," and is baptized the third time.

This baptismal formula in question form is found again and again in the West until the Gelasian Sacramentary [1.44]. But then a change occurs.

In the East, a 5th-century Syrian adaptation of the Apostolic Tradition, the Canons of Hippolytus, adds that the minister says each time he immerses the candidate: "I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (19.133 Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie 2.1:262). This is the first time that a declarative formula accompanied the threefold immersion. Apparently in reaction to ARIANISM a single immersion was adopted in Spain, (Gregory the Great, Epist. 1.43; Patrologia Latina, ed. J. P. Migne, 77:497–498), and the Eastern use of a single declarative formula was followed, since it tied in so well with the single immersion (M. Andrieu, Les 'Ordines Romani' du haut moyen-âge 3:87–90).

The first Western books to report the declarative formula were the Gallican Sacramentaries [e.g., the 8th-century Missale Gothicum 260; ed. H. Bannister, Henry Bradshaw Society 52 (London 1917) 17]. From among the books of the Roman rite, the Hadrian recension (end of 8th century) of the Gregorian Sacramentary was the first to reproduce it [Das Sakramentarium Gregorianum 206.3; ed. H. Lietzmann (Münster 192l) 124]. While these documents do not indicate the number of times the immersion and formula were repeated, some manuscripts of this period seem to vacillate between the threefold interrogatory formula and the single declarative one. A Sacramentary written in Prague shortly before 794 contains the threefold interrogation and immersion but adds that the minister may say: "I baptize you …" without indicating whether this latter formula is to be repeated or not [Das Prager Sakramentar, ed. A. Dold and L. Eizenhöfer (Beuron 1949) 98.12]. On the other hand, other books, such as the Sacramentary of Gellone (end of 8th century), insist that the formula is spoken only once (P. de Puniet, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie 2.1:305).

A consideration of these historical facts forces us to conclude with De Puniet (ibid. 342) that the tradition of the Church until the 8th century was to accept the threefold Trinitarian question and answer as the baptismal formula.

Liturgical Rituals. The baptismal act has from ancient times been enlarged with preparatory and concluding rites. TERTULLIAN spoke of a renunciation of Satan, his pomps and his angels by means of three questions and answers [De spect. 4; De corona militis 3; De anima 35 (Patrologia Latina 1:635; 2:79; 2:710)].

According to the Apostolic Tradition (20–21; B. Botte, ed., La Tradition apostolique de saint Hippolyte: Essai de reconstitution 42–53), besides fasting and renunciation of Satan, there were also a preliminary anointing with oil that was exorcized beforehand (later, oil of catechumens) and an anointing after Baptism with oil over which a thanksgiving prayer had been spoken (later, chrism). The baptismal water was supposed to be blessed ahead of time (Tertullian, De baptismo 4; Patrologia Latina 1:1205).

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A special practice, which lasted for but a few centuries, was the offering of a drink of milk and honey to the newly baptized before the reception of the chalice in the first celebration of the Eucharist on the part of the neophyte [Tertullian, De corona militis 3 (Patrologia Latina 2:99); Apostolic Tradition 21 (La Tradition apostolique de saint Hippolyte: Essai de reconstitution 56–57); Jerome, Adv. Luciferianos 8 (Patrologia Latina 23:172); John the Deacon, Epist. ad Senarium 12 (Patrologia Latina 59:405)]. This drink harkened back to the promise made to the Chosen People in the desert that they would inherit a land flowing with milk and honey, an inheritance that the candidate was now to enjoy. From the 4th century there is evidence of the white clothing received by the newly baptized to symbolize the innocence of his new life (Ambrose, De mysteriis 7; Monumenta eucharista et liturgica vetustissima 129). About the same time a presentation of a burning candle to the neophyte is reported (Pseudo-Ambrosius, De lapsu virginis 5; Patrologia Latina 16:372), a reminder of the purity of soul of the newly baptized. The anointing of the head of the newly baptized [Apostolic Tradition 21 (La Tradition apostolique de saint Hippolyte: Essai de reconstitution 51); Ambrose, De sacramentis 3.1.1 (Monumenta eucharista et liturgica vetustissima 151)] is to symbolize his configuration to Christ, the anointed priest.

The early Church took great care to bring out the fact that Baptism was the great event by which one is initiated into the Christian life. For this reason it was linked with the celebration of the Easter Vigil. The whole community, therefore, took part in it, not by being present during the baptismal act which took place in the form of an immersion in the baptistery, but by fasting beforehand with the candidates, and by bringing them into the church immediately after Baptism to celebrate the communal Eucharist. It was because reception into the Church is sealed with the Eucharist that the Communion of newly baptized infants was retained even as late as the 12th century.

While infants were baptized either immediately or on Holy Saturday without any preparation (Cyprian, Epist. 64; Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum 3.1:720), adult candidates had to undergo a CATECHUMENATE of varying length before they could receive Baptism. The Apostolic Tradition calls for a period of instruction lasting three years, but does allow for a lesser time if the candidate proves especially zealous and trustworthy. The catechumens' instruction often preceded the community's celebration of the Eucharist, of which they could attend only the liturgy of the Word, and then in an area apart from the already-baptized. Because "their kiss is not yet holy" (Apostolic Tradition, 18), they could not exchange the kiss of peace either with the faithful or among themselves. This symbolic and physical separation continued until the day they were baptized.

At an early date the administration of the Sacrament was normally restricted to the Easter or Pentecost Vigil. LENT thus served as a period of final intensified instruction and interior preparation for reception of Baptism. Those catechumens who were ready to make the step were enrolled in the ranks of the competentes, those "seeking" Baptism; and exercises, called scrutinies, were held for them. The candidates on these occasions received many EXORCISMS, the exsufflation or blowing out of the devil, the IMPOSITION OF HANDS, salt; they were taught and had to repeat the Apostles' Creed and Our Father, the essential part of the rites for the competentes.

The competentes would fast on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, their last days as catechumens. On Saturday, the bishop called them together and imposed his hands on them, exorcising them of foreign spirits. An additional exorcism—the rite of exsufflation—would follow, as he breathed upon their faces. After making the sign of the cross on their ears and nose, he exhorted them to spend the entire night watching, listening to readings, and hearing further instruction.

The celebration resumed at dawn. A prayer was said over the water (which the Apostolic Tradition says should, if possible, be running or fountain water), and the bishop prayed over the oil of exorcism (oil of catechumens) and the oil of thanksgiving (chrism). A priest took each of the candidates aside and instructed them to face the west—the place of the setting sun and so, symbolically, the realm of darkness and sin. There they proclaimed, "I renounce you, Satan, and all your undertakings and all your works." The priest then anointed each of them with the oil of exorcism and commanded Satan to depart.

Women and men were separated at this point. They removed their clothes and were brought to the bishop or priest standing near the baptismal waters. A deacon accompanied the men, a deaconess the women, as they proceeded into the water. (A specific mention of one in the "office of deaconess" performing this function is found in the Didascalia Apostolorum, "The Teaching of the Apostles," written in North Syria circa 250.) The Apostolic Tradition's baptismal formula consists of three questions, led by the one baptizing as he imposed his hands on the candidate's head: "Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty? Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, died, and on the third day rose from the dead; who ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of the Father, and will come to judge the living and the dead? Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Church and the resurrection of thePage 64  |  Top of Article body?" Each candidate responded "I do believe" to these questions, and after each response the candidate was baptized either by complete or partial immersion or by water being poured over the head. Apostolic Tradition specifies the order in which the baptisms occur: children first, then men, and then women.

Emerging naked from the water, the neophytes ("newly enlightened") were anointed by the priest with the oil of thanksgiving. They then dressed and entered the church. The bishop would impose his hands upon them, pray, anoint them again with the oil of thanksgiving, and mark their foreheads with the sign of the cross. Now one of the faithful, they would receive the kiss of peace from the bishop and would participate for the first time in the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

This second postbaptismal anointing by the bishop, taking place immediately after Baptism, was the sacrament of confirmation. As Christianity began to spread into rural areas and as infant baptisms increased in number—and, because of the danger of death, began to be practiced throughout the year—bishops were not always available to celebrate confirmation immediately after the child's baptism. The Eastern Churches maintained the original unity among the sacraments of initiation by allowing her priests to confirm and communicate infants and children when they are baptized. The Latin Church, preferring to preserve the notion that the bishop seals or completes the baptism through his anointing with chrism, allows infants or young children to be confirmed at their baptism only in emergency situations. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that "The practice of the Eastern Churches gives greater emphasis to the unity of Christian initiation. That of the Latin Church more clearly expresses the communion of the new Christian with the bishop as guarantor and servant of the unity, catholicity and apostolicity of his Church, and hence the connection with the apostolic origins of Christ's Church" (CCC 1292).

Baptismal instruction and catechesis did not conclude with the celebration of baptism. The neophytes continued to receive instruction about their faith and their new life in Christ for some days afterward. In many places they returned to the Church daily during the Easter Week to receive further instruction and exhortation by the bishop. Many of these post-baptismal instructions, known as Mystagogical Catecheses, have survived; among the more important are those of Ambrose (d. 397), Augustine (d. 430), and those attributed to Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386). In addition, some pre-baptismal instructions of Theodore of Mopsuestia (d. 428) and John Chrysostom (d. 406) also survive. These works may be considered among the first "textbooks" of sacramental theology, for they explained to the neophytes the significance of the complex of symbols and ritual gestures they had just experienced, as well as instructing them further about other mysteries of the faith. From a pedagogical point of view the timing of these catecheses was effective in that they followed one's actual experience with the sacraments. Listening to the sacred mysteries being explained, the newly baptized could reflect upon what they had experienced, rather than attempting to fit an explanation onto a rite in which they had not yet participated and about whose details they knew little.

Subsequent developments. When at the start of the Middle Ages adult Baptism became more rare, the rites of the catechumenate were adapted somewhat clumsily for infant candidates. Although infant Baptism has been the usual form of Baptism for the majority of Christians since at least the eighth century, the first rite of Baptism designed specifically for infants was the post-Vatican II Rite of Baptism for Children (1969). In the Middle Ages, infant Baptism was even restricted to Easter and Pentecost; so strictly was this followed in Spain (Ildephonse, De cognitione baptismi 107; Patrologia Latina 96:156) and elsewhere that the baptistery was locked during Lent. Such a transfer to infant Baptism of customs designed for adults was impossible without abbreviations and loss of meaning.

Infant Baptism. The ritual for infant Baptism in the Middle Ages comprised a reception into the catechumenate by means of the sign of the cross, and exsufflation, the imposition of hands, and the giving of salt; the exorcism with the oration Aeternam coming from the catechumenate (Ordo Romanus 11.21, 24; Les 'Ordines Romani' du haut moyen-âge 2:423); and lastly, inside the church, the recitation of the Apostles' Creed and Our Father. There follows the threefold renunciation of Satan separated from the confession of faith, as was often done in ancient times, by the anointing with oil of catechumens. The threefold immersion, bound up in earlier times with the three baptismal questions, left its vestige in the triple pouring of water that now accompanies the single indicative Trinitarian formula.

Baptism of Adults. The ritual for Baptism of adults is basically nothing else but a more prolix rite for infant Baptism that originated in the later Middle Ages. Instead of the single exorcism a whole series of them was introduced. The ceremony for reception into the catechumenate was lengthened by mere repetition of already existing rites. An insufflation (breathing the Holy Spirit into the candidate) was added to the exsufflation. Finally the whole ritual was outfitted with an introduction consisting of psalms.

Defending the Church's teaching against the Protestant Reformers, the Council of Trent (1545–63) retainedPage 65  |  Top of Article much of the medieval Baptism rite. The Roman Ritual, of 1614 established a theology and liturgical celebration of Baptism (and the other sacraments) that would remain essentially unchanged until the revisions called for by the Second Vatican Council three and a half centuries later. The baptismal liturgy and theology reflected the practice of the times: that those baptized were almost always infants, who should be baptized as soon as possible to remove the taint of original sin from their souls.

Vatican II. On April 16, 1962, the Holy See, wishing to make the ceremonies of adult Baptism a more meaningful introduction to the Christian life, published a new Ordinal allowing for the celebration of the rites of the catechumenate in a series of services prior to the actual conferring of the Sacrament [Acta Apostolicae Sedis 54 (1962) 310–338]. Vatican Council II also insisted on separating the adult baptismal rites into several distinct steps (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy 3:64); but it went further and decreed a full revision of both adult and infant rites (3:64, 66–70).

In the ensuing years, the Rite of Baptism for Children (RBC) was promulgated in 1969, and a slightly emended version appeared in 1973; another revision is underway at the beginning of the 21st century. Notable aspects of the RBC include a refocusing and emphasizing of the ritual and post-ritual responsibilities of the child's parents and sponsors, as mandated by the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. It directs that baptism should be celebrated "within the first weeks after birth" (8.3). In order "to fulfill the true meaning of the sacrament children must later be formed in the faith in which they have been baptized" (3), the baptism is to be delayed "in the complete absence of any well-founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion" (8.3). The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) first appeared in 1972; several revisions have led to the current 1988 edition. For more information, see also BAPTISM OF INFANTS and CATECHUMENATE.

Sacramental Theology

Baptism is necessary for salvation. As Christ himself said, unless one is born again of water and the Holy Spirit, one cannot enter the Kingdom of God (Jn 3.5). The Council of Trent declared: "If anyone says that Baptism is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation, let him be anathema" (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum, ed. A. Schönmetzer 1618). Baptism incorporates all men and women into the mystery of Christ and into his body the Church. Baptism also confers a sacramental character upon the soul; once it has been validly received, therefore, baptism is not repeated. Baptism also confers the grace of justification, and effects the remission of all sins and their punishment. Adults must receive Baptism freely, and infants can and should be baptized. In the case of an emergency anyone (even a non-Christian) can baptize validly by using the proper matter (pouring of, or immersion into, water) and form (the Trinitarian formula).

From an individual point of view, the primary effects of Baptism are "purification from sins and new birth in the Holy Spirit" (CCC 1262), a new birth that makes one a co-heir with Christ (1 Cor 6.15; Rom 8.17) and a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6.19). But Baptism also has communal or ecclesial effects: it makes us members of the Body of Christ (Eph 4.25) and so incorporates us into his Church (GIRM 2).

While the core meaning of baptism is expressed and effected by the action with water and the words of the minister, this essential matter and form has been "clothed" with numerous symbols and gestures that allow a fuller understanding and appreciation of the sacrament's significance. The Catechism of the Catholic Church observes that "The different effects of Baptism are signified by the perceptible elements of the sacramental rite" (CCC 1262). This applies to each of the Church's seven sacraments, but it is especially true of baptism, the liturgical celebration of which is among the most developed and richest of the Church's rituals. The following discussion complements the Church's teachings on Baptism by commenting upon seven additional, more conceptual or descriptive, effects of Baptism, and illustrating how these "are signified by the perceptible elements of the sacramental rite."

First, Baptism brings about a change of ownership. The passage 2 Cor 1.21–22 speaks of "God, who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us, by putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first installment" of his promise (see also Eph1.13–14). Through Baptism, we are claimed by God as one of God's own: we become God's property, God's instruments. That we are under new ownership is symbolized in the RCIA as those brought into the catechumenate are marked with the sign of the cross, "the sign of [their] new way of life as catechumens" (54–55). Similarly, in the Baptism of infants or children, this signing occurs near the beginning of the rite, after the parents and sponsors accept their responsibilities as Christian teachers (RBC 41). In both liturgies, those to be baptized are claimed for Christ in the name of the Christian community.

Second, Baptism effects a change in our allegiance. Throughout the Letter to the Romans, Paul insists that we neither live nor die to ourselves but to the Lord (Rom6.15–18; 8.12–13; 14.7–9). This living and dying to the Lord involves real struggle in the lives of Christians, andPage 66  |  Top of Article the minor exorcisms in the RCIA "draw the attention of the catechumen to the real nature of Christian life, the struggle between flesh and spirit." (90–94). In the RBC parents and sponsors—whose faith provides the reason and proper context for the Baptism of the child—renew their renunciation of sin and profession of faith (56).

Commenting upon the concept of Baptism as effecting in the baptized a "change of ownership and allegiance," the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the practical implications of these changes: "From now on, he is called to be subject to others, to serve them in the community of the Church, and to 'obey and submit' to the Church's leaders [Heb 13.17], holding them in respect and affection [Eph 5.21 and other passages]. Just as Baptism is the source of responsibilities and duties, the baptized person also enjoys rights within the Church: to receive the sacraments, to be nourished with the Word of God and to be sustained by the other spiritual helps of the Church" ([LG 37; Codex iuris canonici 208–223; Codex Canonum Ecclesiarium Orientalium 675:2] CCC 1269).

A third effect of Baptism is that of stripping off the old (man) and putting on the new man who is Christ: "As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" (Gal 3.27; see also Col 3.9–11). In ancient days the newly baptized, laying aside their clothes before entering the font and then emerging naked to be clothed in their baptismal garment, reflected this "putting on the new man" in a striking way. Today, infants are ordinarily naked if they are baptized by immersion; in either case, they and adult initiates are clothed with a white garment after they are baptized, signifying the new creation they have become by being clothed in Christ (RBC 63; RCIA 229).

Titus 3.5 refers to a fourth understanding of Baptism, that the sacrament is the "water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit." References to this rebirth and renewal abound in both infant and adult rites, concepts symbolized particularly effectively when Baptism is by immersion. The design of many baptismal fonts in the past and today, suggesting the maternal womb, lends itself well to this symbolism.

A fifth description of Baptism is that it is enlightenment. The passage 1 Pt 2.9, considered by many a baptismal homily or instruction, speaks of "the new light into which we have been called." Indeed, technical names for the elect in the RCIA are photizomenoi or illuminandi ("those about to be enlightened"), while the newly baptized are called neophytes ("the newly enlightened"). The presentation of a lighted candle to newly baptized adults (RCIA 230) or to the parents and sponsors of an infant (RBC 64) symbolize this enlightenment.

Sixth, Baptism makes a person a sharer in Christ, the anointed king and priest. Both 2 Cor 1.21 and 1 Pt2.9 speak of this priesthood. The postbaptismal anointing with chrism of infants (RBC 62) and of adults, when their confirmation is separated from their Baptism (RCIA 228), symbolically reflects this. When adults are confirmed following their Baptism, as is usually the case, the prayer introducing this sacramental anointing asks the Holy Spirit to "make [them] more like Christ and help [them] to be witnesses to his suffering, death, and resurrection" (RCIA 233).

Finally, through Baptism we are adopted as God's own children. Baptism is described as adoption several times in the General Instruction to the Roman Missal (1,2,5), drawing from Paul's use of the concept in Rom8.14–17 and 8:23 (see also Eph 1.3). Paul is the only New Testament writer to use the word "adoption" which, in Greek, means "the making or placing of a son." The notion of Baptism as adoption concisely describes the kind of relationship the baptized enjoy with God (his sons and daughters), how this relationship is made (through God's initiative), and the effects of the relationship (the baptized become co-heirs with Christ and are entitled to call God "Abba, Father").

Mutual Recognition of Baptism. Finally, the Second Vatican Council's call for a greater spirit of ecumenism among churches and ecclesial communities reflects the understanding that Baptism is the effecting and the sign of the fundamental unity of all Christians. The essential matter and form of Baptism is the action of water upon the person being baptized (immersion or pouring) while the minister pronounces the Trinitarian formula. The Catholic Church recognizes as valid baptisms performed by other churches and ecclesial communities if these two conditions are met, and if there is no serious reason to question either the intention of the minister (not the minister's faith) and the free acceptance of Baptism by the one baptized. In an emergency anyone (even a non-Christian) can validly baptize, so long as he or she intends "to do what the Church does."

Some of the non-Catholic churches whose baptisms are recognized as valid by the Catholic Church are those of Eastern non-Catholics, Adventists, Amish, Anglican, Assembly of God, Baptists, Congregational Church, Disciples of Christ, Episcopalians, Evangelical Churches, Lutherans, Methodists, Old Roman Catholics, Polish National Church, Presbyterian Church, Reformed Churches, and the United Church of Christ. Some of the churches whose baptisms the Catholic Church considers invalid are those of Christian Scientists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Pentecostal churches, Quakers, Salvation Army, and Unitarians. This list is by no means exhaustive. Masons havePage 67  |  Top of Article no baptism, and the Church considers "doubtful" the validity of Mormon baptism (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). A Mormon wishing to become a Catholic is permitted to be baptized conditionally; in the case of a Mormon desiring to marry a Catholic, the Mormon baptism is presumed valid.

Conditional Baptism is exceptional; its private celebration is allowed only if careful examination of the particular church's or ecclesial community's matter and form, the minister's intention, and the recipient's disposition has cast serious doubt about validity. Although called for in the preconciliar rite, the conditional Baptism of infants who are miscarried, stillborn, or killed in an abortion ("If you are still alive; if you are a human being, I baptize you …") is not to be administered. Because "sacraments are for the living," in these situations prayers for the deceased and the family are more appropriate than is the celebration of the sacrament.


St. Boniface baptizing a kneeling man. (Archive Photos)

St. Boniface baptizing a kneeling man. (Archive Photos)

Bibliography: J. H. CREHAN, Early Christian Baptism and the Creed (London 1950). J. QUASTEN, "Baptismal Creed and Baptismal Act in St. Ambrose's 'De Mysteriis' and 'De Sacramentis,"' Mélanges de Ghellinck, 2 v. (Gembloux 1951) 1:223–234. A. STENZEL, Die Taufe (Innsbruck 1958). ANDRIEU and E. DICK, "Das Pateninstitut im altchristlichen Katechumenate," Zeitschrift für katholische Theologie 68 (1939) 1–49. M. DUJARIER, Le Parrainage des adultes aux trois premiers siècles de l'Église (Paris 1962). T. MAERTENS, Histoire et pastorale du rituel du catéchuménat et du baptême (Bruges 1963). H. RAHNER, "Pompa Diaboli; Ein Beitrag zur Bedeutungsgeschichte des Wortes πομπή-pompa in der urchristlichen Taufliturgie," Zeitschrift für katholische Theologie 55(1931) 239–273. B. FISCHER, "Formen gemeinschaftlicher Tauferinnerung im Abendland," Liturgisches Jahrbuch 9 (1959) 87–93; "Formen privater Tauferinnerung im Abendland," ibid. 156–166. R. CABIÉ, "Christian Initiation," 11–100, in "The Sacraments," v. 3 of The Church at Prayer, ed. A. G. MARTIMORT (Collegeville 1988). A. J. CHUPUNGCO, O.S.B., ed. Handbook of Liturgical Studies, v. 4, "Sacraments and Sacramentality," 3–90 (Collegeville 2000). P. JACKSON, "Symbols in Baptism" in The New Dictionary of Sacramental Worship (NDSW), 108–15, ed. P.E. FINK, S.J. (Collegeville 1990). M. E. JOHNSON, ed., Living Water, Sealing Spirit: Readings on Christian Initiation (Collegeville 1995). A. KAVANAGH, O.S.B., The Shape of Baptism: The Rite of Christian Initiation (New York 1978). K. B. OSBORNE, The Christian Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist (New York 1987). "Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults," Liturgical Ministry 8 (Spring 1999). M. SEARLE, Christening: The Making of Christians (Collegeville 1980). L. G. WALSH, O. P., The Sacraments of Initiation (London 1988). E. C. WHITAKER, Documents of the Baptismal Liturgy Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge 1989 (1960). E. YARNOLD, S.J., The Awe-Inspiring Rites of Initiation: The Origins of the R.C.I.A. (2d ed. Collegeville 1994).

[J. A. JUNGMANN/

K. STASIAK/EDS.]

Source Citation   (MLA 8th Edition) 
"Baptism, Sacrament of." New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd ed., vol. 2, Gale, 2003, pp. 60-67. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http%3A%2F%2Flink.galegroup.com%2Fapps%2Fdoc%2FCX3407701082%2FGVRL%3Fu%3Dclevnet_cpl%26sid%3DGVRL%26xid%3Dd38fcbbb. Accessed 17 Nov. 2018.

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3407701082

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  • Acts of the Apostles,
  • Ambrose, St.,
    • baptism,
      • 2: 67
  • Apostolic Tradition (canonical collection),
    • baptism,
      • 2: 62-63
  • Baptism
    • conditional baptism,
      • 2: 67
  • Baptism, Sacrament of,
    • 2: 60-67
    • adult baptism,
      • 2: 64-65
    • history,
      • 2: 61
    • iconography,
    • liturgical rituals,
      • 2: 62-64
    • mutual recognition,
      • 2: 66-67
    • sacramental theology,
  • Baptism of infants,
    • liturgical rituals,
  • Basil the Great, St.,
    • baptism,
      • 2: 67
  • Boniface, St.,
  • Canons of Hippolytus (canonical collection),
  • Catechumenate,
    • baptism,
      • 2: 63
  • Confirmation, Sacrament of,
    • post-baptismal annointing,
      • 2: 64
      • 2: 66
  • Corinthians, Epistles to the,
    • baptism,
    • infant baptism,
      • 2: 67
  • Didache,
  • Easter Vigil,
    • baptism during,
      • 2: 63
  • Enlightenment through baptism,
    • 2: 66
  • Ephesians, Epistle to the,
    • baptism,
      • 2: 61
      • 2: 65
  • Exorcism,
    • baptism,
      • 2: 63
  • Exsufflation, during baptism,
    • 2: 63
  • Galatians, Epistle to the,
  • Gallican Rites,
  • Gregorian Sacramentary,
    • baptism,
      • 2: 62
  • Iconology and iconography,
    • baptism,
      • 2: 61
  • Irenaeus, St.,
    • infant baptism,
      • 2: 67
  • John, Gospel According to,
  • John Chrysostom, St.,
    • baptism,
      • 2: 62
  • Justin Martyr, St.,
    • infant baptism,
      • 2: 67
  • Lent,
    • baptisms during,
      • 2: 63
  • Mark, Gospel According to,
    • infant baptism,
      • 2: 67
  • Matthaean formula, baptism,
    • 2: 61-62
  • Matthew, Gospel According to,
    • Trinitarian formula,
      • 2: 61
  • Milk and honey, use in baptism,
    • 2: 63
  • Mutual recognition of baptism,
    • 2: 66-67
  • Mystagogical Catecheses (Cyril of Jerusalem),
  • Ownership,
  • Paul, Apostle, St.,
    • baptism,
    • infant baptism,
      • 2: 67
  • "Putting on the new man" through baptism,
    • 2: 66
  • Rebirth through baptism,
    • 2: 66
  • Rite of Baptism for Children,
  • Romans, Epistle to the,
  • Sacraments
  • Salvation,
    • baptism,
      • 2: 65
  • Tertullian (ecclesiastical writer),
    • baptism,
  • Trent, Councils of (1543-63),
    • retention of medieval baptism rite,
      • 2: 65
  • Trinitarian formula, baptism,
  • Vatican Council II (1962-65),
    • adult baptism,
      • 2: 65