Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
|We believe that
baptism with water -- by immersion, pouring, or
sprinkling -- in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the
Holy Ghost, cleanses us from original sin and personal sin (and their
punishments) and initiates us into the life of the Church. It is more
than merely symbolic; it's more than an expression of belief of the one
being baptized (or his parents); it is a Sacrament, both a sign and
medium of sanctifying grace. Baptism does something; it remits
Like all Sacraments (the other 6 being Eucharist, Confession, Confirmation, Holy Orders, Matrimony, and Unction), Baptism is not a work of man; it is a work of Christ, an act of His grace:
It is through Baptism that we are "born again" (or "born from above") of "water and of the Spirit" (John 3:3-5). Read the entire chapter of John 3 which speaks of being "born again" and please note that it is all about Baptism. Despite what some Protestants believe, being "born again" doesn't mean "having an emotional high" or "making a decision for Christ," though these are fine and good, the latter being necessary after the age of reason; being "born again" very clearly refers to Baptism of water and of the Spirit. This regeneration of water and Spirit is necessary to enter the Kingdom of God:
Why is water necessary? Why would Almighty God require us to use such a wordly element? First, His creation, though now fallen, is good, and the Holy Spirit sanctifies that which is fallen. We are not to approach nature with a dualist, gnostic mindset that sees His creation as "utterly corrupt" and inherently evil, and we cannot deny the power of God to use mere things for our good. Second, ultimately, it's not for us to question why, though it is fascinating to ponder; it's ours to do what He tells us. St. John Chrysostom (A.D. 347-407) answers that:
If any enquire, "Why is water included?" let us also in return ask, "Wherefore was earth employed at the beginning in the creation of man?" for that it was possible for God to make man without earth, is quite plain to every one. Be not then over-curious. That the need of water is absolute and indispensable, you may learn in this way. On one occasion, when the Spirit had flown down before the water was applied, the Apostle did not stay at this point, but, as though the water were necessary and not superfluous, observe what he says; "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?" (Acts 10:47)
The Old Covenant was entered into through circumcision; the New Covenant is entered into through Baptism:
St. John Chrysostom (A.D. 347-407) writes this of the above verses:
See how near he is come to the thing. He saith, "In the putting" quite away, not putting off merely. "The body of sins." He means, "the old life." He is continually adverting to this in different ways, as he said above, "Who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and reconciled us who were alienated," that we should be "holy and without blemish." (Col. i. 13, 21.) No longer, he saith, is the circumcision with the knife, but in Christ Himself; for no hand imparts this circumcision, as is the case there, but the Spirit. It circumciseth not a part, but the whole man. It is the body both in the one and the other case, but in the one it is carnally, in the other it is spiritually circumcised; but not as the Jews, for ye have not put off flesh, but sins. When and where? In Baptism.
Just as children were once circumsized as infants, they are now baptized as infants because the Kingdom of God, which is entered into through Baptism, most certainly includes them:
So in the New Testament, entire households were baptized:
the early post-New Testament Church carried on. There was no question
as to whether or not infants should be baptized, though there was
debate among a few as to whether they should wait to be baptized on the
8th day (the day children were circumcised in the Old Covenant), a
concept the Church rejected. This is what St. Cyprian of Carthage
(baptized ca. A.D. 246) wrote on the topic:
But in respect of the case of the infants, which you say ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, and that the law of ancient circumcision should be regarded, so that you think that one who is just born should not be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day, we all thought very differently in our council. For in this course which you thought was to be taken, no one agreed; but we all rather judge that the mercy and grace of God is not to be refused to any one born of man. For as the Lord says in His Gospel, "The Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them," as far as we Can, We must strive that, if possible, no soul be lost. For what is wanting to him who has once been formed in the womb by the hand of God? To us, indeed, and to our eyes, according to the worldly course of days, they who are born appear to receive an increase. But whatever things are made by God, are completed by the majesty and work of God their Maker.
leaves an indelible mark on the soul, so one may be baptized only once.
ordinary minister of Baptism is the Bishop (and, secondarily, the
priest), and adults are usually baptized at Easter time in the context
of the beautiful Rite of Baptism, and after a period of catechesis. In
emergencies, though, a person may be baptized anytime, and by anyone
(the efficacy of the Sacraments does not depend on the personal
holiness of the minister) who:
if one is baptized as described above, that Baptism is valid
and need not be repeated in order for one to become fully Catholic. If
one is not sure that one is baptized, if there is any uncertainty at
all that the proper form and matter were not used, one is baptized
conditionally with water and the words: "If you are not baptized, I
baptize thee in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
If Water Baptism is Impossible
who vow to receive Baptism but are never in a position to receive it
(e.g., a man stranded on a desert island) may, by the mercy of Christ,
be given the fruits of Baptism. This doesn't obviate obedience to the
command to the Apostles if and when it is possible to obey, but shows
clearly that, though we are bound by the Sacraments, God is not. We
call this "Baptism of Desire," which is, according to the Catholic
Encyclopdia, "a perfect contrition of heart, and every act of perfect
charity or pure love of God which contains, at least implicitly, a
desire (votum) of baptism."
When any die for the confession of Christ without having received the washing of regeneration, it avails as much for the remission of their sins as if they had been washed in the sacred font of baptism.Again, Baptism is not magic or the work of man; it is a work of Christ. Those who've attained the age of reason must receive the Sacrament in faith; he must have the intention to receive it (i.e., Baptism can never be forced). If one who's attained the age of reason receives Baptism without faith, the fruits of his baptism are delayed until he does have faith.
Some Protestants argue that "baptizo" in the New Testament means "immersion" and that any Baptism that doesn't include immersion is not a true Baptism. While "baptizo" does mean "immersion," it also means "washing," as is evident in this verse:
Luke 11 38
Trust me, first century Jews didn't immerse themselves before dinner, and Ezekiel's prophecy mentioned above also not only includes, but specifically mentions "sprinkling":
The verses mentioned above that describe St. Paul's baptizing people in their households -- houses without swimming pools in them -- indicates "washing" rather than "immersion." Paul himself was baptized not only in a house, but standing up:
Baptism by immersion was a very common practice in the early Church -- the most common practice, in fact; but it wasn't the exclusive practice, as the Bible attests. Most Catholic churches had baptisteries in which the catechumen would stand and either be immersed (if the size of the baptistery allowed) or have water poured over his head, but all three methods -- immersion, pouring, or sprinkling -- were used. The earliest extra-Biblical writing we have on the topic is the Didache, a 1st c. document known as "The Teachings of the Twelve Apostles." On the topic of Baptism, it reads:
But concerning baptism, thus baptize ye: having first recited all these precepts [i.e., all that is included in the Rite of Baptism], baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in running water; but if thou hast not running water, baptize in some other water, and if thou canst not baptize in cold, in warm water; but if thou hast neither, pour water three times on the head, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. But before the baptism, let him who baptizeth and him who is baptized fast previously, and any others who may be able. And thou shalt command him who is baptized to fast one or two days before.
Please, if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ but have not been baptized, be baptized as soon as possible, and have your children baptized, too!Footnotes
1 The words in Latin are, "Ego te baptizo in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti."