What is Baptism

Baptism is the first sacrament of Christianity, which is practiced as an initiation ritual in all religious denominations that follow the message of Jesus Christ.

The word comes from the Greek βαπτίζειν or “baptizein” which means ‘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 repentance for their sins, birth to a new life oriented to following 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.

Formerly, baptism was practiced in adulthood, just as it is still practiced today in Protestant denominations.

The practice of baptism in infants or young children dates from the end of the first millennium, long before the separation of 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 would die in the 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 symbols

Baptism, like all rituals, is loaded with a series of visible signs that symbolize its purpose and spiritual efficacy. Among these symbols are:

  • The baptismal water: water is a symbol of the purification of the soul and body of the person being baptized. Formerly, total immersion was practiced to account for the rebirth of the person. Although this is still practiced in some Protestant Christian religions, in the Catholic Church immersion has been replaced by the sprinkling of water on the forehead.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 sacred scented oil consecrates the person’s incorporation into the community of believers. It is applied on the forehead in the form of a cross.
  • The oil of the catechumens: this oil covers the one being baptized with 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 baptized or to the parents, the desire is being expressed that the new believer finds the light of God in his life.
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See also:

  • the 7 sacraments
  • Sacrament
  • Confirmation