The Sacrament of Baptism
This sacrament is called Baptism, after the central rite by which it is carried out: to baptise (Greek baptizein) means to plunge or immerse; the ‘plunge’ into the water symbolizes the person’s burial into Christ’s death, from which he rises up by resurrection with him ‘as a new creature.’
This sacrament is also called ‘the regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit’, for it signifies and actually brings about the birth of water without which no one ‘can enter the kingdom of God.’
St. Greogory of Nazianzus: “Baptism is God’s most beautiful and magnificent gift… We call it gift, grace, anointing, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal and most precious gift. It is called gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own; grace since it is given to the guilty; Baptism because sin is buried in the water; anointing because it is priestly and royal as are those who are anointed; enlightenment because it radiates light; clothing since it veils our shame; bath because it washes; and seal as it is our guard and the sign of God’s Lordship.
The mystagogy of the celebration
The meaning of the sacrament of Baptism are clearly seen in the rites of its celebration.
The sign of the cross, on the threshold of the celebration, marks with the imprint of Christ the one who is to belong to him and signifies the grace of the redemption Christ won for us by his holy cross.
Since Baptism signifies liberation from sin and from its instigator the devil, one or more exorcisms are pronounced over the candidate. The celebrant then anoints him with the oil of catechumens, or lays his hands on him, and he explicitly renounces Satan. Thus prepared, he is able to confess the faith of the Church, to which he will be ‘entrusted’ by Baptism.
The baptismal water is consecrated by a prayer of epiclesis (either at this moment or at the Easter Vigil). The Church asks God that through his Son the power of the Holy Spirit may be sent upon the water, so that those who will be baptized in it may be born of ‘water and the Spirit.’ (Jn 3:5)
The white garment symbolizes that the person baptized has ‘put on Christ’, has risen with Christ.
And the Holy Spirit came down upon him in the form of a dove. A voice from heaven said, “You are my own dear Son, and I am pleased with you.” Lk 3:22