Baptism: becoming God’s beloved one Part 2 (Contemplating the Easter Mysteries III)

Your baptism was the most momentous moment of your life! In this sacrament you experienced an event, the action of the holy Trinity that changed the course of your life forever. Our feelings can tell us things that are not true about ourselves and about God. The action of God, however, reveals to us the truth of how we are loved by our Father, and God cannot lie.

Through your baptism you were incorporated into the love of Christ and the life of the Church. In being washed by the waters of Baptism, you were forever changed and are sealed with an indelible spiritual mark, or character, that enables you to participate in a full sharing in the life of the Church.

The Catechism states that this sacrament “signifies and actually brings about death to sin and entry into the life of the Most Holy Trinity through configuration to the Paschal mystery of Christ.” (CCC 1239)

Indeed, by our Baptism, we are initiated into an eternal sharing in the Divine Life of the Trinity and participate fully in the life of grace.

Cyril of Jerusalem said of Baptism, “You go down dead in your sins, and you come up made alive in righteousness.”

St. Augustine wrote, “Baptism washes away all, absolutely all, our sins …. This is the meaning of the great sacrament of Baptism, which is celebrated among us.”

St. Gregory of Nazianzus wrote, “Baptism is God’s most beautiful and magnificent gift … We call it gift, grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth.”

Nicholas Cabasillas wrote in The Life in Christ:

“They are no trifling gifts he bestows [in Baptism], nor are they trifling benefits of which he counts us worthy! … When we come up from the water we bear the Savior upon our souls, on our heads, on our eyes, in our very inward parts, on all our members—him who is pure from sin, free from all corruption, just as he was when he rose again and appeared to his disciples, as he was taken up, as he will come again to demand the return of his treasure. Thus we have been born; we have been stamped with Christ as though with some figure or shape. … He makes us his own body and he becomes for us what a head is for the members of a body. Since, then, he is the Head, we share all good things with him, for that which belongs to the head must needs pass into the body.”

We are truly God’s beloved, because we are one with Christ his beloved Son. In an ancient homily read every Holy Saturday in the Office of Readings, the author pictures the King seeking out our first parents who sit in darkness, to free them from imprisonment and pain. Jesus is often shown in icons depicting this event grasping the hands of Adam and Eve, pulling them toward himself, raising them with him, and with them, each of us:

“‘I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person….

“But arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God.

“The cherubim throne has been prepared, the bearers are ready and waiting, the bridal chamber is in order, the food is provided, the everlasting houses and rooms are in readiness; the treasures of good things have been opened; the kingdom of heaven has been prepared before the ages.”

Entering deeply into the Easter mysteries through liturgical catechesis (also called mystagogy) is meant to stir things up for us, to unsettle us, to break open the tired and static meaning of our life, to push us out with radiant joy to share the mission of the Church and all those who have risked “entering into the life-altering mysteries of faith” (Geraard F. Baumbach, Eucharistic Mystagogy, 25).

What has been stirring in your heart as you’ve entered more deeply into the mystery of your baptism?

God wants you to become a living force for all mankind, lights shining in the world. You are to be radiant lights as you stand beside Christ, the great light, bathed in the glory of him who is the light of heaven. You are to enjoy more and more the pure and dazzling light of the Trinity, as now you have received – though not in its fullness – a ray of its splendour, proceeding from the one God, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen (From a Sermon by Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, bishop, Oratio 39 in Sancta Lumina).

Directions for your prayer this Easter:

  1. What would be different in your life if these words of St. Gregory of Nazianzus guided your life: “God wants you to become a living force for all mankind, lights shining in the world. You are to be radiant lights as you stand beside Christ, the great light, bathed in the glory of him who is the light of heaven.” What would change? What would you renew? What would you begin? What would you relinquish?
  2. How is Jesus calling you to enter more deeply into the life of the Church, the celebration of the sacraments, and the missionary imperative to share what you have received with others?

Image: baptistry St Theresa’s Church in Ashburn, VA

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