Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist are called sacraments of initiation. As a matter of fact, in the early church they were always administered together. Catechumens were led to the baptismal font by a deacon or priest, and after being baptized, the bishop would confirm them (Hippolytus, Apost. Trad., 21–22). Then they would receive the Holy Eucharist. As Christianity grew up, especially from the fourth century on, large numbers joined the church, it was no longer easy to limit the celebration of baptism to the liturgy presided over by the bishop or to the eve of Easter. Baptismal liturgies began to take place simultaneously at various churches. While in the Easter churches this necessity led to the administration of all three sacraments of initiation by priests, in the Western church the anointing with holy chrism was reserved to the bishop. Thus, the rite of confirmation, which was originally united with the baptismal liturgy, became a separate rite. This historical detail aside, we now focus here on baptism.

There are many images in the New Testament for baptism. Some of them are explicitly linked with the use of water. They include, Baptism is participation in Christ’s death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3–5; Col. 2:12); a washing away of sin (1 Cor. 6:11); a new birth (John 3:5); an enlightenment by Christ (Eph. 5:14); a reclothing in Christ (Gal. 3:27); a renewal by the Spirit (Titus 3:5); the experience of salvation from the flood (1 Peter 3:20–21); an exodus from bondage (1 Cor. 10:1–2); and a liberation into a new humanity in which barriers of division whether of sex or race or social status are transcended (Gal3:27–28; 1 Cor. 12:13).

Jesus instituted baptism. He told his disciples, therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19). Baptism is the basic sacrament of “rebirth” that makes one a member of the church and thus capable of receiving the other sacraments. The baptized one is washed from all his/her past sins. Thus s/he is made capable of living a new life in the Spirit. Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes the graces of baptism thus: “The fruit of Baptism, or baptismal grace, is a rich reality that includes forgiveness of original sin and all personal sins, birth into the new life by which man becomes an adoptive son of the Father, a member of Christ and a temple of the Holy Spirit. By this very fact the person baptized is incorporated into the Church, the Body of Christ, and made a sharer in the priesthood of Christ” (CCC 1279).

Infant baptism is not unknown to the tradition of the Church. From the second century onwards, there is testimony to this practice. One can reasonably deduce that infant also got baptized from the scriptural reference that the whole “households” received baptism (CCC 1252 and Acts 16:15, 33;18: 8; 1Cor. 1:16). However, for all the baptized, irrespective of their age, faith must mature over time. Baptism ensures all faithful equal dignity as believers in Christ.

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