September 22nd, 2019
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
“You cannot serve both God and mammon.”
The Baptistry (Part 1)
I’ve been blessed to be able to do a few baptisms lately, and so, with baptism on my mind, I thought it may be helpful to write up something to explain the significance of the Baptistry.
As its name suggests, the baptistry is the location where baptisms traditionally take place (here at IC, it is the small room located just off to the side of the church entrance, across the narthex from the church library). “The baptistry or the area where the baptismal font is located should be reserved for the sacrament of baptism and should be worthy to serve as the place where Christians are reborn in water and the Holy Spirit” (Rite of Baptism).
The location of the baptistry is highly symbolic. Traditionally, the baptistry is located in an area separated from the main part of the church—either in a separate room near the entrance of the church (as our baptistry is), or in a side chapel. To understand the reason for this separation, we need to understand the effects of baptism.
The Catechism teaches: “Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit, and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission” (CCC 1213).
As this explains, it is through baptism that we become members of Christ and his Church. This is the reason that the baptistry is traditionally separated from the church, to show that until we are baptized, we are not yet inside the Church. It is only through baptism that we are incorporated into the Church.
This symbolism continues to unfold as the Rite of Baptism continues. The Rite instructs that after the individual has been baptized, he or she goes in procession from the baptismal font and into the church to stand before the altar, where they have the privilege of calling upon God for the first time as Our Father.
This is very beautiful symbolism, showing that it is through baptism that we are incorporated into the Church and adopted as a son or daughter of God. Thus, we have the privilege of calling upon God as our own Father together with the Christian community.
The baptistry door is also traditionally kept locked. This too is symbolic. In the book of Genesis, as a result of Adam and Eve’s sin, they were expelled from paradise, and an angel was stationed at the entrance of the Garden to prevent anyone from entering in the future. However, Jesus came to open the way to heaven for us once again.
As Jesus says: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6), and “I am the gate for the sheep…Whoever enters through me will be saved” (John 10:7-9), and “no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit” (John 3:5). He then commanded his disciples to go forth and baptize all nations.
In other words, Jesus indicates that it is only through him that we have access to heaven, and this access is given to us through the sacrament of baptism. Furthermore, Christ has entrusted the sacraments to his Church. Thus, the door at the entrance to the baptistry is symbolic of the fact that the Church has been entrusted with opening the gates to eternal life for us. Of course, anyone who asks to enter through baptism is welcomed. Nevertheless, these gates are a symbolic reminder to us that it is through Jesus Christ and his Church, not through our own merits, that we enter the gates of heaven. We come to Christ through his Church requesting entrance into heaven, and the Church gladly opens the gates of paradise for us.
To be continued…
You are in my daily prayers.
God bless you,