Baptism is the first sacrament of Christianity, which is practiced as an initiation ritual in all religious confessions that follow the message of Jesus Christ.
The word comes from the Greek βαπτίζειν or “baptízein” which means ‘to submerge’. Immersion refers to ancient purification rituals in which the penitent plunged into the waters and rose from them as a sign of spiritual rebirth.
It is believed that through baptism, people express the repentance of their sins, the birth to a new life oriented to the following of the Gospel and their incorporation into the community of believers, that is, to 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, as it is still practiced today in Protestant confessions.
The practice of baptism in infants or young children dates from the end of Millennium I, long before the separation from the Church. It had to do with two things: on the one hand, the low life expectancy, since infant mortality was very high and the parents hoped to ensure that their children died 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, like every ritual, is loaded with a series of visible signs that symbolize its purpose and spiritual efficacy. Among these symbols are:
- Baptismal water: water is a symbol of the purification of the soul and body of the baptizing. In the past, total immersion was practiced to account for the person’s rebirth. Although this is still practiced in some Protestant Christian religions, immersion in the Catholic Church has been replaced by the sprinkling of water on the forehead.
- The Chrism or Holy Oil: This perfumed sacred oil consecrates the incorporation of the person 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 baptizing of 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 baptizing or to the parents, the desire for the new believer to find the light of God in his life is being expressed.