Michelangelo’s Expulsion of Adam & Eve
Yesterday, our newborn daughter Elizabeth Joy Anne Mary Marshall was baptized. She was less than 48 hours old. Every time I watch a baptism (especially the baptisms of my own children) I cannot help but be so grateful to God. He led us to become Catholic. It’s the greatest mystery of my life!
Baptism of Elizabeth
Our daughter was baptized in the Extraordinary Form (1962 Latin version). It’s a beautiful rite if you’ve never seen it. Here’s a video of our son Blaise being baptized in the Extraordinary Form about two years ago:
Our wonderful priest Father Phil Wolfe explained the rite beforehand. Here is the gist of the explanation:
There are only two kingdoms in this cosmos. There is the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan.
(This assertion is taken word for word from the opening of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Humanum Genus issued on April 20, 1884. See also Saint Thomas Aquinas explanation at Summa theologiae III, q. 8, a. 7).
Thanks to Adam, we were born in the wrong kingdom. The kingdom of darkness. As Father said, Adam sold us up the river to sin. Saint Paul wrote that through original sin, we are “children of wrath, even as the rest” (Eph 2:3)
To use a well known image from your childrens’ Bibles, Adam and Eve were cast outside of the gates of Eden. All children since that day are born “outside the gates.”
Regretfully devils roam “outside the gates.” Read the Gospels. The devils are real and they are after us!
This is why the Catholic sacrament of baptism always begins with an exorcism of the infant. That’s right an exorcism. We are not assuming that the infant is possessed by a devil. No. Rather we are assuming that the infant is “outside the gates” and not yet under the protection of Christ the Savior and King.
The traditional Catholic baptismal liturgy is chiefly concerned with the idea of gates. In fact, the liturgy appeals to doors and gates regularly. This is a reference to being cast “outside the gates.”
Before we can understand the baptismal liturgy, we have to learn something about Catholic architecture.
- The Narthex (“lobby”) signifies the netherworld and chaos.
- The Font (place of baptism) is the entry into the Church. In the old days it was often caged and locked to prevent desecration. In Europe, the baptismal font is housed in a different building just outside the doors of the Church (eg, the Duomo in Florence). The gates of the baptistery have special meaning as we’ll see. In the video above, you’ll see that certain rites are performed while the priest stands in the gate of the baptistery before admitting the infant for baptism.
- The Nave (place of the pews) signifies Church. The word ‘nave’ refers to ‘naval’ as in Noah’s Ark, the Barque of Saint Peter, the ship of salvation. If you’re in the Church, you’re in the ship. You’re in Christ’s navy. You’re safe inside.
- The Sanctuary signifies Heaven. This is where the altar and tabernacle are. It’s where the sacrifice is offered. In order to be in the Sanctuary, you had to wear cassock and surplice. It was marked off by a rood screen, iconostasis, or altar rail.
[If you want to understand how all this relates to Moses and the Old Testament architecture of the Jewish Temple, I wrote an entire chapter on it in my book The Crucified Rabbi. You may be able to sample some of that chapter at amazon.com. Click here to see it.]
Now that we understand the structure of a Catholic Church, we can better appreciate the old liturgy for baptism. Here’s the structure:
Phase 1 in the Narthex:
- Questioning of Godparents; they ask for baptism and faith for the infant
- Exsufflation (the priest blows air on the baby)
- Sign of the Cross
- Imposition of Priests Hands
- Placing of Salt in the Baby’s Mouth to Prepare Her for Eucharist
- Sign of the Cross
- Imposition of Hands
- The Godparents holding the baby, grab onto the priest’s stole as the priest “tugs” them into the Church. They pray the Apostles Creed as they enter with the child.
Phase 2 in the Nave:
- Godparents stand with baby on the outside of the baptistery doors.
- Pray the Our Father.
- Solemn Exorcism of baby.
- Ephphetha (priest’s spit on the baby’s sense organs) and repeats the words of Jesus “Ephphetha” meaning “be opened.”)
- In the name of child, the Godparents renounce of Satan and all his pomps.
- Priest anoints infant with Oil of Catechumens and welcomes infant into the doors of the baptistery.
Phase 3 inside the Baptistery:
- Profession of Faith
- Baptism of Infant
- Anointing with Chrism
- White Linen Cloth
- Priest gives the newly baptized baby a lit candle. She has been enlightened by Christ.
- Final Words
After the baptism, it is customary to “church the mother” – the rite of thanking God for the healthy birth and a blessing on the mother as she rejoins God’s people. That’s another topic for another blog post.
The movement from door to door, gate to gate, symbolizes a transition from the Kingdom of Satan to the Kingdom of Christ. A theological and ontological change is made inside the baby’s soul. She is a new creation in Christ.
Saint Paul wrote clearly on this matter. Baptism has real power, because it is Christ who acts in the sacrament:
“For as many of you as have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ.” (Gal 3:27)
“Know you not that all we, who are baptized in Christ Jesus, are baptized in his death?” (Rom 6:23)
If you have a hard time with understanding how innocent children could be born with original sin under the Kingdom of Satan or you don’t accept that babies need baptism, I wrote a whole chapter on this topic in my book The Catholic Perspective on Paul which you can preview by clicking here.
I hope you find this helpful and reasonable. Baptism is serious spiritual battle! In the early centuries, baptism was extremely revered by by Christians since most of them were coming from an entirely pagan culture…
…and guess what? We are returning to those days of paganism. Our culture is more and more pagan as the days roll by. Look at Europe. Paganism is making a come back. We must re-embrace the profound theology of baptism – the transfer from the Kingdom of Darkness to the loving Kingdom of Light in Christ.
The Marshalls with our great friends the Lows, the Godparents!
Let’s open the comments: Do you have any thoughts on infant baptism? Pope Francis recently spoke about the need to make baptism for readily available for all (Pope Francis says Don’t Hold Infant Baptism Hostage). Pope John Paul II also spoke about the need to not delay baptism (JP2: “Don’t Delay Baptism”). How can we as grandparents and parents obey the constant teachings of the Holy Fathers?
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