By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK
“The Lord is risen, Alleluia! He is truly risen, Alleluia!”
Many know very well that Baptism is an Easter sacrament, as explained by this prayer of the Easter vigil:
“. . . Because as the Apostle teaches, we are baptized into His death and buried together with Christ: and as Christ rose from the dead, so we too must walk in newness of life; knowing that our old man hath been crucified together with Christ so that we shall no longer be in servitude to sin. Let us look upon ourselves therefore as dead indeed to sin but living to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Many, however, may not stop to think that renunciation of sin cannot coexist with anything less than a definitive rejection of Satan. That is why the rite of renewal of baptismal promises continues thus:
“Therefore dearly beloved brethren, the Lenten observance now completed, let us renew the promises of baptism by which formerly we renounced Satan and his works, and the world likewise, the enemy of God; and by which we promised to serve God faithfully in the holy Catholic Church. Wherefore:
“Do you renounce Satan? And all his works? And all his pomps?”
To which we respond, or our sponsors for us, “I do renounce him, I do renounce them” before the priest goes on to ask the baptized to affirm faith in the elements of the Creed.
Perhaps it is when we witness another adult take this momentous step that it is brought home more deeply to those of us already baptized. It is deeply impressed upon us the great responsibility which comes with belonging to Christ and the grave nature of any betrayal of that through sin or scandal.
It stirred me greatly to witness the Church’s traditional rite of holy Baptism as I was privileged to do during Holy Week. All of us, in particular those baptized as infants as was I, would benefit greatly from an acquaintance with the prayers and rite for reception of adults.
At St. Benedict Church in Chesapeake, I joined the pastor, Fr. Neal Nichols, and his co-worker, Fr. Fiore, along with a Welsh FSSP seminarian on Easter break from his formation at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary, who were present to prepare a young man named Ethan for his reception into the Church by means of the pouring of water at the Easter vigil. The young man was joined by his sponsor and another guest.
We witnessed the celebration of all the prayers and conferral of sacramentals up until the point of the pouring of water, which would take place properly as part of the vigil. These included exorcisms, blessings with oil and salt, and verbal commitment to reject Satan.
We began the rites in the foyer of the church to signify the catechumen is yet spiritually “outside” of the Body of Christ without supernatural grace conferred sacramentally. At this station the three exorcisms took place, blessed salt was placed on the catechumen’s tongue, and the priest breathed on him, as with infant Baptisms, also touching his senses to signify their use to know and love God.
The three exorcisms require the catechumen kneel as a penitent and recite the Our Father each time up through the words, “but deliver us from evil” at which point the one to be baptized stands and the priest instructs him to say “Amen.” The priest prays one of three exorcism prayers in Latin for each of the three expellings of the power of the Evil One.
The priest and the sponsor both make the Sign of the Cross on the forehead of the catechumen.
To hear a fellow adult make the awesome affirmation that he or she rejects the Devil and all his works and pomps and empty promises reminds all of us that these promises, if made for us by our parents at our own infant Baptisms, must be affirmed by us once again as adults. Many of us take advantage of that opportunity every year by attending the Easter vigil.
Whether we do attend or not, the Easter season for all of us is a reaffirmation of, and recommitment to, rejection of all evil in order to live out our Christian identity.
Touchingly, the priest leads the catechumen from the narthex into the church proper by giving him the left side of his stole to hold as he follows. The rite also includes a prostration immediately upon entering through the doors into the church proper. Then the catechumen approaches the font to receive the anointings with their prayers and blessings.
The Sacrament of Baptism, so necessary for all for us if we are to be saved, is recollected by the Church at each Sunday Mass with the Asperges and Vidi Aquam as the choir sings and as indicated when the priest voices this prayer on our behalf:
“Hear us, holy Lord, almighty Father, eternal God, and vouchsafe to send Thy holy Angel from heaven, to guard, cherish, protect, visit, and defend all that are assembled in this place. Through Christ our Lord.”
We ask that our bond with God which began with Baptism might find protection not only in what we do but where we are, in church to worship. This prayer can also be used with the sprinkling of holy water at home by the family.
Certainly every home would benefit from the placement of holy water fonts near doors, as has long been the custom for many.
For meditation, here is the text of one of the prayers of exorcism from the Rite of Baptism:
“I exorcise you, unclean spirit, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Come forth, depart from this servant of God, N., for he commands you, accursed and damned spirit, he who walked upon the sea and extended his right hand to Peter as he was sinking.
“Therefore, accursed devil, acknowledge your condemnation and pay homage to the true and living God; pay homage to Jesus Christ, his Son, and to the Holy Spirit, and depart from this servant of God, N., for Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, has called him (her) to his holy grace and blessings and to the font of baptism.”
Making the Sign of the Cross on the forehead of the one to be baptized, the priest continues:
“Accursed devil, never dare to desecrate the sign of the holy + cross which we are tracing upon his (her) forehead. Through the same Christ our Lord. R. Amen.”
Yes, we must never dare to desecrate by our sins our bodies now graced by Baptism conferred through the sign of the holy cross by which Jesus Christ our Lord and God has won for us our salvation.
A most blessed and joyful Easter season to all of you and thank you for reading. Praised be Jesus Christ, risen Savior, now and forever.