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A Beacon Of Light . . . The Seven Sacraments Touch All Aspects Of Our Lives

December 14, 2021 Frontpage No Comments

By FR. RICHARD D. BRETON JR.

(Editor’s Note: Fr. Richard D. Breton Jr. is a priest of the Diocese of Norwich, Conn. He received his BA in religious studies and his MA in dogmatic theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Conn.)

  • + + Having discussed the liturgy and its importance in our journey of faith, today we will begin examining the seven sacraments and their role in our lives.
    Christ instituted seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Marriage. The sacraments touch every aspect of our Christian lives. Through them we experience the birth, healing, and mission that is associated with the life of faith. Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist are grouped together and called the Sacraments of Initiation.
    Together these sacraments lay the foundation of the Christian life. Penance and Anointing of the Sick are considered sacraments of healing, while Holy Orders and Marriage are geared toward the service of the Church and others.
    To assist us in understanding the sacraments better, each week will focus on one of the sacraments.

The Light Of Christ

Baptism is the foundation on which all the sacraments rest. Without Baptism we cannot receive any of the other sacraments. In His love for us, God uses Baptism as the foundation on which He will build a house where faith and God reside. Through Baptism we come to know God and pass through the first portal of the spiritual life and receive the Light of Faith.
When was the last time you participated in a Baptism? Do you remember the ceremony or what took place?
Probably not! The Rite of Baptism is filled with many poignant moments where the Lord makes Himself manifest. The rite begins by asking the parents and godparents what name has been given to this child. This is very important because it reminds us that we are called by God to participate in salvation.
Having provided a name, the parents are asked what they desire. They respond by saying faith or Baptism. Then the celebrating priest (or deacon) reminds the parents and godparents of their responsibility. This responsibility consists of a promise.
The parents promise to train the child in the practice of the faith by teaching the child to keep God’s Commandments by loving God and their neighbor. The parents are the first teachers in the way of the faith. They have a great responsibility on their shoulders for which they are judged by God. By the parents’ affirmation as the first teachers in the faith, the priest welcomes the child with great joy and claims him for Christ our Savior. This is done by tracing the Sign of the Cross on the child’s forehead.
The rite continues with the Celebration of the Liturgy of the Word where we listen to the Word of God as he reminds us of the importance of Baptism. The General Intercessions are our prayers to the Lord for the child about to receive the Light of Christ. Next we invoke the Church Triumphant, or the Communion of Saints, to intercede for this soon to be child of God.
We especially invoke the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. John the Baptist, St. Joseph, St. Peter and St. Paul, the patron saint of the child being baptized, and the patron of the Titular Church where the Baptism is taking place.
This is a wonderful moment! The members of the Communion of Saints are interceding to the Lord on behalf of the child.
Having called upon the heavenly intercessors, the Prayer of Exorcism and the First Anointing then take place. They are the immediate preparation for receiving Baptism. Baptism is the sacrament that frees us from original sin.
Part of the freedom from original sin involves casting away the Evil One. In the prayer of Exorcism, we pray asking that the darkness of sin and death be replaced with the Light of Christ! In the prayer we say: “Almighty and ever living God, you sent your only Son into the world to cast out the power of Satan, spirit of evil, to rescue man from the kingdom of darkness, and bring him into the splendor of your kingdom of light. We pray for this child: set him free from original sin, make him a temple of your glory, and send your Holy Spirit to dwell with him” (Rite of Baptism).
Immediately after this prayer we anoint the child with the Oil of Catechumens. The Oil of Catechumens is used during Baptism because it strengthens the one being baptized to turn away from evil, temptation, and sin. Through this anointing the child is prepared to enter the family of God.
The rite continues with the Blessing of Water. The prayer of blessing is a reminder of the journey of faith. We are reminded of creation and how the Lord breathed on the waters making them the wellspring of all holiness. We are reminded of the waters of the great flood that are a sign for us of the waters of Baptism. We hear of the Red Sea that led the Israelites out of slavery; set free from sin by Baptism.
We are reminded of the moment of Jesus’ Baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River where Christ was anointed by the Holy Spirit. We hear of the blood and water that flowed from the side of Christ as He hung on the cross.
By this prayer we sanctify the water making it holy. It becomes the fount of God’s love for the Church through which we receive sanctifying grace and are made a new creation. Then we profess our faith by renewing our baptismal promises and proclaim them for the child being baptized. We proclaim our renunciation of sin and profess our faith in Jesus Christ!
The moment of Baptism has arrived! The child is held over the baptismal font as the priest pours water in the Sign of the Cross three times saying: “(Name), I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” These words, combined with the action of pouring the water, constitute Baptism.
There before our eyes is a new child of God! At that moment the newly baptized, or the neophyte, is completely changed forever. The baptized can never go back to their prior existence. They are a new creation in Christ!
We celebrate the new creation through the Anointing with Chrism. Sacred Chrism is consecrated by the bishop during Holy Week at the Mass of Chrism. This anointing confirms our unity in Christ. Just as Christ was Priest, Prophet, and King, we too, share in this same dignity.
The priest says this beautiful prayer: “God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin, given you a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and welcomed you into His holy people. As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live always as a member of His Body, sharing in everlasting life.”

A Child Of The Light

Every sacrament uses sacred symbols to remind us of the important action taking place. In Baptism one such sacred symbol is the Baptismal Candle. The handing on of the candle is the key to the portal of Baptism. The priest lights the candle from the Paschal Candle saying: “Receive the Light of Christ!” He then hands it to the parents with this instruction:
“Parents and Godparents: This light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly. This child of yours has been enlightened by Christ. He is to walk always as a child of the light. May he keep the flame of faith alive in his heart. When the Lord comes, may he go out to meet Him with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom” (Rite of Baptism).
Baptism is the foundation of our faith. It is the portal through which we begin the journey of faith.
Throughout the Rite of Baptism, we see various ways that the Light of Christ is made manifest. We encounter the Light of Christ in the spoken word through prayers and invocations. We encounter the Light of Christ in sacred signs and symbols, like the Oil of Catechumens, the Sacred Chrism, the blessed water, and in the light of the Baptismal Candle.
All the words, actions, and sacred symbols are part of the Divine Light of Christ. Each, in their own way, contribute to the Light of Christ. Yes, my dear friends, it begins with Baptism. We have passed through the first portal of our faith!
Next week we will look at the second Sacrament of Initiation: Confirmation.

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