We’re in the Chapel this month, exploring how we can live out the Seven Sacraments in our daily lives. Our spiritual project in the Chapel is to explore how we can respond to the grace each Sacrament gives us through the Sacramental signs, and how we can respond to God’s call to deepen our relationship with Him through each Sacramental oath. In this spot check we’ll take a closer look at the Sacrament of Baptism.
But first, let me quickly ask, how are you doing with your spiritual project? Have you taken some time to think about the sign and oath of each Sacrament and how you can begin to respond to each? You know, it’s so important that we not just become addicted to listening and learning about the faith. We also need to take action. So I want to encourage you to do the work of this month’s spiritual project. It’s not a lot. It’s not difficult. But it will move you forward in your ability to bring the Sacraments to life in your daily life.
In the Spiritual Project webcast for this month, we saw that Sacraments are always first and foremost actions of the Holy Trinity to give us grace. But since grace is a relationship, we are also called to a response.
The Sacramental Sign of Baptism is the water of Baptism washing away Original Sin. The sign shows us what God is doing for us in this Sacrament. He cleanses us of Original Sin, gives us sanctifying grace, which actually give us a share in the divine nature, and makes us His children. When Baptism “washes away” Original Sin, it marks us as belonging to Jesus. That means that it takes us out of a state of rebellion and puts us back under the rule of God through our Lord. The early Church chose the word “Baptism” to describe this Sacrament because it wanted a stronger sense of it than a simple washing. The term Baptism meant “plunge,” indicating that the baptized person was plunged completely under the water. The plunge symbolized not just a washing, but death and rebirth. Saint Paul makes reference to this over and over again as he talks about putting to death the old man and putting on the new, or dying with Jesus so we can rise with Him. So to live the Sacramental Sign of Baptism, we need first to embrace the process of dying to our old sinful desires and tendencies and rising as disciples of Jesus.
The Baptized Christian isn’t just the recipient of a one-time ritualized grace. The grace of Baptism continues to affect the soul in order to draw us deeper into Divine Intimacy. That’s why we renew our Baptismal promises every time we pray the Creed, every time we bless ourselves with holy water, and every Easter. This is not a one-time thing. It’s an ongoing process that slowly changes our hearts toward holiness. The Church calls this process “metanoia,” which means a complete change of heart and mind.
So we just reflected on the Sacramental Sign of Baptism, and the graces that Jesus gives us through that Sign. Hopefully this got you thinking about how you can respond to those graces in your daily walk with God. Now let’s take a look at the Sacramental Oath.
The Sacramental Oath of Baptism is expressed in the Baptismal Promises that we are all familiar with. But here’s something interesting to think about. While Baptism takes us out of rebellion and brings us back into communion with the Holy Trinity, it does not take away the effects of Original Sin. The baptized still struggle with ignorance and sin, with unruly desires and temptations, and with suffering and death. And we have to think that God did this on purpose (because of course He COULD have taken away all effects of Original Sin with Baptism if he had wanted to). So we have to ask ourselves, “Why didn’t He?” And the answer lies in our Baptismal promises – the Sacramental Oath of Baptism. Our Baptismal promises call us to become soldiers for Christ. We are called to actively fight against the effects of Original Sin on our soul and to battle against our fallen human nature, against the allure of our fallen world, and against Satan. When we recite our Baptismal promises, “Do you reject Satan and all his works and all his empty promises,” we’re not just saying that we generally agree that Satan is bad. We’re saying that we dedicate ourselves to an ongoing battle. When we say that we believe in God, we’re not just saying that we generally agree with the basic tenants of faith. We’re saying that we promise to strive to live our entire lives for what we believe in. Since Baptism gives us a share in the divine nature and makes us children of God, our response to our Baptism should really be to live with God at the very center of our lives.
With all of this in mind, what do you need to do this month to more fully live out your Baptism? Remember that you can find guide and resources for this month’s webcast at myinnerabbey.com.
Also published on Medium.