The word “baptism” comes from the Greek word βάπτισμα, which means “to dip” or “to immerse.” While the Church has always accepted baptism by affusion or by pouring water over the head of the baptized, immersion, or the plunging of catechumens into water, is a fuller sign of the sacrament and better symbolizes the spiritual dimension of the act—dying and rising again with Christ (CCC 628). St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (6:3–4). The immersion reflects our dying to our old selves and rising to new life in Christ.
However, one of the significant aspects of water symbolism is its numerous dimensions. Water can represent the tomb, death, and destruction (as it did for Pharaoh and the Egyptians in Exodus 14: 26–29). Conversely, water represents life and vitality. We cannot live without it. Water can represent the undifferentiated void from which all creation is drawn (Genesis 1:1) but also a passage from one state or condition to another, as in the story of Noah (Genesis 7–8), the crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 14), or the crossing of the Jordan (Joshua 3), all of which prefigure Christ’s baptism in the Jordan. Water represents the original passage we each make in this life, but also the passage of rebirth and renewal, as in Christ’s words in John 3:3–5 to Nicodemus. In baptism, the catechumen goes from degenerate to regenerate (Titus 3: 5–7), from the fallen state of Adam to divination in Christ through the Holy Spirit. Of course, the most basic use of water in Jesus’s time and our own is for cleansing and purifying.
As for all sacraments, proper matter and proper form are necessary for validity of the sacrament (in addition to a valid celebrant and recipient). The matter involved in baptism is, of course, water. Canon law stipulates that baptismal water should be “blessed according to the prescripts of the liturgical books” (CIC 853). However, in a case of necessity, unblessed water can be used. The formula or invocation for baptism is important. It must invoke the three persons of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—the words that Jesus Himself uses in Matthew 28:19. While the Church prescribes other symbols and rites to be performed during baptism (such as the three-folder renunciation of Satan), as well as additional forms (the triple immersion or affusion of the baptized), these are not required for the validity of the sacrament.
The Church has always held that baptism is necessary for salvation (CCC 1257). This stance follows Jesus’ own statements in John 3:5 and His command in Matthew 28:19 to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” While the normative means of baptism is through the sacrament as practiced by the Church, the Church does not limit the normative means as the only possible means of baptism. While salvation is bound to the sacrament, God “Himself is not bound by His sacraments” (CCC 1257). Several factors in the early Church led to this understanding. First, during times of persecution, some believers suffered martyrdom prior to receiving sacramental baptism. These were said to be baptized in their own blood (CCC 1258). Second, those who belonged to the Order of Catechumens and were preparing for baptism occasionally died prior to baptism. Because these people explicitly desired to do what the Church requires, the Church considers them baptized by desire, when this desire is accompanied by repentance for their sins and charity (CCC 1260). In addition, we may also hold out the possibility of salvation to those who are ignorant of the Gospel through no fault of their own but who otherwise sought the truth about God and strived to do His will according to his or her understanding of it (CCC 1260).
According to paragraph 1262 of the Catechism, there are two principle effects of baptism: forgiveness from and cleansing of one’s sins, and new birth in the Holy Spirit. First, baptism cleanses both original sin, the stain on the human soul due to Adam’s and Eve’s original disobedience, and personal sin, any personal offenses we have committed against God. In addition to this cleansing, we are remade and adopted into the Divine life. As the early Church Fathers, particularly Athanasius, would say, we are divinized and made adopted sons and daughters through baptism. St.Clement of Alexandria described the progression in the Christian following baptism thus: “Being baptized, we are illuminated; illuminated, we become sons; being made sons, we are made perfect; being made perfect, we are made immortal. In some instances, this outpouring of the Holy Spirit may seem to be dormant, as expressed by the Syrian theologian Philoxenus of Mabbug, who saw this later “baptism of the Holy Spirit” as an actualization of the power received from the Holy Spirit during baptism. Dr. D’Ambrosio also brings out some additional elements of baptism in his lecture. Through baptism, we are joined to the Body of Christ, the Church. We share in Christ’s anointing and become temples of the Holy Spirit, a point noted by St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians. And as noted earlier, we are made adopted sons and daughters of God.
Why does Confirmation come after the Baptism? Explain the seven (7) gifts of the Holy Spirit. Why is the ordinary minister of the Confirmation the Bishop?
Normatively with adults, confirmation is given immediately following baptism, as was the practice during the early years of the Church. The scriptural basis for this ordering of sacraments comes initially from all four gospels, in which Jesus is baptized first, and then anointed by the Holy Spirit who descends in the form of a dove. This order is again confirmed by Peter in Acts 10: 36–38. The anointing during Confirmation is sometimes referred to as the “seal of confirmation” (CCC 1295). This seal recalls the “seal in the flesh” of circumcision, and recalls the Jewish custom of circumcision and baptism of proselytes. The sealing or anointing also recalls the sealing of soldiers in ancient Israel as described in scripture (CCC 1295), setting confirmands apart as soldiers or spiritual warriors for Christ. While the Latin Church anoints with oil as part of the Confirmation rite, the emphasis is placed on the original sign of Confirmation, the imposition of hands (CCC 1288). In the Eastern Church, which refers to this sacrament as Chrismation, the focus is more on the anointing which takes place and which properly identifies Christians with the anointing of Christ (CCC 1289).
While the Eastern Church has always maintained this close connection between baptism and confirmation, perpetually celebrating the three sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist) together, even with infants, the Latin Church over time separated the two sacraments for infants, celebrating baptism during infancy but delaying confirmation. The reason for this delay was not based specifically on theological grounds but on practical considerations. In the Latin West, confirmation has always been reserved to the Bishop, while in the East, the priest is the proper celebrant. For the Latin West, then, expansion of dioceses and growth in rural areas made it difficult for bishops to be present at the time of baptism. Because of this delay, the two sacraments became separated, and Confirmation was often not received until much later (CCC 1290). However, the Latin Church performs an anointing with chrism during Baptism as a sign pointing forward to Confirmation as the completion of Christian initiation.
Confirmation is said to be a commissioning of a Christian initiate into the service of God, in a sense, an inclusion in the Great Commission from Matthew 28:19–20. As a sealing in the Holy Spirit, confirmands are strengthened and given gifts appropriate to service. Echoing St. Ambrose (CCC 1303) and the prophet Isaiah (11: 2–3), the bishop recounts these gifts in the invocation he proclaims during the rite:
Send your Holy Spirit upon them
to be their helper and guide.
Give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of right judgment and courage,
the spirit of knowledge and reverence.
Fill them with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence. (CCC 1299)
The gifts, specifically, are wisdom, understanding, right judgment (counsel), courage (fortitude), knowledge, reverence, and awe (fear of God). Isaiah links these gifts to the “shoot from the stump of Jesse” (11:1). Clearly, these verses speak of the gifts of the Holy Spirit manifested in Christ, to whom the gifts belong “in their fullness.” While the sacrament itself strengthens confirmands for service, these gifts assist us in completing and perfecting the seven virtues (CCC 1831).
Confirmation is, in essence, a call to engage in the Apostolic mission and a sign of full communion with the Church. Because of this connection between confirmand and the Apostolic Church, the bishop has always played a prominent role in the sacrament of confirmation. According to the Catechism, the bishop’s participation better expresses “the apostolic unity of the Church whose bonds are strengthened by the sacrament of Confirmation” (CCC 1313). In the early Church, the bishop was the ordinary minister of the sacrament. In the Eastern Church, priests now preside over the sacrament of Chrismation immediately after baptism. In the Latin Church, the bishop is still the ordinary minister of this sacrament, although he can delegate this responsibility to a priest in case of necessity (CIC 882–884). While this continued preference for bishop confirmation has had what some might consider detrimental effects (temporal delays between baptism and confirmation), maintaining the bishop as the ordinary celebrant for this sacrament reinforces the sense of connection between the confirmand and the Church: “The administration of this sacrament by them demonstrates clearly that its effect is to unite those who receive it more closely to the Church, to her apostolic origins, and to her mission of bearing witness to Christ” (CCC 1313). For both Eastern and Western Churches, the chrism used in the sacrament of Confirmation or Chrismation must be blessed by the bishop, or in some instances, by a patriarch. Like the sign of episcopal celebration, requiring the chrism to be blessed by bishop or patriarch reaffirms the sign of this sacrament as a full indication of communion with the apostolic church.
Explain why the Eucharist is considered as a Passover? What are the matters used in the Eucharist? What is the meaning of wheat bread? What is the meaning of grape wine?
The institution of the Eucharist is closely tied to the Passover celebration of the Jews in all four gospels. In the synoptic gospels, the Last Supper is
portrayed as the Seder meal, the first meal of the Jewish Passover celebration. However, the Gospel of John situates the Last Supper prior to the Seder (John 18:28). John’s account makes more fully clear the relationship between the Passover lambs, which were being sacrificed at the temple at the time of Jesus’ death on the cross, and Jesus Himself, the paschal lamb of God. The Liturgy of the Eucharist begins with a blessing, first, over the bread and then, the wine: “Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become our spiritual drink.” Jews utter a similar Kiddush at the beginning of the Passover seder: “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine.” Later, another blessing is uttered over the matzo or unleavened bread: “Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the Universe who brings forth bread from the earth.” Both Jews (at Passover) and Catholics (during the Liturgy of the Eucharist) refer to their offerings as a “paschal sacrifice.” Yet where Jews originally offered a lamb as an atoning sacrifice, Jesus has offered Himself. Hence, He is our Paschal lamb (CCC 1324). However, the Eucharist is also prefigured in other ways in scripture: in the manna given to the Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 16), in the Bread of the Presence offered in the temple (Exodus 25:30). The Catechism notes the use of bread and wine under the Old Covenant as a thanksgiving sacrifice, and the offering also recalls the sacrifice of Melchizedek, the King of Salem, in Genesis 14 (CCC 1333–34). While the Passover sacrifice of the Jews represents the Old Covenant, the Eucharistic sacrifice represents for us the New Covenant in Jesus Christ.
The Eucharistic matter are wheat bread and grape wine. A drop of water is added to the wine and used for the ablution following the blessings over the bread and wine. However, essentially, the bread and wine are the Eucharistic matter. In the Western Church, unleavened bread is used to recall the “bread of affliction” eaten during Israel’s flight from Egypt (Exodus 12:14–20). In many but not all the Eastern Churches, leavened bread is used. Some in the East consider leavened bread more suitable on the Lord’s Day as representative of Jesus’ resurrection and our new life in Christ. St. Thomas attributed the change to the use of leaven as a counter to the demands of the heretical Ebionites. The bread must be made of wheat flour and water only, with no flavorings, sweetners, or any other grain. The wine must come from the pure juice of grapes. However, alcoholic priests can be permitted to use mustum, which is natural, minimally fermented grape juice.
Bread and wine are particularly suitable as Eucharistic symbols because of their use in everyday life. Bread represents a most basic foodstuff and even the very act of eating. As a communal act, the very words “breaking bread” suggest sharing at the family table. The connection with the sacrifice of Melchizedek, the bread of affliction, and the manna has been noted previously. Dr. D’Ambrosio notes the means by which wheat grains are crushed, ground, and mixed together to become a loaf of bread to be a symbol of Christian unity. In John 12:24, Jesus foreshadows His death using this symbolism: “[U]nless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” St. Ignatius of Antioch also recalls this symbolism in his letter to the Romans when he asks them not to prevent his martyrdom: “Allow me to be eaten by the beasts, which are my way of reaching to God. I am God’s wheat, and I am to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, so that I may become the pure bread of Christ.”
Wine also carries various symbolic meanings. Its use as a libation predates Christianity and occurs several times in the Torah. Grapes themselves are associated with fertile land, the fruit of the soil, and one of the notable riches of the Promised Land (Numbers 13:23). The juice of a grape represents life and blood, which is sacred. It is also only accessible through crushing, and so represents suffering (as in Christ’s agony in the garden in the synoptic gospels). Wine can represent God’s wrath and is used as a symbol by the Old Testament prophets (Jeremiah 25:15–16; Isaiah 51:17) to indicate God’s displeasure. This cup of wrath causes one to stagger. However, wine can also represent abundance and blessing, as in the Psalms 23:5 (“my cup overflows”) or John 2 (the wedding at Cana) and certainly joy and happiness. Finally, wine represents inspiration. Certainly, in the Eucharist, the wine is a holy spirit indeed.
Explain the teaching of the Church about the Eucharist like a sacrifice: in Council of Trent, in Vatican II (LG 34, SC 48). What is the meaning of “Real Presence of Christ?”
The Church has always held the Eucharist to be a sacrificial offering. The word Eucharist comes from the Greek word eucharistia which means “thanksgiving.” During the Protestant Reformation, this identification of the Eucharist as sacrifice disturbed some reformers, particularly in that the act was repeated. In their thinking, this meant a re-sacrificing of Christ. They considered this unnecessary as Christ’s atoning sacrifice was all sufficient and that nothing could be added to it. Yet the early Church Fathers, from Clement of Rome to St. Justin to St. Augustine and others, had always understood the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist. The Council of Trent took up this issue in defense of the perpetual teaching of the Church and noted the connection among the sacrifice offered by Melchizedek, Christ’s unbloody sacrifice “under the species of bread and wine,” and Christ’s bloody sacrifice on the cross. Specifically, they noted that the celebration of the Eucharist is both an offering of praise and thanksgiving, but also a propitiatory sacrifice, benefiting not only those who communicate but also those living and dead. In addition, the council taught that this is not a new sacrifice but the same sacrifice: “For, the victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only in manner is the offering different.”
This matter was to be taken up again during the Second Vatican Council. In Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Church taught not only that the Eucharistic celebration was a sacrifice in the true sense but that it is the “outstanding means whereby the faithful can express their lives and manifest to others, the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church.” In addition, the Church again insisted that the Eucharistic celebration does not re-sacrifice Christ but “perpetuate[s] the sacrifice of the cross throughout the centuries until He should come again.” However, Lumen Gentium also stressed that Eucharistic sacrifice is an offering of ourselves to God in union with Christ.
In addition, the Council of Trent addressed the matter of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. While Luther offered a compromise with the consubstantial presence of Christ in the Eucharist, many other reformers such as Zwingli and Calvin denied the presence of Christ in any true sense. The Council Fathers unequivocally condemned these views, affirming that Christ is “truly, really and substantially contained” in the Eucharist. The council leaned heavily on the thought of St. Thomas to explain the transformation, which came to be called transubstantiation. During the consecration, the physical matter of bread and wine are transformed in essence into the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ. As St. Thomas notes in Question 76 in the third part of Summa Theologica, this presence is not in quantity but substance. In Question 75, he notes the error of Berengarius, who denied a substantial change in the species, stressing to the contrary that Christ is present “not merely in signification or figure, but also in very truth.” However, St. Thomas and the Council Fathers affirmed a distinction between the natural mode of Christ’s body (the one to which Mary gave birth) and the sacramental mode in which His body is present to us in the sacrament. So Christ’s presence is not a physical presence (although there is a physical aspect in the accidents) but a sacramental presence that we can truly eat as He commanded in John 6:53.
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