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Saint Matthew’s Church
Big Lamp, Summerhill Street, Newcastle upon Tyne

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Baptism

I Baptize you - The Rite of Baptism

The Rite of Baptism reflects our understanding of what the Sacrament means.

The renunciations

After an introduction, those wishing to be baptized (or to have their babies baptized – see below “Baptizing babies”) are asked six questions:

§  Do you reject the devil and rebellion against God?

I reject them.

§  Do you renounce the deceit and corruption of evil?

I renounce them.

§  Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour?

I repent of them.

§  Do you turn to Christ as Saviour?

I turn to Christ.

§  Do you submit to Christ as Lord?

I submit to Christ.

§  Do you come to Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life?

I come to Christ.

The answering of these questions is the formal act of repentance of the frailty of the candidates’ past life.  After these questions have been asked (and answered!) the candidates are anointed with the Oil of Catechumens (oil, usually blessed by the bishop, for anointing people who have not yet been baptized – see below “The use of oil”); the anointing involves the marking of the forehead with the sign of the Cross.  This represents their having been marked out for service as Christians.  The priest then says a prayer asking that the candidates may be preserved from the influences of evil in our world.

The Blessing of Water

The central feature of Baptism is the washing away of our sins in water.  Usually (and unless this has already occurred) the water in the Font is blessed for the purposes of Baptism. 

Some of the water that is left is put in “Stoops” by the doors.  As people come into church they dip their fingers in the water and make the sign of the Cross to remind them of their Baptism and the commitments that they have made.

The Blessing of Water
The Blessing of Water

The Affirmation of Faith

Before the Baptism, the candidates move to stand around the Font and are required to assent to the basic tenets of the Christian Faith using the words of the Apostles’ Creed (an ancient statement of Christian belief – though it is doubtful that it was actually devised by the Apostles).  This is a shorter creed than the one used at Mass on Sundays and festivals:

Do you believe and trust in God the Father?

I believe in God, the Father almighty,

Maker of Heaven and earth.

Do you believe and trust in His Son, Jesus Christ?

I believe in Jesus Christ,

His only Son, our Lord,

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

born of the Virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was buried;

He descended to the dead.

On the third day He rose again.

He ascended into Heaven,

He is seated at the right hand of the Father,

and He will come to judge

the living and the dead.

Do you believe and trust in the Holy Spirit?

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic Church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and the life everlasting.  Amen.

The Baptism

We then reach the central act of the rite, namely the Baptism itself.  Originally, the candidates would usually have been immersed fully in the water and there are still some churches where this happens.  However, most of the time, water is poured over the head of the candidate.

This is accompanied by the words “I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.”

I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
"I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen"

Chrismation

After the Baptism, in many churches, the candidate is again anointed (unless the Confirmation immediately follows), this time with the Oil of Chrism (Oil always blessed by the Bishop and used for anointing members of the Church – at Confirmation, Ordination and the coronation of monarchs, among other times).  The significance of this is that the now baptized person is marked out as a member of the Church of God.

The Welcome

The newly baptized people return to their places and are welcomed into membership of the Church.  We then share the Peace, which seals the prayer that we have offered in the peace that Christ came to bring to the world.

The Mass

The Baptism usually takes place within the context of the High Mass. 

The Mass
The Mass

The Giving of a Lighted Candle

At the end of the service, just before everyone leaves to return to the world and put into practice the Faith that has been celebrated during the Baptism, the newly baptized are given a lighted candle.

At Easter, a large candle is lit to symbolise the hope and goodness of the living Jesus Christ shining out in a world darkened by sin and despair.  The flame for the baptismal candles is taken from the light of the Easter candle to show that Christians share with Jesus the task of shining light and hope into our world by the way they conduct their lives.

The Paschal Candle
The Paschal Candle

The Use of Oil

The use of oil in worship stretches back to the earliest Christian times and derives from Jewish rites that are hundreds of years older still.  In short, oil was used to mark people out for special roles within the community (kings, priests, &c).  This lies behind its use at Baptisms.  Every Christian is called to a special and particular part within the purposes of God.  In anointing them at their Baptism and again at Confirmation, the Church publicly recognises that calling.  The anointing also echoes the anointing of Jesus with the Holy Spirit at His Baptism.

The Holy Oil
The Holy Oil

Baptizing Babies

It is unlikely that babies were often baptized in the first generations of the Church.  As Christianity became the religion of the general population of Europe, and, because of the fear of dying un-baptized, the Baptism of babies became the norm.

When babies are baptized, it is on the clear understanding that they should be presented for instruction and Confirmation at the earliest appropriate opportunity.  Their Baptism itself is administered on the strength of the belief of the community, which undertakes to nurture them in the Faith of the Church.  In practice, this responsibility is devolved largely to the parents and godparents.

There is nothing to say that it is more appropriate that people should be baptized as babies, and given the requirements of faith and commitment, an increasing number of people think that Baptism should be deferred until a person is sufficiently mature to make up her or his own mind.  In the modern day, many people are baptized when adults.



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