Now that our hearts are freshly melted over holy babies, Sienna and I have been talking about why we love baptisms all day. One of the beauties of Catholicism is the richness of tradition and ceremony that leads even very young children, younger than the age of reason like Sienna and Jonah to understand the holiness and importance of this first sacrament.
(Sebastian Thomas on his baptism day)
As a convert from a non-denominational Christian perspective I wasn't sure how I felt about infant baptism. When I became a Christian I was 7 years old all I had to do was raise my hand one day at Sunday School and say "I accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior and I believe." Done! I never had a baptism. I know many Christian adults who choose to be baptized, but it was my understanding it wasn't required as a demonstration of your faith.
Naturally, I had a lot of questions about why I even had to actually be baptized and again why infants should be. I remember being a little afraid to be baptized. It was like my conscience was telling me it was something very significant and not to be taken lightly. See, even as an adult who had no understanding of the reasons behind baptism I could feel the holiness behind the ceremony the first time I witnessed one. I remember being brought to tears over it and I hadn't even decided to become Catholic at the time. It is truly of God and His presence is felt through it all.
My mom and my grandma, who are both Jewish came to witness Samuel's baptism. I wasn't surprised to hear them both carry on about how beautiful it was and how anointed it felt. My grandma said it was so similar to the Brit Milah (Jewish circumcision ceremony) she couldn't believe she was in a Catholic church.
Ironically, that comparison is exactly what the first priest I met used to explain the purpose and reason behind baptism to me. He said it more eloquently I'm sure, but here's what I have in my notes (yes, of course I took notes! I had a LOT of questions for those "Catholics"!):
In Colossians 2:11-12 Paul says that baptism has replaced circumcision. He refers to baptism as "the circumcision of Christ" and "the circumcision made without hands." Circumcision in adults was fairly rare as you can imagine under the Old Law as there weren't many converts to Judaism. Most circumcision was preformed on infants near or at birth. By comparing circumcision to baptism Paul is telling us we are to include infants in baptism.
The priest also explained the parallel between a man wanting to become a Jew and now someone wanting to become a Christian. There was no distinction between Catholic and Christian in the bible as I pray there won't have to be some day again as well! But thats another story for another day! Anyway, he said in the Old Testament for a man to become a Jew he had to believe in the God of Israel and be circumcised. In the New Testament, if a man wants to become a Christian he must believe in God and Jesus and be baptized.
In this same parallel I also began to understand why we don't wait to baptize. Babies born into Jewish families in the Old Testament could be circumcised in anticipation of growing and learning the Jewish faith as they were to be raise. So in the New Testament isn't it appropriate for the new circumcision, baptism, to be done in infancy in anticipation of the Christian faith that they will be raise in as well?
Sienna, of course, doesn't fully understand any of this yet, so I thought I'd ask her why she thinks babies get baptized. She didn't skip a beat before offering her simple summary:
"So we can promise to teach them to love God."
Faith and understanding like a child! May we all have it. Amen!