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Description and comparative analysis of the ceremonies of different religions and confessions


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3.2. Baptism
In Christianity, baptism is the sacrament of admission to the church, symbolized by the pouring or sprinkling of water on the head or by immersion in water. The ceremony is usually accompanied by the words «I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit». In the doctrine originated by St. Paul, it signifies the wiping away of past sins and the rebirth of the individual into a new life.

It is well known that ablution or bathing was common in most ancient nations as a preparation for prayers and sacrifice or as expiatory of sin. In warm countries this connection is probably even closer than in colder climates; and hence the frequency of ablution in the religious rites throughout the East.

Ritual immersion has traditionally played an important part in Judaism, as a symbol of purification (in the mikvah, a postmenstrual or ritual bath used by women) or as a symbol of consecration (in rituals of conversion, accompanied by special prayers). According to the Gospel, John the Baptist baptized Jesus. Starting from the second century the irreducible minimum for a valid baptism appears to have been the use of water and the invocation of the Trinity.

Initially, for Baptism, were used small, circular Roman buildings that were designated for religious purposes, but because baptism originally was performed on only three holidays, Easter, Pentecost, and Epiphany, enlargement of the older Roman buildings became necessary to accommodate the growing numbers of converts. The new baptistery was commonly octagonal in plan, a visual metaphor for the number eight, which symbolized in Christian numerology a new beginning. As eight follows the “complete” number, seven, so the beginning of the Christian life follows baptism. Customarily, a baptistery was roofed with a dome, the symbol of the heavenly realm toward which the Christian progresses after the first step of baptism.

Baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost is the rite by which persons are admitted into the Church of Christ. It is the public profession of faith and discipleship.

The Greek word “to baptize” means “to immerse”. To bathe with water expresses the passage from one condition to another, it is a sign of purification for a new beginning. By virtue of the Holy Spirit, Baptism immerses us in the death and Resurrection of the Lord, drowning in the baptismal font the ‘old’ man, dominated by sin which separates him from God, and giving birth to the new man, recreated in Jesus.

The symbols of Baptism are: water, two kinds of oil, baptismal garment and candle.

Water is a symbol of divine life, grace, new birth, growth, power, deliverance, cleansing and the covenant.

The Oil of the Catechumens represents salvation as well as the strength and power that come from Christ our savior. Sacred Chrism represents salvation, participation in the priesthood of Christ, membership in the body of Christ and a share in eternal life.

The baptismal garment is a white garment either worn from the beginning of the ritual or given after pouring or immersion. It is an outward sign of the person’s Christian dignity. It also signifies that the person has become a new creation and has been clothed with Christ.

The baptismal candle is lit from the Easter Candle. The candle represents the risen Jesus, who is the light of the world (Jn 8:12). Jesus is the light that guides every baptized person. It also represents the flame of faith, which is to be kept burning brightly.

ANDREA DEL VERROCCHIO, LEONARDO DA VINCI and OTHERS, The Baptism of Christ, 1475-1478, Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
On the banks of the River Jordan in Palestine, Jesus is being baptised by St John, who is wetting Christ’s head with water. St John the Baptist is holding a slender cross and a scroll inscribed with the announcement of the Saviour’s advent: ECCE AGNUS DEI [QUI TOLLIT PECCATA MUNDI] -Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world- John 1, 2-. Also present at the event are two kneeling angels, one of whom is holding Jesus’ clothes.It was usual, in 15th-century artist’s studios, for the studio head to design the piece, leaving the secondary parts to be painted by pupils and collaborators. It is likely that on the panel with the Baptism of Christ, as well as Verrocchio and Leonardo, another, older painter also worked on the piece.

MARKO IVAN RUPNIK, - CENTRO ALETTI, The Baptism, 2016, Church of Saints Cosmas and Damian, Concorezzo (MB).
The one who was born in a stable, adored by the Magi, with Baptism in the Jordan River accepts the condition of sinners, lets himself be united to them by accepting the condition of Lamb of God that with death -takes away the sin of the world- (Jn 1 , 29). For this reason the body of Jesus is portrayed as dead, as a place in the tomb and the outstretched arms appear immobile.

Neonian Baptistery, 4th century, Ravenna.
Founded by the bishop Ursus, therefore after the year 396, it was built before the transferral of the capital from Milan to Ravenna. The baptistery, whose floor is dominated by a marble arch, is famous for the mosaics in the cupola commissioned by Bishop Neonius. The central mosaic represents the Baptism of Christ, depicted as a young man immersed to the hips in the sheer waters of the river Jordan. This is one of the oldest mosaic scenes of the Baptism of Christ housed inside a monumental building.

The Baptistry of St. John, 12th century, Florence.
The Baptistry of San Giovanni, one of the most ancient churches in Florence, sits opposite the city's cathedral, the church of Santa Maria del Fiore. Octagonal in plan, it is totally clad in slabs of white Carrara and green Prato marble. It is covered by a dome of eight segments resting on perimetral walls, but the dome cannot be detected from the outside because it is concealed by the walls being raised above the arcade on the second level and crowned by a flattened pyramidal roof.

Adult Baptism.
Adults who ask for baptism normally receive it on Holy Saturday during the Easter Vigil. Parishes welcome these new Catholics through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).


St Michael's Catholic Church: Baptism- Presentation of the rite of baptism and its meaning

Easter Vigil 2015 | Adult Baptisms- Ceremony of immersion baptism for Adults. On April 4, 2015 at the Easter Vigil, Fr. John Riccardo baptized nine people into the Roman Catholic Church at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church in Plymouth, Michigan.

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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.