January 10, 2021
On this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord we are called to remind ourselves of the meaning of our own baptism. There is certainly irony this year with an empty font, and a community separated by the pandemic, but we are one Body by water and the Spirit!
Through baptism we die to self and rise to life in Christ, we become members of the Body, part of the community of believers. As Paul says (1 Cor) “By one Spirit we are all baptized into one Body.” This is witnessed on Easter Vigil night when adults are submersed in the waters of new life. This action is meant to be a dying and a rising, a turning away from the old person and a movement towards a new life, a turning towards a life in Christ. Baptism means living a new way. We no longer are to live for ourselves because we are no longer individuals condemned to death. Rather, we are reborn as relational beings, members of the People of God, the Community of the Church. We do not live for ourselves but are called to give ourselves away. Our lives are now modelled on the life of Christ who gave himself away to others, unto death on a cross. Baptism is a serious endeavor.
The importance of the communal dimension of baptism is seen in the chosen day for baptism: Sunday! Baptisms are to be held on a Sunday during the eucharistic celebration, emphasizing the public communal dimension of this sacrament. As Paul says (1 Cor) “By one Spirit we are all baptized into one Body.” The baptized are incorporated into the risen Christ. This is the imagery we see reflected in our baptismal rituals, we are buried with him in the waters of baptism and we are raised with him to new life.
The positioning and form of our font reflects the depth of meaning of this sacrament. Even as baptism is the sacrament of entry into the Church, the font is placed at the entrance of the Church. So too, before one can participate in the celebration of the Eucharist one must first go through the sacrament of baptism. The font is an obstacle, it must be encountered, it cannot be avoided! Not only does the position of the font speak to the meaning of the sacrament, the shape of the font as a symbol of baptism. Fonts have emphasized the element of death by being shaped as coffins or as crosses. They have emphasized the element of resurrection, rising to new life by being formed with eight sides (eight being the symbol of eternity). Our font is shaped as a mandorla, the almond shape formed by the overlapping of two circles, emphasizing the tension of the Christian life, living as we do in the world and called as we are to establish the Kingdom of God. With this font we are emphasizing that the baptized are a sign of the Kingdom of God and through our baptism we have accepted the responsibility to work for the coming of that Kingdom in the world.