RCIA 209: Rites of Baptism


Sections 209 through 214 give an explanation of the main elements of the baptism portion of the initiation rites. A summary first:

209. The celebration of baptism has as its center and high point the baptismal washing and the invocation of the Holy Trinity. Beforehand there are rites that have an inherent relationship to the baptismal washing: first, the blessing of the water, then the renunciation of sin by the elect, and their profession of faith. Following the baptismal washing, the effects received through the sacrament are given expression in the explanatory rites: The anointing with chrism (when confirmation does not immediately follow baptism), the clothing with a white garment, and the presentation of a lighted candle.


As with all other sacraments, there are associated rites to go with the apex. Why are they important? I suppose if our catechesis were impeccable, there would be no need. In emergency situations, as we read often in the Pastoral Care rites, the important thing is the essential of the sacrament. At the Easter Vigil, however, these associated rituals have great value: they recount the story for the faith community. They also reinforce, as the rite attests, certain interior associations the newly baptized have already experienced. What are the effects of baptism? An inner strengthening, a renewal in one’s exterior life, and Christ’s light of faith: all represented in anointing, white clothing, and a lit candle.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in post-conciliar liturgy documents, RCIA, Rites. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to RCIA 209: Rites of Baptism

  1. Jim McK says:

    Perhaps I am the only one bothered by this, but this anointing with chrism is not simply an “expression” of the effects given through the water. The anointing joins us with the priests and kings who were anointed in ancient Israel.

    I suspect what is happening is a confusion of Baptism as meaning the entire rite with baptism as the immersion in water. St Cyprian refers to Baptism as a “double sacrament”, meaning water and oil. One is immersed in water, and then immersed in the aroma of the chrism, which is a sign of the Holy Spirit. (spirit = air or breath)

    This is unlike the white garment, which is a sign of being cleansed by baptism, or the lit candle, which is a sign of the clarity of a cleansed vehicle. But the chrism signifies more than having been cleansed, or purified; it adds another, albeit related, dimension.

    Maybe it is just me. I am somewhat obsessed with the role of chrism and anointing in our faith.

  2. Liam says:


    Your understanding is a victim of the Roman rite’s longstanding effort to reduce sacramental validity to narrow issues of matter and form. Chrismation is necessary for a licit baptism, but not for a valid baptism.

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