When we last left the Christian Initiation rites, we were deep into the explanatory sections on the Easter Vigil. Tonight, we look at one of the long narratives in the Baptism rite:
209. The celebration of baptism begins with the blessing of water, even when the sacraments of initiation are received outside the Easter season. Should the sacraments be celebrated outside the Easter Vigil but during the Easter season (see RCIA 26), the water blessed at the Vigil is used, but a prayer of thanksgiving, having the same themes of water as God’s creation and the sacramental use of water in the unfolding of the paschal mystery, and the blessing is also a remembrance of God’s wonderful works in the history of salvation.
The blessing thus introduces an invocation of the Trinity at the very outset of the celebration of baptism. For it calls to mind the mystery of God’s love from the beginning of the world and the creation of the human race; by invoking the Holy Spirit and the proclaiming Christ’s death and resurrection, it impresses on the mind the newness of Christian baptism, by which we share in his own death and resurrection and receive the holiness of God himself.
Well okay, we’re not looking at the actual blessing of baptismal water just yet. That will wait for RCIA 222. After the litany of the saints, why is there this long prayer/narrative speaking of the Trinity and God’s agency in the salvation of the human race? Can’t we just get on with the meat of the rite after all these months and years?
The rite suggests a sacramental theology in which God is at work throughout the rite, not just at the “magic moment.” That’s important to remember as modern-day Catholic ponder the issues of apathy, relevance, and a lack of strong faith in many believers as they progress through the sacraments. There is also a very Jewish sense of recall: recounting the deeds of God in history. Christians do well to root themselves as part of a spectrum of tradition and belief. We do not parrot old mumbo jumbo for its own sake. Recalling history puts us in our place. We have the sense of being a small part of a greater whole, that the baptismal rites are very grave affairs that lie beyond mere human invention and ingenuity.
People sometimes fuss about the Easter Vigil, but it’s important to remember that as good liturgy pretty much everything it contains has a reason to be there.