Vox Pastoris

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Level I Presentation Descriptions: Baptism

The baptism presentations are given in the season of Easter after the celebration of the Liturgy of the Light. When adults think about baptism, we usually think first of the water. For the children, however, the most essential and powerful image associated with baptism has proven to be the light that the Risen Christ shares with us. The children have already heard Jesus' words that He is the light of the world (John 8:12), and they have already meditated on Isaiah's prophecy that "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light" (Isaiah 9:2). Now they learn that, in baptism, Jesus shares His light with them.

There are three presentations in the subject of Baptism, each focusing on different aspects of the rite that point to the gifts that God lavishes on us in this sacrament:

  1. Baptism I – Light and White Garment
  2. Baptism II – Gospel, Water, and Oils
  3. Baptism III – Gestures

In Baptism I (Light and White Garment), the catechist gathers the children around the atrium's paschal candle. She says that when Jesus came into the world, light came into the world; she then lights the candle. When Jesus died, it seemed that the light went out of the world; she then blows the candle out. But then, when Jesus rose again, the light burst forth once more, so strong that it could never be extinguished again—and the paschal candle is lit once more. Jesus does not want to keep the light to Himself: He wants to share it with each one of us. Our baptism is the moment when Jesus first gave us His light. We show the children a smaller candle like the one that was lit from the paschal candle when they were baptized. We also show them a white garment like one they would have worn. The catechist explains that the garment is white to show on the outside that the light has been given on the inside.

Then each child is given a small votive candle like the one they hold in the Liturgy of the Light. The catechist lights a taper candle from the paschal candle and then lights each child's candle, proclaiming, "John, the light of Christ is given to you...Susie, the light of Christ is given to you..." The children are then free to return to the material and ask for the candles to be lit again.

In Baptism II (Gospel, Water, Oils), the catechists and children return to ponder some of the other gifts given in the sacrament of baptism. A small white Bible is shown to the children to represent the gift of the Word of God. The catechist also shows the children the water in the model baptismal font. They talk about how water is necessary for life and how we use it for cleaning. She uses her hand made into a fist to represent a person's head and pours water over it three times. Then she shares the words that the priest spoke at each child's baptism: "John, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit...Susie, I baptize you..." Then she demonstrates the pouring and the prayer together. Finally, the catechist shows the children two containers of the oils used in baptism. The first is the oil of the catechumens, put on the person's chest as a sign of strength. The second is the oil of chrism, put on the person's head as a sign of the beautiful fragrance of Christ. Together we marvel at how many gifts God has given us in our baptism.

Baptism III (Gestures), the catechist presents four gestures from the rite of baptism as a means for the children to ponder what is happening in baptism. The first is the imposition of the hands over the water, when the priest asks God to send the Holy Spirit to consecrate the water. The second is the gesture of pouring the water, a sign of the abundance of the love of God. The third is the sign of the cross made on the forehead of the person being baptized, a gesture that indicates that the person belongs to Christ. The fourth gesture is the large sign of the cross made by the priest over all of the people present at the baptism. That sign covers all of us like a great shield.

For further reading about how baptism is presented in the Level I atrium, see The Religious Potential of the Child, chapter 5 and The Good Shepherd and the Child, chapter 8 and pages 61-64.

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