Epiphany Sunday, the penultimate Sunday in the Christmas Season brought with it a special celebration. Two families brought their infants to celebrate baptism within a Sunday mass. Before the entrance procession to the Mass began, Fr. Patrick called the attention of the Assembly to the back of the church where the parents, godparents and children were presented to the community. Fr. Patrick asked the parents what they wished of God’s church and they formally asked that their children be baptized. Fr. Patrick went on to describe the faith of the church into which they were asking their children to be baptized. He asked the parents and Godparents (along with the Assembly as witness) if they were ready to take on role of initiating these children into our faith. After receiving this affirmation, he signed the infants on the forehead with the Cross and invited the parents and godparents to do the same.
Mass continued as normal. Fr. Patrick connected his Epiphany homily with the baptism of these children, noting that in both the readings and the Gospel it was clear that God’s promise of a Messiah was not a private event for a few, but a universal event meant for all the world. He also noted that this season of light which began first with Advent Candles and then became the Star in the sky, and eventually led to Christ as the Light of the World, would in turn be symbolized at Baptism by the giving of the Christ Candle and the call to always have that light shine brightly as on this day of Baptism.
After the Homily, Fr. Patrick anointed the chest of each baby with the oil of catechumens before inviting the families to the font for the Baptismal Rite with their children. Several other children and families in the Assembly walked back to the font as well to witness the joyous event. At the conclusion of the Baptism, the Choir broke out in song, with the Assembly joining them to sing, “Blessed be God, O Blessed be God, who call you by name. Holy and Chosen Ones!” Members of the newly baptized families also brought up the gifts during the Offertory in preparation for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
It has been some time since a baptism has been celebrated at Christ the Redeemer inside of a Sunday mass. Many families opt to have a baptism celebrated privately outside of a mass. However, at least from the parish point of view, Christ the Redeemer families enjoy the opportunity to make more real and present this sacrament of initiation when it is celebrated within a mass. There is something palpable and exciting when one enters the sanctuary for mass and sees the Easter Candle lit, a vial of oil, or a towel near the font. You can hear parents or children say excitedly, “There’s going to be a baptism today!”
Mass concluded with a blessings for the parents of the newly baptized and also with the institution of a new practice at Christ the Redeemer. The First Sunday of each month, the celebrant asks all those who have birthdays within that month to stand. The celebrant then offers a blessing upon those standing. Fr. Patrick in his closing remarks mentioned that in a previous parish where this was the custom, the Assembly would often remind the celebrant if he had forgotten this blessing.
We are excited for this time of year. We are excited to have new members in our parish. We are glad that God who comes to dwell with us in Christ also gifts to us these sacramental celebrations. May the Light of Christ continue to shine.