On the anniversary of our baptisms

Baptism

Religious rituals are important because by them truths (and not only truths) are inscribed in us, because by them we have opportunity to rehearse those things that matter deeply to us and to do so with others, and because it is among such rituals that the loose and sometimes deeply painful and paradoxical strands of our life are held, and that in ways that take our location seriously and which are, one hopes, intentionally faithful to a broader and deeper narrative into which our lives have been taken up, the old old story by which we live and move and are measured. So understood, it’s little wonder that C.S. Lewis, in A Preface to Paradise Lost, spoke of ‘the proper pleasure of ritual’. Of course, not all rituals could properly be defined as ‘acts of pleasure’. Nor are all handmaidens of an overtly religious imagination. Monday afternoon netball, or pre-bed activities of endless calls for ‘toilet, teeth, and pajamas’, or story time, or a wee dram of aqua vitae, for example, readily come to mind. And while these latter types of activity seem to be no less important for our formation, and while they are common enough, they are not what we might call ‘catholic’ in nature.

I mention this because one of the most important things one can do as a public citizen is to remind catholic bodies that the local situation is where the real action is. It is equally important that the correspondent reality is manifest; namely, to remind the local clan that its raisons d’être are most faithfully conceived in light of a – or the – catholic story. And we need rituals that perform both tasks, that celebrate both realities.

To return to the matter of more overtly ‘religious’ rituals, my most local tribe – which consists of my partner and I and our three begats (1, 2 and 7) – practices a number of such and that with, it must be said, modulating degrees of regularity and intentionality. However, one of the ‘rituals’ that we celebrate with particular enthusiasm and without fail is the various anniversaries of our baptisms (this week it was mine). So, five times a year, usually after dinner – or between main course and dessert, depending on where clan members are on the sanity-ometer at that particular moment – we clear the table, light a candle, put out a small bowl of water and recite the following liturgy together (drawn, with some modification, from the excellent Uniting in Worship 2, a liturgical resource produced by the Uniting Church in Australia. I intend, at some stage, to write an entirely new liturgy but at the moment this is what we use), rotating the leader from occasion to occasion. The words in bold are said by all.

1. INTRODUCTION

Brothers and sisters,
in our baptism, we died and were buried with Christ,
so that we might rise with him to new life.
We were initiated into Christ’s holy Church
and brought to life through water and the Spirit.
God’s mighty acts of salvation for us and all people
are gracious gifts, freely given.
Today we come to reaffirm our baptism,
declaring our allegiance to the risen Christ
and seeking to be obedient to his will.

2. REAFFIRMATION OF BAPTISM

Do you repent of your sins?
I repent of my sins.

Do you turn to Jesus Christ
who has defeated the power of sin and death
and brought us new life?
I turn to Christ.

Do you commit yourself to God,
trusting in Jesus Christ as Saviour
and in the Holy Spirit as God’s power and presence along the way?
I commit myself to God.

THE APOSTLES’ CREED

And now I ask you to confess the faith
into which you were baptised,
and in which you continue to live and grow.

Do you believe in God?

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

Do you believe in Jesus Christ?

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

This is the faith of God’s baptised people.

We are not ashamed to confess it
in Christ our Lord.

COMMITMENT TO MISSION

I ask you now to pledge yourselves
to Christ’s ministry in the world.

Will you continue in the community of faith,
the apostles’ teaching,
the breaking of bread and the prayers?

With God’s help, we will.

Will you proclaim by word and example
the good news of God in Christ?

With God’s help, we will.

Will you seek Christ in all people,
and love your neighbour as yourself?

With God’s help, we will.

Will you strive for justice and peace,
and respect the dignity of every human being?

With God’s help, we will.

May almighty God,
who has given us new birth by water and the Holy Spirit,
keep us steadfast in the faith,
and bring us to eternal life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

3. RECOLLECTION OF BAPTISM

The leader pours water into the bowl, saying:

Come, Lord Jesus,
refresh the lives of all your faithful people.

The leader places her/his hand into the bowl and then sprinkles the rest of the family three times saying:

Sisters and brothers:

Always remember you are baptised,
and praise the Holy Spirit.

THE SIGN OF THE CROSS

Today we remember that, from the time of our baptism,
the sign of the cross has been upon us.
I invite you now to join me
in tracing the sign of the cross upon your forehead,
saying: I belong to Christ. Amen.

Everyone places their fingers into the bowl and then marks themselves with the sign of the cross, saying:

I belong to Christ. Amen.

You are now invited to trace the sign of the cross
on those around you,
saying: You belong to Christ. Amen.

Everyone places their fingers into the bowl and then marks each other person at the table with the sign of the cross, saying:

You belong to Christ. Amen.

4. PRAYERS

Let us pray for all the baptised everywhere
and for ourselves in this congregation of God’s people.

That our redemption from evil
and our rescue from the way of sin and death
may be evident in our daily living.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

That the Holy Spirit may continue
to open our hearts and lives
to the grace and truth we find in Jesus our Lord.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

That we may be kept in the faith and communion
of the holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

That we may be sent into the world
to witness to the love of Christ.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

That we may be brought to the fulness
of God’s peace and glory.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Other prayers are offered here for other people/situations that lay heavy on our hearts.

Then to conclude the prayers, we say together:

Praise be to you, our Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits
you have won for us,
for all the pains and insults
you have borne for us.
O most merciful Redeemer,
friend and brother,
may we know you more clearly,
love you more dearly,
and follow you more nearly,
day by day. Amen.

5. THE PEACE

We are the body of Christ.
In the one Spirit we were all baptised into one body.
Let us then pursue all that makes for peace
and builds up our common life.

One thought on “On the anniversary of our baptisms

  1. What a lovely ritual you participate in with your family! The anniversary of your Baptism should be a day we all cherish and remember. (Well, maybe not remember in the literal sense, if we were Baptized as very young infants…)

    Like

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