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Blessing of the Baptismal Waters

The readings for the Easter Vigil trace through salvation history, showing how God was working through His plan of salvation which came about in Christ. At Easter, God’s plan to make us His adopted children – not slaves but sons and if sons then heirs (Galatians 4:7) was fulfilled. This happens at baptism and from the beginning of the Bible, God pointed forward to this sacrament.

Blessing of the Baptismal Waters

By Ashwith J. Rego
The readings for the Easter Vigil trace through salvation history, showing how God was working through His plan of salvation which came about in Christ. At Easter, God’s plan to make us His adopted children – not slaves but sons and if sons then heirs (Galatians 4:7) was fulfilled. This happens at baptism and from the beginning of the Bible, God pointed forward to this sacrament.

The Church puts this prefigurement front and centre when the priest blesses the Baptismal waters. Pay attention at the Vigil today and listen carefully to each word the priest says!

The prayer begins with an introduction, reminding us about the power of the sacraments which accomplish wondrous effects. In the life of the Church, we are born again in baptism with God breathing new life into us like He did at creation, we are united to Him in the Eucharist and raised from spiritual death at the confessional. All sacraments are prefigured in the Old Testament with Baptism being the focus of the prayer.

We next shift to the very beginning of the Bible. "In the beginning," Genesis 1:1 says, "God created the heavens and the earth." At this beginning, "the Spirit (Hebrew: ruah, meaning wind) of God was moving over the face of the waters." This same Spirit moves over the waters of the Baptismal Font, so that those washed by it may be sanctified and be born of Water and the Spirit (John 3:5).

The prayer then fast-forwards to the Great Flood of Genesis 7 where humanity was so entrenched in sin, save for Noah and his family, that God decided to start anew using the waters of the flood. The waters of Baptism cleanse us from our sin, making us a New Creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17, Gal 6:15).

Next, the prayer summarizes how the crossing of the Red Sea prefigured Baptism. The Egyptians were pursuing the Israelites in order to capture them and bring them back in bondage. But God parted the waters and the Israelites passed through on dry land and were freed from slavery.

So too when we pass through the waters of Baptism, we are freed from slavery to sin. Following this Baptism as we journey through the wilderness to heaven, our Promised Land, we may fail just like the Israelites did. But God gives us the Sacrament of Reconciliation to get back on track and continue on.

All of the foreshadowings find their fulfilment in Christ and the prayer shifts its focus to Jesus’ baptism by St. John the Baptist. Why did Jesus receive Baptism when he was without sin? St. Jerome tells us that he did so for three reasons – to fulfil the law of Moses, to approve of John’s baptism and to show forth the coming of the Holy Spirit in the waters of baptism by sanctifying the waters through the descent of the dove (Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Book I).

St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that Christ instituted the Sacrament of Baptism at his baptism (Summa Theologica III:66:2). On Good Friday water, signifying the living waters of baptism, along with blood flowed from Jesus’ side.

The prayer then recalls Jesus’ command to teach all nations and baptize them in the “name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The priest prays that God unseal that same source of baptism – the water from the side of Jesus and sanctify the waters through the power of the Holy Spirit so that we can be washed clean and rise as God’s adopted children through “Water and the Spirit.”

Finally the priest concludes by blessing the waters, his words echoing the Trinity working together just as they did at Jesus’ baptism. Praising God for this gift, we all respond:

“Springs of water, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all for ever.”

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