The Baptism of the Neophytes by Masaccio (1401-1428)This Easter the Catholic Church baptised thousands of adults, receiving them joyfully into her fold. They became a new creation through entering into the baptismal font and rising out of it to new life. The Church understands this sacramental action to be dying and rising with Christ since the baptismal font is at once a “tomb” and a “womb.” The newly-baptised were buried with Christ as they were plunged into the baptismal waters, and they rose with Christ as they were raised out of the font. Through baptism, they became a new creation and were inserted into the Body of Christ, the Church.

These newly baptised Christians completed their initiation into the Church by receiving the sacraments of Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist. Confirmation makes us “soldiers of Christ” for it bestows the “power to profess faith in Christ publicly and as it were officially” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1305). Confirmation is called the “Sacrament of Christian maturity” because one receives the outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit which bring the person to Christian maturity. In the Old Testament, priests, prophets, and kings were anointed with oil for their offices. Christ is priest, prophet and king par excellence. The Christian faithful share in his threefold office through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation in which they receive the anointing with oil, representing the gift of the Holy Spirit. Christian maturity, then, involves the full living out of the threefold office of priest, prophet, and king through the gifts of the Holy Spirit and living in Christ.

The Holy Eucharist is the “food of immortality.” If one becomes a new creation through Baptism, then he needs to be nourished by the spiritual food, called the holy Eucharist—the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, those who were initiated into the Covenant through circumcision, then had to celebrate the Passover by sacrificing and eating the lamb. If they did not participate in this sacrificial meal they were considered cut-off from God’s people and his salvation. The New Testament fulfils the Old Testament by celebrating the New Passover. Christ instituted the New Passover at the Last Supper—“this is my Body.… this is the New Covenant in my blood”—thus anticipating his sacrifice on the Cross. The people of the New Covenant must celebrate the New Passover in order to be members of God’s people and receive salvation. Christians do this through the celebration of the Eucharist: they eat the New Passover Lamb by receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. This is truly the food of eternal life. In this Easter season, let’s rejoice with our newly-baptised brothers and sisters for like us they have become a new creation in Christ Jesus.

 

(Copyright © 2016)

Painting: The Baptism of the Neophytes by Masaccio (1401-1428)