“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Gal 3:27
At our baptism, in the words of St. Paul, we are baptized into Christ by becoming part of his Body, the Church. Our understanding of the Church as the Body of Christ as we noted in the first blog on Our Lenten Journey, is essential to our understanding of the sacraments as personal encounters with the Lord. Because of this reality, the sacramental actions of the Church become the actions and encounters with Christ. While it is the Church that administers a sacrament, it is Jesus who brings about the effect.
You might well ask, if it is Jesus who brings about the effect of baptism, why do we have to go through all the ceremony; the prayers, the holy water, the candle? Well, the answer is that we need all those external signs. We live in our bodies. We experience life through our bodies, we see, we touch, we smell, we hear and we speak. Experiencing something through our senses makes it real to us. Last time, we spoke of love as being invisible and that kindness, consideration or a hug made it real. The words “I love you” are meaningless without a meaningful expression of that love.
Jesus does not need the signs, we do. We will see that the same exists in the other sacraments as we discuss them. All sacraments consist of two elements; theologians refer to them as matter and form. The matter is what you experience through your body’s senses like feeling the water at baptism. The form refers to the word of faith, the words used in administering the sacrament. The minister performs an act of the Church, but it is Jesus who acts and whom we encounter.
St. Augustine wrote: “A word comes to an element and a sacrament is there.”
We will continue our reflection on baptism in our next blog on Our Lenten Journey
This post is also available in/Esta entrada también está disponible en: Spanish