Monday, January 08, 2007

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord in the Vatican

Today, the Universal Church celebrates the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. On this day, the Pope also traditionally Baptizes children. This year, these Baptisms were carried out in the Sistine Chapel. Notable amongst the newly Baptized is the son of Col Mader, the Commander of the Swiss Guards.
From Asianews.

Pope: Baptism is not magic but a gift of God in the family of the Church
In the setting of the Sistine Chapel, Benedict XVI baptized 13 children. He emphasized that one cannot believe in God the Father without living within the Church and he asked parents to be the first witnesses of faith, urging families to gather every day for times of prayer.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The pope today baptized 13 children, six girls and seven boys, in the splendid setting of the Sistine Chapel. It was John Paul II who started this tradition of baptizing children in the Vatican on the day the Church celebrates the baptism of Jesus. At least this once a year, the solemn renaissance chapel dominated by paintings of Michelangelo, where pontiffs are elected, becomes a small familiar parish, full of the cries of newborns and parents trying to soothe them. During today’s mass, Benedict XVI found himself “battling” with the “counter-chorus” of the crying of some of the newborns. Among those baptized was the fourth son of the commander of the pontifical Swiss Guards, Theodor Maedor. The little Damian Elmar Maeder was born on 11 September. Moved, his father read one of the prayers of the faithful.

In his homily dotted with spontaneous additions, the pope underlined the value of life and of the family. “Each child who is born brings us the smile of God and invites us to recognize that life is his gift, a gift to be welcomed with love and to be safeguarded always, at every moment.”

He also said: “Each child that is born is entrusted by God to his parents. How important then is the family founded on matrimony, a cradle of life and love.”

And taking his cue from the Holy Family of Nazareth, the pope said: “I pray to the Lord that even your families may be welcoming places where these children can grow not only in good health but in faith and love for God who today has made them his children through Baptism.”

Benedict XVI then explained the meaning of the sacrament of baptism as an “opening of the heavens on our life”, a deep relationship with Jesus Christ and with the Father. The pope turned to the reading of the gospel of Luke that tells how Jesus paused in prayer after his baptism and he said: “Jesus in prayer with the Father talked of us and for us, he also talked about me, about each of us and for each of us.”

Explaining the meaning of the sign of water, the pope said this “is the element of fecundity: without water there is no life. In all religions, water is a sign of maternity. And for the Fathers of the Church, water became a symbol of the maternal womb of the Church.” In baptism, we are united “to the heavenly Father” in “God’s family” and this link with Him is expressed in the relationship with the Mother-Church: “In Baptism, we are adopted by the heavenly Father but in this family there is also a mother, the Mother Church. The Fathers say one cannot have God as a father unless one also has the Church as a mother.” The “physical”, “material” relationship with the church is underlined by the pope because “Christianity is not only a spiritual, individual, subjective thing” but it is also “a real, concrete, material thing: the family of God is concrete and real in the family of the Church... Only by inserting ourselves in this ‘we’ as children, brothers and sisters, can we say ‘Our Father’ to our heavenly Father.”

Speaking about the “fire” mentioned by the baptism liturgy, the pontiff made a distinction between the baptism of John (“a human desire of purification” based on one’s own strength) and Christian baptism, in which “God himself acts, Jesus, the fire of the Spirit” replaces us and takes our children”. The pope specified: “But God does not act in some magical way. He acts only with our freedom. God calls for cooperation with the fire of the Holy Spirit... for the opening of our freedom to say yes to this divine action.” But children are still “incapable of collaborating” and thus parents are important, godfathers and godmothers: they can offer children “teaching and coherent examples of Christian life” that they may become “active members of the ecclesial community”.

No comments: