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184 • Part II. The Sacraments: The Faith Celebrated

The origin and foundation of Christian Baptism is Jesus. Before

starting his public ministry, Jesus submitted himself to the baptism given

by John the Baptist. The waters did not purify him; he cleansed the

waters. “He comes to sanctify the Jordan for our sake . . . to begin a

new creation through the Spirit and water” (St. Gregory Nazianzen,

Liturgy of the Hours

, I, 634). Jesus’ immersion in the water is a sign for

all human beings of the need to die to themselves to do God’s will. Jesus

did not need to be baptized because he was totally faithful to the will of

his Father and free from sin. However, he wanted to show his solidarity

with human beings in order to reconcile them to the Father. By com-

manding his disciples to baptize all nations, he established the means by

which people would die to sin—Original and actual—and begin to live

a new life with God.


The meaning and grace of the sacrament of Baptism are

clearly seen in the rites of its celebration.

—CCC, no. 1234

The eight major elements in the baptismal ceremony teach us the mean-

ing of this Sacrament of Initiation and help us appreciate our life in

Christ. Signs and symbols have their own capacity to communicate their

meaning. Of course, the Sacrament is more than an instructive symbol;

it accomplishes what it signifies.

The Sign of the Cross

At the beginning of the celebration, the celebrant traces the Sign of

the Cross on the forehead of the one being baptized. This recalls Christ’s

saving death and the redemption it brought. Baptism is a Sacrament

of salvation.