What We Believe: Part 27 – Initiation into the Church
Many human institutions have an initiation rite for prospective members. The Catholic Church also has such a rite but it’s benefits are truly “out of this world.” The Sacrament of Baptism is required for each person who wants believes in Jesus Christ and wants to be a member of the Catholic Church. Through Baptism we are freed from sin, original sin and from all personal sin as well as any punishment due to sin. The baptised person begins to live with God’s own life which is known as sanctifying grace which qualifies for immediate entrance into heaven if still in this state at the time of death. Also, if one should break this precious union with God by a serious sin, it can be restored through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. More about that sacrament later.
There are two other sacraments that are intimately associated with the initiation into the Church. They are Confirmation with a strengthening of the new life by the Holy Spirit, and spiritual nourishment in the Eucharist through the food of eternal life, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
Baptism, like Confirmation and Holy Orders, can be received only once in life because they establish an unique relationship with God that is permanent (which can be described as “an indelible spiritual sign” like a “seal” on an important document. Here it means a special relationship of grace with God).
The Sacrament of Baptism is described in a number of ways because it has many benefits. It is rightly called Baptism after its Greek word baptizein which means to “plunge” or “immerse.” The immersion into water symbolizes the catechumen’s burial into Christ’s death from which one arises by resurrection with him, as a “new creature.”
Then the sacrament is also called the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit for it signifies and actually brings about the birth of water and the Spirit without which no one can enter the kingdom of God. Also the bath is called enlightenment because those who are instructed in advance are enlightened in their understanding. Way back in the time of St. Gregory of Nazianus (d. 380, It was called grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal and most precious gift. A common term today is members of God’s family or as God’s own children. After all, it is God’s intention to have all the baptized with Him in heaven forever like one big happy family What a gift!