Saturday, November 17, 2007

Baptismal Garment

Recently, my mother asked why we will not have Aletheia wearing her baptismal dress to be baptized. She does not understand why Aletheia would not wear the dress before, during, and after the baptism: she "thought the white dress was specifically for the reason to be clothed in white."

Mom is correct that the white garment plays a special role, but it is the reasons why, and how, it plays a special role upon which the answer turns.

The deeper reasons why we are choosing to clothe Aletheia in a white garment only after her baptism proper is because being baptized both signifies and accomplishes – among other things (the remission of all sin, original and actual; the remission of temporal punishment; the infusion of supernatural grace, gifts and virtues; the conferral of the right to special graces; and, the impression of a special character on the soul) – being stripped of the death and fall inherited from Adam: original sin. Consequently, an important part of baptism is to put on “the garment of Christ” which is symbolized by the white baptismal garment. To wear this garment after baptism connotes that the shame of Aletheia’s original sin has been washed away; that her soul has been cleansed. When she is clothed with Christ, she is truly freed from the shame of original sin. Specifically, the white garment is a sign of new life in Christ and the change that occurs at baptism: the meaning is lost or obscured if Aletheia were to arrive wearing it.

Since the very earliest days of Christianity, there was a general practice of undressing before baptism and reclothing after baptism: it signifies the removal of the old identity which had been corrupted by evil, and the adoption of the new identity produced by union with Christ.

At a more practical level, implicit in Mom's comments is the assumption that infusion is the sole method for infant baptism: otherwise, it is difficult to imagine how immersion with the dress on would work. But this is a mistake: immersion is a perfectly valid form of infant baptism (see below), and has been and continues to be practiced at many parishes throughout the world. For many Irish Catholic's, they will remember the custom of triple immersion with a solemn procession of the infant around the Church: a custom practiced regularly for at least six centuries.

Or see:

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