Baptism into the Communion of Saints
Joshua 3:7-17; Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37; I Thessalonians 2:9-13; Matthew 23:1-12
Today we celebrate the communion of saints in All Saints Sunday. Today we celebrate the Christening of three new saints by baptizing three people in two different services. First I would like to tell you about a rather large and very old baptismal font.
While touring Israel in 1977, I visited a 5th century Byzantine church where the only things left intact were the entrance columns, parts of the side walls and the baptismal font. Now when I say "font" please don't get the idea of this little limestone bowl we have up here in church. Remember, the original Jewish and early Christian baptisms were ALWAYS performed in rivers where they had flowing or "living" water. By the fifth century when Christians started building elaborate basilica churches, the practice of Christian baptism had to move from the river banks inside to the church.
This particular baptismal font was located at the front, elevated part or "chancel" of the church in full view of the congregation. Steps led the celebrant and those to be baptized down into the water which would have been about thigh deep on me. The "font" was constructed in the shape of a Greek cross and had enough room for several people to stand at one time so the celebrant could immerse each one under the water three times into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
If you read the rubrics of the prayer book carefully on page 307 you will find instructions to the celebrant to "touch the water" as the water is blessed while saying "Now sanctify this water, we pray you, by the power of your Holy Spirit, that those who here are cleansed from sin and born again may continue for ever in the risen life of Jesus Christ our Savior." But in more ancient baptismal liturgies the instructions or "rubrics" required that the priest actually move the water with his or her hands. Why i ...
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