Sunday, September 21, 2014
THE REFORM OF INFANT BAPTISM--WHAT IS GOOD AND WHAT ISN'T?
Yesterday I celebrated the Extraordinary Form of infant baptism for a family that requested it.
I've done this now about five times since it was allowed in 2007.
Let me give a brief overview of the Baptismal Rite in the Extraordinary Form:
The priest wears a violet stole over his cassock to begin the celebration (he may also optionally wear a cope that is violet). Thus the first part of Holy Baptism is penitential. This is lost in the revised Ordinary Form.
The sponsors (godparents) role is elevated and the parental role is neglected. There is not problem in the godparents have an exalted role but I do think the neglect of the parental role needed to be revised. Therefore only the godparents respond to the ritual questions and the godmother holds the child. However, the questions are directed to the infant using his/her name but the godparents answer. In the Ordinary Form the questions are not directed (even symbolically an in the EF) toward the infant.
There is not a clear beginning (although it is at the entrance of the church) with the "Sign of the Cross" and greeting. I found this awkward and prefer a more formal greeting. Rather, the priest questions the child with the godparents answering "What do you ask of God's Church?" and "What does Faith offer you? Then the priest gives a brief exhortation about love of God and neighbor to the infant.
Then the priest breathes three times on the infant in the form of a cross and offers the first exorcism expelling the unclean spirit to give place to the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.
Next the priest makes the Sign of the Cross on the infants forehead and heart with his thumb. The one over the heart is omitted in the revised form, the breath of the priest is eliminated as is the first exorcism. Not sure why! I think it is a mistake to have done so.
Then with hands on child and then raised above a powerful "collect" is prayed acknowledging the power of good over Satan and the foulness of wickedness.
Then blessed salt is placed in the child's mouth (not a lot of course) and this is the prayer: "N., Receive the salt of wisdom let it be to thee a token of mercy unto everlasting life. May it make your easy to eternal life. Only then is there the first liturgical greeting by the priest and it is the pontifical greeting not allowed priests in the OF, "Peace be with you." And another collect.
Then the child is admitted into the church building proper with another exorcism: "I exorcise thee, unclean spirit, in the name of the Father...(three signs of the cross), that thou goest out and depart from this servant of God For He command Thee, accursed one, who walked upon the sea and stretched out His right hand to Peter about to sink. Therefore, accursed devil, acknowledge thy sentence and give honor to the living and true God.Give honor to Jesus Christ His Son, and to the Holy Spirit and depart from this servant of God because God and our Lord Jesus Christ..." (Powerful stuff here folks, completed omitted in the revised rite and sadly so!)
Another Sign of the Cross is made on the infants forehead: "And this sign of the Holy Cross, which we make upon the forehead, do thou, accursed devil, never dare to violate...
Then there is the imposition of the priest's hand over the child and another powerful "Collect" is prayed.
Then the priest lays the end of his stole on the candidate as a symbol of his priestly authority and admits the child into the building the symbol of the Church of Christ with an accompanying prayer.
At the entrance to the baptistry, the godparents say the Credo and Pater Noster (in English if desired).
Then there is the Solemn Exorcism (not a minor one).
Then taking some of his spittle (this can be symbolic or omitted) the Ephpheta is prayed with spittle touching the ears and nostrils of the candidate. The Ephpeta if maintained without spittle in the revised rite but the nostrils are not blessed the ears and mouth are which is a good revision.
Then the Godparents still at the entrance to the baptistry are questioned about renouncing Satan.
Then the child is anointed on the heart with the oil of catechumens. Then the priest changes from violet stole to white (cope changed too if used). All enter the baptistry for the the rest of the question form of the Creed concerning faith.
Then immediately the child is baptized with the godmother holding the child. The water in the font is already blessed prior to the baptism. The revised rite has the blessing of water during the liturgy with a prayer that I think is too long. Blessing the water (using a shorter formula) during the liturgy is a good revision though.
Then the liturgy continues with the Anointing with Chrism, the giving of the white garment and lighted candle. And then there is a dismissal but no formal blessing.
I think a formal blessing at the end was a good revision. Things end rather abruptly.
I prefer the EF order of Baptism. I think though there should be a Liturgy of the Word or a Scripture reading and this is certainly a good revision in the OF.
The older ritual touches the participants in a dramatic way especially with the movement from the world of Satan (falleness) to the Church, the penitential aspect emphasized and redemption achieve in the Church!