Priest: What do you ask of the Church of God?
Priest: What does Faith bring you to?
Catechumen: Life Everlasting.
From the beginning the Church has proclaimed to men the good news of salvation in Christ. And from one who wants the benefit of the good news the response of faith is demanded. To ask for baptism is first of all to ask for the faith of the Church. The Catechumen undergoes a number of exorcisms which are to free the subject from the power of Satan, who has this power in view of original sin. The signification is accomplished by an exhaling of breath, as to blow away something, or figuratively, the act of dispelling the evil spirit. He is also marked with the sign of the Cross. By the cross Christ takes possession of the mind and heart of the Catechumen, fitting him to become a temple of the Blessed Trinity…
Priest: Receive the salt of wisdom: may it avail thee for mercy unto life eternal.
Salt is a condiment meant to flavor foods and also preserve them. Among some peoples it is given to a newly arrived guest in sign of hospitality and friendship. Among the Hebrews it was eaten to symbolize the binding nature of a compact. Christ told the Apostles: “You are the salt of the earth” (Mt 5.13). As salt acts on food to preserve it and keep it from spoiling, Christ’s followers are to influence the world for good and to preserve from corruption the truths He taught them. In the rite of baptism salt is especially a symbol of wisdom–that the subject be given a relish for heavenly doctrine; and a symbol of a blessed immortality…
Then the Priest, with his thumb, touches the ears of the Catechumen, saying, Ephthatha, that is, be opened. Then he touches the nostrils saying, For a savour of sweetness.
Christ used this action and these words in healing the deaf-mute…Here the action and words signify that the inner faculties are being attuned and sharpened to perceive the good news of Christ’s redeeming grace and its fragrance.
Do you renounce Satan? And all his works? And all his allurements?
The Catechumen now publicly renounces the devil three times, corresponding to the later threefold profession of faith. The candidate turns to the West, a symbol of darkness and evil and the lair of evil spirits, and spits in that direction to show loathing for the father of darkness. He then turns to the East, the region of the rising sun…the scene of Christ’s second coming, to swear allegiance to our Lord… We can learn from this that baptism requires a reorientation or conversion of the whole man.
I anoint thee with the Oil of salvation in Christ Jesus our Lord, that thou mayest have eternal life.
The Christian life is a contest and a struggle against the powers of evil. Therefore, as an athlete of Christ the baptismal candidate is anointed with oil, signifying that he is willing to engage in the contest, and that he is being given suppleness and strength for this purpose.
I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
We come now to the most highly symbolic act of the whole rite: baptism in water which signifies and effects the cleansing of the soul, death and burial of the old life that comes from Adam, and resurrection to the new life that comes from union with Christ. No words can tell more eloquently what transpires here than these quotations from Sacred Scripture: “I will pour out on you pure water and you shall be purified. I will cleanse you of all your stains and of all your idols, and I will give you a new heart” (Ez 36.25). “Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself up for it, to consecrate it, cleansing it by water and word, so that He might present the Church to Himself all glorious, with no stain or wrinkle or anything of the sort, but holy and without blemish” (Eph 5.26-27). “Let us make our approach in sincerity of heart and full assurance of faith, our guilty hearts sprinkled clean, our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb 10.22). “Have you forgotten that when we were baptized into union with Jesus Christ we were baptized into His death? By baptism we were buried with Him, and lay dead, in order that, as Christ was raised from the dead in the splendor of the Father, so also we might set our feet upon the new path of life” (Rom 6.3-4). “Baptized into union with Him, you have all put on Christ as a garment” (Gal 3.27). “For in baptism you were buried with Him, in baptism also you were raised to life with Him” (Col 2.12).
I sign thee with the sign of the Cross, and I confirm thee with the Chrism of salvation: the Seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit…
According to long-standing tradition priests and kings are anointed with oil. Christ our High Priest and King of kings received a supernatural anointing from His heavenly Father. So also [this person], newly made a Christian, is given the priestly anointing, because through baptism he shares in the priesthood of Christ… Another reason for the anointing is that baptism imprints on the soul an indelible character, marking one with the sign of membership in the Church and designating the right to participate in her worship. The Christian, as a witness of Christ, receives the seal of the cross as well as the anointing with chrism on his forehead, for he ought to be proud of his faith and to radiate it in an unblushing front, in demeanor redolent of sincerity and conviction. His very body, too, is consecrated and raised up to its proper role as image of the soul. The whole man is engaged in the duty of being a prophet, yes, even a martyr of God. The fragrant perfume in the chrism of anointing signifies the fragrance of a virtuous life that should characterize the new people of God.
Receive this white garment, and see thou carry it without stain before the judgement-seat of our Lord Jesus Christ, that thou mayest have eternal life.
Figuratively [this action is] putting off the old man of sin who stems from Adam. [The] new white garment is a sign of new innocence and purity; or as St. Paul says, “putting on Christ as a garment.” This is reminiscent of our Lord’s parable of the wedding garment.
Receive this burning light, and keep thy baptism, so as to be without blame; keep the commandments of God, that, when the Lord shall come to the nuptials, thou mayest meet Him in the company of all the saints in the heavenly court, and have eternal life, and live for ever and ever. Amen.
In a final ceremony the newly baptized is presented with a lighted candle… This is reminiscent of the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. The present rite points up the truth that baptism is related not only to the past–the sacrifice of Christ; not only to the present–the grace of new birth; but also to the future–the glory of the life to come.