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Friday, February 14, 2003

There's One Architectural Change I Can Live With.

That would be the baptismal immersion pools. Unless, of course, it's used to justify ripping out something else of traditional beauty or value. That, and the warmed water/jacuzzi jet effect is more than a little ridiculous. Done supposedly to simulate the "living waters" thing, but reports of baptisms taking place in Roman baths are unaccountably scarce. Early Catholics preferred their baptismal water cold if at all possible, thank you. Apparently, the thought is that modern folks can't take even a little temporary discomfort.

Bill Cork talked about the fonts yesterday, noting a phenomenon I'd never considered, either:

I was puzzled by the energy that she [Susan Benofy in the Adoremus Bulletin] poured into the discussion--but then came this:

"The option in the Baptismal rite for pouring specifies that the water is to be poured 'on the candidate's bowed head'. It does not say it is to be poured over the whole body, an invention of liturgists, with no precedent in tradition or justification in the current rite.

The only connection pouring water over the whole body has with true immersion is that by either procedure the baptized 'get very, very wet every Easter'. Why build an immersion pool to baptize by pouring?"

And I thought of a video I saw the other day, in which an 8- or 9-year-old girl is standing in a pool, while copious amounts of water are poured on her from a pitcher, while she giggles.

And this Adoremus article suddenly made me realize--I've seen lots of big fonts with waterfalls and stacked terraces, but not a one where it was possible to immerse an adult. In each case, they were built to allow for an adult to stand (or kneel) in some water, and have water poured from a pitcher or a shell over their head.

"Why build an immersion pool to baptize by pouring?"


That is bizarre: I, too, have never seen a font that could immerse an adult who was not also a practicing contortionist. Weird.

Benofy's article is worthwhile, pointing out the usual tedious Liturspeak defending immersion pools, and noting that there is no particular emphasis on immersion in the documents that matter.

However, a good argument can be made that immersion is a fuller sacramental sign of the reality of baptism. From Romans 6:

3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

St. Paul's comparison of the burial of Christ with baptism would tend to favor immersion as the better sign of what baptism is--regenerative, and rising to new life. Not that that St. Paul's language compels it, though. For instance, in Acts 2:41, it is revealed that 3000 were baptized in Jerusalem following St. Peter's Pentecost sermon. Given that the water supply for baptism involved cisterns, it seems highly unlikely that the authorities would have permitted immersion, especially of so many people. Plus, see the first link above, which is to the Didache, which gives a feel as to the early attitude towards baptismal form.

But, if you are going to do immersion--do immersion. It's clear that, as is often the case, the Liturgy People have missed the point by installing quasi-jacuzzis that are too small.

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