Thursday, February 19, 2015

Chrysogonus John's baptism

In John's Gospel, in response to Jesus's statement that man must be born again to see eternal life, Nicodemus asks with insensible literalness, "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter into his mother's womb a second time and be born, can he?"

With due respect to Nicodemus, last Sunday, precisely a week after Chrysogonus John's first birth, we celebrated his second birth, his birth into faith, at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Wake Forest. The baptismal rite began with our pastor, Father Phil Tighe, asking,
"Chrysogonus John, what are you asking of God's Church?"

Chris and Elimika, Chrysogonus's godparents, who held him throughout the baptism and spoke on his behalf, responded,

Father Tighe continued,
"What does faith hold out to you?"

They replied,
"Eternal life."

The baptismal rite opened in the narthex of the church, showing that Chrysogonus John had not yet been welcomed into the community of believers. Father Tighe breathed upon Chrysogonus John three times in the form of a cross as he commanded Satan to give way to the Holy Spirit. He then signed the baby with the cross and placed exorcized salt upon his lips, urging him to maintain a life of uncorrupted wisdom in this corrupted world.

Though they're technically too young to be altar boys, Cyprian and Clement were tasked with holding the book for Fr. Tighe.

After a further exorcism, Father Tighe placed his stole over Chrysogonus John, granting him entrance into the sanctuary of the church. He then led Chris and Elimika, together with Chrysogonus, in procession to the baptismal font as the three of them recited the Apostle's Creed and the Lord's Prayer. The rest of us--Rosemary's parents and sister, friends from the parish, and students and colleagues from St. Thomas More Academy--followed behind in procession up the main isle.

Fr.Tighe places his stole over Chrysogonus John, granting him entrance into the church.

At the baptismal font, Father Tighe performed a final exorcism and touched his spittle to Chrysogonus John's ears and nostrils, recalling Christ's healing of the deaf and the mute by similar means as he himself proceeded to heal our new baby of the spiritual insensibility incurred through original sin. On Chrysogonus John's behalf, the godparents renounced Satan, his works, and his pomps. Father Tighe then anointed him on the breast and between the shoulders with the oil of catechumens, the blessed oil signifying the spiritual combat of living as a Christian in the midst of a fallen world. 

Chrysogonus John is anointed with the oil of catechumens.

Then Father Tighe changed his purple stole for a white one as the period of baptismal preparation gave way to the baptism itself. The changing of color is particularly important since white is the color of the Resurrection, with baptism in the early Church occurring at the Easter Vigil as the Lenten liturgical color of violet gives way to Easter white. Then followed the profession of faith, with Chris and Elimika again speaking on behalf of their godson, and, finally, the baptism itself in Latin with the three-fold pouring of water:
"Chrysogone Johannes, ego te baptizo in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti."

Fr. Tighe pours water over Chrysogonus John's head as he pronounces the baptismal formula.

Following the baptism itself, Chrysogonus John was anointed again, this second time on the crown of his head with the sacred chrism as a symbol of his sharing in Christ's three-fold office of priest, prophet, and king. He will be anointed with this same sacred chrism, but on the forehead, when he receives the sacrament of confirmation. Chrysogonus John also received his lit baptismal candle and a white garment, which he was urged to keep spotless throughout his Christian life.

Fr. Tighe lights Chrysogonus John's baptismal candle from the Easter candle.

Following the baptism, Rosemary was "churched." This brief ritual finds its roots in a traditional Jewish "purification" following childbirth that even Mary underwent in obedience to the law when she presented the Child Jesus at the Temple. Father Tighe led Rosemary to the altar while reciting Mary's Magnificat, her words of praise following the Annunciation. Rosemary held a lit candle and received a special blessing.

Rosemary is churched following Chrysogonus John's baptism.

We have many people to thank following the baptism, first and foremost Chrysogonus John's godparents, Chris and Elimika. Chris has been my good friend since high school, and I was honored last October to be the "best man" when he wed his beautiful bride, Elimika. Rosemary and I are honored, in turn, to have them as godparents for our fourth child. While Chris and Elimika were a little intimidated at the complexity of the ceremony, they did great.

Chris and Elimika with Chrysogonus John...

Special thanks, too, to Father Tighe, our pastor at St. Catherine's, who was willing to conduct the baptism according to the older form. Though he has been celebrating a weekly Traditional Latin Mass for the parish for a few years now, this was his first "extraordinary form" baptism. He and I worked through it together on Friday afternoon, especially Chrysogonus John's name in the various declensions in which it appears in the rite (the endings of nouns change in Latin depending on their grammatical function in a sentence). Father Tighe did a great job, and we're deeply grateful. It meant a lot to be able to have the baptism at our own parish, and at the hands of our own parish priest.

Fr. Tighe with newly baptized Chrysogonus John

Fr. Tighe, the godparents, and the newly expanded Klein family.

We are also grateful to Rosemary's parents and youngest sister, Rebecca, who traveled from Wisconsin to help out at the time of Chrysogonus's birth. They were an immense help, especially as I returned to teaching just a few days after the birth. We're happy they were able to stay long enough to witness the baptism and even, staying as long as they did, make it safely back home through the mountains during the snow storm.

The Klein/Korish family

A big 'thank you,' finally, to everybody who came to St. Catherine's to witness the baptism. I talked it up to my freshman Latin and junior philosophy students and was edified to see so many of them present on Sunday, together with colleagues and many of our friends from the parish. 'Thank you,' finally, to all my colleagues and our friends who are bringing us meals and helping in other ways. 

A group picture following the baptism.

Big brother Cletus walking around in his new 'big boy' shoes.

Thanks, too, to owner of Lumpy's in downtown Wake Forest, who let us bring a cake and occupy his ice cream parlor for an hour or more as we celebrated.

Some of junior philosophy students helping to cut and distribute cake at Lumpy's.

Hanging out at Lumpy's.

Cletus pretty much captured our collective sentiments on Sunday evening when we finally got home.

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