In our daily life, we use many different signs and symbols to express many different things. We use flags to express patriotism, stop signs to regulate traffic, and even words and letters to indicate “something else.” Some signs, like street lights, only point to immediate, temporal realities. Other signs and symbols point to realities that are greater than any particular sign. They indicate transcendent realities, spiritual realities, and human realities such as love, patriotism, and the value of the human person. At the same time, signs can be classed as extrinsic or integrated. An extrinsic symbol can be something like the name of a person or the painting of a person. They stand in place of the person, but they are not immediately connected to that person. An integrated sign, on the other hand, can be seen in the extension of my hand in friendship. My hand is integrated with my person, through it I express myself and my love in the most direct way, even though my hand is not me nor does it fully express my love. In the same way, sacraments are signs, symbols through which God has promised to act directly. He has integrated them into His work of grace; they are the most direct way in which He manifests His love and mercy, His very presence. Thus, sacraments are outward signs of inward grace.
While the sacramental sign of Baptism is the washing with water and Trinitarian proclamation; other symbols, what we call sacramentals, have been added in order to give expression to the central mystery, event, that is taking place. There is the symbol of oil, a lighted candle, the white garment, and many others which come together to form what we know as the “Rite of Baptism.”
The links below walk through the Rite of Baptism. The complete text for the Rite is given with accompanying commentary in blue text. The Rite has an order and structure to it that can only be understood in light of its history and development. The commentary will attempt to show how all the parts are related to each other and come together in an organic whole.