Holy Baptism: The Sacrament
Today we are going to talk about the first Sacrament, Holy Baptism or christening, as it sometimes called. As you know, the Sacrament of Holy Baptism is usually administered at the font in church, and the font itself is near the church door. This is because, just as we enter the church, God’s House, by the door, so we enter the Church, God’s Family, by Baptism. In other words, we become members of the Church by being baptised, though we do not become full members until we are confirmed.
The matter, that is the outward sign, of Baptism is water. Indeed the word font, like the word fountain, comes from the Latin word meaning a spring of water. The earliest Baptisms, before any churches had been built, were administered in streams or rivers or lakes. So in the days of the Apostles, St Philip – the Deacon – was on the road running south from Jerusalem when he met an important official from the court of Candace, Queen of Ethiopia. He was returning home in his chariot and was reading a passage from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah which foretold Our Lord’s Crucifixion. At his invitation Philip got up into the chariot and sat next to him and told him about Jesus and his Resurrection, and about Holy Baptism. After a time they came to a stretch of water, and the man said to Philip, “`Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” (NRSV, Acts 8:36). And Philip told him that if he believed with all his heart, he could be baptised. And the man said that he believed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And the man commanded the chariot to stop and with Philip he went down into the water, and Philip baptised him. And the man “…went on his way rejoicing” (NRSV, Acts 8:39).