Our Life in Christ
Living the Sacraments
Rev. P. F. Crudden
A.C.T.S. No 1481 (1966)
In the striking words of St. Paul, Baptism is the putting on of "a new
nature created after the likeness of God in the true righteousness and
holiness". (Eph. 4:24)
Through this sacrament we come alive in a new way "As in the first Adam
all died," wrote St. Paul, "so in the new Adam all are made alive." ( 1 Cor. 15:22) This essay is an
attempt to show something of the newness of life that Baptism creates
in us so that we may live that life to the full. Since most of us were
baptized in infancy, the present task could equally well be described
as an attempt to show how we can ratify by an adult commitment the way
of life that was opened up to us by the gift, and powers we received at
In this study there will be four sections corresponding to the four
stages of the history of salvation.
TIME OF PREPARATION
God the Creator:
What happens in Baptism simply cannot be understood except as a further
step towards that completeness which God intended for all men when he
made them in his own image and likeness.
God created man as a partner in a dialogue, a partner who can recognize
his creator, speak to him. love him and live for him.
Despite the fact that at an earlier time we enjoyed a relationship of
friendship with God. there can be no doubt that in the present Order of
the world, an order that had its origin in the rejection of God's
friendship, the dialogue between God and man reaches its high point in
Christ. Christ in a single action forgave the sin we had inherited and
raised us to a new level of union with God. For us the first experience
of this new mode of life comes through Baptism. In Christ the earthly man becomes the heavenly man,
and this in a twofold sense. Not only may man live the life of a Son of
God here and now, but he has in himself the germ of a future way of
life. After death we shall not lose our identity but reach that stage
of communion with the glorified Christ to which God's creative activity
in drawing man from the dust of the earth, in making him capable of
true dialogue and in giving him the status of sonship with Christ, is
Water and the Holy Spirit:
In the biblical view of creation God, by the power of his spirit, first
created order out of the chaos of waters and then drew life from it.
At the time of Noah, water destroyed those who would not honour God;
but it became a means of salvation and the way to a new life for those
who were willing to honour God. We are not being remiss in looking back
to Noah for a deeper understanding of Baptism for St. Peter wrote in
his first epistle,
"That ark, . . . in which a few Souls,
eight in all, found refuge as they passed through the waves, was a type
of the Baptism which saves us now."
(I Peter 3:20)
At the time of Moses, the Israelites were saved by the journey through
the waters of the Red Sea; they were given living water to sustain them
in the desert and they passed through the waters of the river Jordan to
their new life in the promised land.
Naaman, the leper, experienced the saving gift of God by bathing in the
waters of the Jordan. By this simple means he was cured of his leprosy.
The prophet, Ezekiel, looking ahead to Messianic times, promised that
God would pour out on the world his living water.
"Give Israel, then, this message from
the Lord God: . . . I will pour cleansing water over you, to purge you
from every stain you bear, purge you from the taint
of your idolatry. I will give you a new heart, and breathe a new spirit
into you: I will take away from your breasts those hearts that are hard
as stone and give you human hearts instead." (Ezek 36: 25-26)
The power of water to purify and re-create comes from the spirit of
God. This prophecy is fulfilled in the gift of the Spirit and in
the exercise of his power in the Sacrament of Baptism.
The Jewish people had their own baptismal rite in which water was a
sign of cleansing from sin, of repentance and forgiveness. The last
prophet to administer "a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of
sin" was St. John the Baptist. His baptism was not yet a christian
sacrament; but it contained one element that remained valid. It was a
ritual expression of a man's turning away from sin towards God. It
still remains a condition of entry into the kingdom of God that we
should repent and believe the Gospel.
TIME OF FULFILMENT
The Circumcision of Christ:
Any study of the sacraments must carry us back to the life of Christ
because we do not come to an understanding of a sacrament until we see
it as an act of Christ by which some event in his life becomes
effective in our lives.
In his infancy, Christ was taken to the temple to be circumcised, much
as a baby would be taken to a church for Baptism today. His
circumcision incorporated him publicly and officially into the people
of Israel. The fact of God the Son made man being circumcised was a
truly remarkable way of teaching that he had come to fulfil the work
that God had begun with Abraham. Circumcision was the sign of a
covenant between God and Abraham. Christ was the fulfilment of the
promise made to Abraham, "in you. all the races of the world shall find
a blessing." (Gen. 12:3) A
further promise made to Abraham is fulfilled in the baptized who become
his children through their union with Christ, "You shall be the father
of a multitude of nations." (Gen.
Circumcision of the Heart:
The prophet, Jeremiah, pointed out to the Israelites that circumcision
of the body, which was a sign of their covenant with God, had to be
accompanied by a heart that welcomed the message of God.
"You must be circumcised afresh, men of
Judah. Citizens of Jerusalem, rid yourself of heart's defilement, if
you would not see my vengeance burst into unquenchable flame." (Jer. 4:4)
Only by fulfilling God's will could Israel be an acceptable people.
The circumcision of Christ, therefore, became effective in the way he
carried out the will of God, especially in his passion. By Baptism its
fruits are applied to us. St. Paul refers to this matter on six
separate occasions in his letters. He indicates to us that Christ has
taken away the need for circumcision of the body; but circumcision cf
the heart, dedication to God, is stilt required of us.
"Here is . . . no more circumcised and
uncircumcised; . . . there is nothing but Christ in any of us. You are
God's people holy and well beloved. Put on then, as God's chosen ones.
holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness and
patience . . . . And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in
the name of the Lord." (Col 3: 11-17)
Our commitment to Christ, in virtue of Baptism, is a commitment to the
will of God. Our hearts are circumcised and we become the true people
of God through devotion to his will.
"There is no virtue either in
circumcision or want of it; it is
keeping the commandments of God that signifies." (1 Cor. 7:19).
The Law of Incarnation:
Christ's circumcision gave an indication of the path he was to follow
in working out our salvation. He was by birth a child of Abraham,
presumably with the physical and psychological graces and limitations
of this subject people. By his circumcision he made his own the
religious history of this people. In a word, he undertook to work out
our salvation according to the law of incarnation.
This law is perhaps best stated by St. Paul who said of Christ that he
became like to us in all things except sin. When Christ was on earth
people got to know him by seeing what he did and hearing what he said.
However, despite these limitations of his divine power, he had within
himself the means by which all men for all time could become children
of God with him. The law of incarnation would carry over into the
Church to accomplish this. Christ's actions are now continued by sign
in the Church, so that, for instance, when a man baptizes it is Christ
who baptizes. We must, therefore, see Baptism as a culminating event,
intimately associated with the law by which Christ worked out our
salvation, in a story that begins with the call of Abraham.
The Baptism of Christ:
Christ's public ministry commenced with his baptism in the Jordan We
might say that by this event he ratifies by an adult commitment the
circumcision he had received in infancy. In any event, his baptism
inaugurates and clarifies his redemptive activity.
In speaking of Christ's baptism we must ask why he accepted "a
baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin" when he was like us
in all things except sin. A possible answer is that he
wanted to express concretely the fact that he had
entered fully into our sinful situation, although he was personally
free from sin, and undertaken to rescue us from our sinful condition.
God was pleased with the gesture of his Son and commissioned him for
the Work he had come to do: "You are my beloved son: with you I am well
pleased". (Mark 1:11) So fully
had Christ entered into our sinful situation that the Holy Spirit came
upon him to strengthen him for the work he had undertaken to do.
Christ's Baptism and Our Own:
Although Christ's baptism was quite different from our own, it
anticipates many elements of the sacrament we have. First and foremost
we have the presence of the three persons of the Holy Trinity. Then we
have the fact that Christ's baptism was a baptism by water and the Holy
Spirit; Whose power he received. In addition Christ's baptism was a
vocation in the sense that it committed him to the work of God. Later
on he grew impatient for the fulfilment of this vocation. "I have a
baptism to be baptized with; and how am I constrained until it is
accomplished." (Luke 12:50)
The relevance of this to us is that Christ was baptized into his death;
his real baptism was to be a baptism of blood. That is why John pointed
him out as the Lamb of God. The salvation of the world was dependent on
this commitment to death that Christ freely made. The fruits of this
salvation became available to us through baptism; but for them to
exercise their full power in us for our salvation and the salvation of
the world, we have to identify ourselves with Christ in his dedication
to the Father. This was expressed earlier by saying that we must ratify
by an adult commitment the gift we have received in infancy. Finally,
after Christ had humbled himself by going down into the waters. he was
exalted by his Father and the Holy Spirit. The significance of this is
that Christ was baptized into glory as well as into death. What was
true of Christ becomes true for us. In accepting baptism we take up the
cross with Christ (by undertaking to live according to God's will); but
we take up the cross in the sure knowledge that Christ has gone before
us and won a victory on our behalf.
The Early Public Life:
Christ set out with a will to do his Father's work and preached the
gospel in Galilee. At first his teaching was welcomed. People flocked
to hear him and to be healed by him. As the number of his miracles
increased, enthusiasm for him grew. There was even an attempt to make
him a king. But most were mistaken about the kind of kingdom Christ had
come to establish and apparently they expected him to restore the
political prestige of Israel. The kingdom of which he spoke was neither
a territory nor a form of government but his Father's rule in love over
the hearts of men. Ultimately he was to establish this kingdom in the
world by his loving fidelity to his Father.
Our entry today into the kingdom that Christ established is by Baptism.
But the conditions that Christ laid down for membership in his kingdom
still apply. We must repent, that is to say we must turn away from sin
and turn towards the living God, if we are to ratify our Baptism. Once
in the kingdom of God we must live according to the standards that
Christ set in his early preaching of the kingdom. It is not sufficient,
for instance, that we should experience the compassion of Christ in our
own lives. We are also expected to exercise the compassion of Christ
because membership in the kingdom is simply incorporation in Christ. It
is still a part of the christian ministry that the blind should see,
the deaf hear, the dumb speak, the lame walk, the hungry be fed and the
poor have the gospel preached to them. The condition for the growth of
the kingdom of God in the world began to be clarified right from the
beginning of the public ministry by Christ's preaching and by his way
of life. It has been beautifully stated in the Constitution on the
Church from the Second Vatican Council.
"Just as Christ carried out the work of
the redemption in poverty and persecution, so the Church is called to
follow the same road that it might communicate the fruits of salvation
to men.... Thus, the Church, although it needs human resources to carry
out its mission, is not set up to seek earthly glory, but to proclaim,
even by its own example, humility and self-sacrifice."
(The Constitution on the Church, Par.
The Church can set the example of humility and self-sacrifice only in
so far as individual members of the Church, the baptized, live in
imitation of Christ.
The Theme of Conflict:
As time passed, opposition to Christ grew. The further he clarified his
own role in the World and the nature of the kingdom he had come to
preach the more persistent and hostile the opposition to him. The
Pharisees, who were the antithesis of all that he preached and stood
for, resolved to hunt him down mercilessly. What ultimately led to the
death of Christ was the rejection of his claim to be the Son of God and
the rejection of the message of salvation he had come to bring. "This
is my beloved Son." God said. "You are Beelzebub,
the prince of devils," said the Pharisees. Eventually they condemned
Christ for blasphemy and accused him of "perverting the people". The
opposition to Christ culminated in his death on the cross, the baptism
he had at one moment feared and at another moment longed for.
There is no doubt that this theme of conflict must be lived out by the
christian who by vocation- is a sign of contradiction in the world. In
bearing witness by values such as humility, poverty, chastity,
obedience, the christian must run in some way counter to those who live
by power. wealth, indulgence and self-sufficiency. Within his own self
he will experience the tensions that came from trying to balance
ordinary care in human affairs with detachment and confidence in God's
providence. In a sense our greatest motive for confidence is itself a
cause of tension, because the victory that Christ won over sin must be
won daily in the life of the christian.
The Hour of Christ:
Christ came into the world with a work to do. He had to preach and
establish God's kingdom. During the whole of- his life he gave all his
human energy to this work. It was love for God and for his fellow men
that prompted him- to do so. Eventually he saw that the fulfilment of
the work he came to do would be through his death. According to the
pattern of behaviour he had established during his life, he faced death
with generous love. He did this, as he tells us himself, so that "the
world may know that I love the Father, and that I have done as the
Father has commanded me." (John
14:13) In his death, therefore. Christ was perfectly faithful to
his Father and to the mission he had received. Out of love he was
obedient to death. By this obedience mankind was saved.
However, we must understand that Christ died to become the risen
saviour. His resurrection followed his death not so much as a reward
for faithful service but as something much more intimate. As Our Lord
himself pointed out it is more a matter of the grain of wheat dying in
order to bring forth fruit. The passion and the resurrection are a
single redemptive process by which Christ wins new life for mankind in
the gift of the Spirit.
The final act in the passage of Christ to his Father, which is at the
one time his glorification and the salvation of men, is his return to
his Father's side. At his Father's side his intercession continues
forever. We experience this intercession in the gift of the Spirit who
makes possible the continuance of Christ's hour in us and through us.
Our entrance into this hour is through the sacrament of Baptism.
By Baptism we are drawn into the very life of Christ in such a way that
we become "other Christs". The Holy Spirit recreates in all of us the
love which motivated Christ. This becomes a source of peace and joy in
us; but it also becomes a motive for redemptive action. Paul emphasized
"For the love of Christ controls us,
because we are convinced that one
died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, that those who live might no longer live
for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was
raised." (2 Cor. 5:14-15.)
Christ's Teaching of Baptism:
To Nicodemus Christ said, "Unless one is born of water and the Spirit
he cannot enter the kingdom of God." (John 3:5) These words took on
their full meaning in the water and blood that flowed from Christ's
side on Calvary. The water was symbolic of the new life won for men by
the death of Christ. It became the principal sign of the sacrament of
Baptism by which Christ brings new life to men through the power of the
It is worth mentioning as an aside that that blood which flowed from
the side of Christ was a symbol of his redemptive death. It directs our
attention to the Eucharist, the sacrament in which Christ's redemptive
work is commemorated and continued. So important is this sacrament that
our initiation into the Church, commenced at Baptism, is completed by
our full participation in the Eucharist.
Teaching Through Miracles:
St. John's account of the healing of the man born blind narrates how
Christ spread clay on the man's eyes and sent him to the pool of Siloam
to wash. In the washing his sight was restored. St. John saw in this
action an exercise of that same power by which we are illuminated, our
eyes are opened, by the waters of Baptism.
The idea of Christ bringing about a transition from darkness
(blindness) to light (sight) in us is one that appealed greatly both to
St. John and to St. Paul. "The same God who bade light shine out of
darkness," wrote St. Paul, "has kindled a light in our hearts." (2 Cor. 4:6) One of the names given
to Baptism in the early church was "the sacrament of illumination". By
this sacrament we are incorporated into Christ who is the light of the
world. Christ warned us not to hide the light enkindled in us but to
let it shine before men so that they might come to the knowledge of
The promise of Baptism is to be seen in other miracles of Christ, such
as the raising of Lazarus from the dead and the casting out of evil
spirits. There is no space to comment on these miracles except perhaps
to say that the institution of this sacrament by Christ was something
that commenced at his own baptism and continued through his public life
until his death on the cross.
The Command to Baptize:
Christ commissioned his apostles to preach and to baptize. "Go into all
the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes
and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be
condemned." (Mark 16:16)
The apostles accepted Christ's commission and began their work from the
day of Pentecost. We may read in the Acts of the Apostles evidence for
the tie between preaching, faith, and baptism. What is pre-supposed by
this is that a profession of faith is crowned by the sacrament of
"For in Christ Jesus you are all sons
of God through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ
have put on Christ." (Gal. 3:25-26)
The faith required for Baptism in the early Church was centred on the
risen Christ. It was a response to God in Christ, a response that was
invited by the apostolic preaching. It implied a self-gift to Christ so
complete that it transformed the entire life of the believer.
"The life I now live in the flesh I
live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
It was a life of membership in the body of Christ. The baptized were
the new people of God, a people with one God and Father, one body and
one spirit, a people with one Lord, one faith, one baptism.
We live at present in an era which commenced at Pentecost and which
will end at the second coming of Christ. It is an era which has rightly
been described as the time of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. By the
power of the Holy Spirit, Christ continues his redemptive mission
amongst men through signs. The principal sign through which Christ acts
today is the Church and its sacraments.
Currently one often hears the church called a pilgrim Church, a Church that presses forward amid the
persecution of the world and the consolations of God towards the second
coming of Christ. In its journey the Church has to face
challenges from within itself and from forces opposed to God in the
world; but it enjoys the power of the risen Christ and in the assurance
of that power it tries to manifest the mystery of Christ to the world.
However, it can do this effectively only in so far as its individual
members, accepting their vocation to take up the cross with Christ,
present themselves as "a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God." (Rom. 12:1 )
For an insight into this aspect of the vocation of christians it is
worth looking at the dialogue between priest and godparent (and/or
parent) in the baptismal ceremony.
Priest: What do you ask of the Church of
Priest: What does faith
Godparent: Eternal life.
Priest: If then you desire
to enter life, keep the commandments. "You shall love the Lord your God
with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole
mind; and you shall love your neighbour as yourself."
The faith we receive as a gift in Baptism is our means of entry into
eternal life on condition that we live by faith. In order to see what
it means to live by faith we must understand that faith is both a
commitment to Christ and a vocation to charity. Later on we shall see
that the man who is committed to Christ must live in Christ. For the
moment we will consider faith in so far as it is a vocation to charity.
Although faith offers us eternal life, we cannot expect to be saved
unless we persevere in charity. Expressed positively this means that
our christian vocation is to love God and to love our fellow men. This
is why, as well as receiving the gift of faith in Baptism, we also
receive the gift of hope. which enables us to persevere in the Christ
life in the face of difficulties, and the gift of charity, which
enables us to love God and our fellow men with the love of Christ made
available to us through the gift of the Spirit.
A Seal, or Character:
Our love for God will naturally express itself in worship. In Baptism
we receive a character, often called a mark or sign, which is God's
seal. This character is said to give us a share in the priesthood of
Christ. The priesthood that the laity receive in this way differs
essentially from the priesthood of an ordained priest; but it is a true
priesthood, called by Saint Peter a royal priesthood. The People of God
exercise this priesthood by joining in the offering of the Eucharist,
in receiving the other sacraments, in prayer, in thanksgiving, in the
witness of a life lived for God, in self-denial and in active charity.
God seeks true adorers, people who will worship him in spirit and in
truth. The baptized may worship in spirit and in truth by joining
wholeheartedly in the perfect act of worship offered to the Father by
Christ on Calvary and continued now at his Father's side. The character
received at baptism fits us to join in this worship. The spirit in
which God is adored by christians is indicated by Saint Paul:
"Those who follow the leading of God's
spirit are all God's sons; the spirit you have now received is not, as
of old, a spirit of slavery, to govern you by fear: it is the spirit of
adoption. which makes us cry out, Abba, Father." (Rom. 8:14-15)
To adore God is to acknowledge his fatherhood. We do not do this out of
a sense of obligation; we do it spontaneously in recognition of his
goodness in adopting us as his sons. What we say to God in worship is,
in effect, "Father, your will be done." We do not utter this cry alone.
We make it in union with Christ. It is an expression of our will to
live for God in the whole of our lives and with the whole of our being.
It is a recognition of the fact that we are made for God, baptized into
Christ and consecrated by the gift of the spirit.
As well as expressing itself in worship our love for God will express
itself in our love for our fellow men. Our love for our fellow men, if
it is to be more than lip service, must express itself in sharing.
First and foremost, we will want to share our most valued gifts, the
saving graces we have received and our knowledge of the truth. We know
the needs of our fellow men and we know, too, that God wills all men to
be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth. What we are slow to
admit is that it is really within the power of every christian to bring
the knowledge and love of God to other people.
We ought to be grateful, therefore, that the Constitution on the Church makes it
so clear that, provided our lives are permeated by a genuine Christian
spirit, we may in the course of our ordinary daily living, whether at
work, or at home or in the company of our friends, help to bring men to
God. In regard to family life the Constitution says,
"The christian family proclaims the
present virtues of the kingdom of God and hope in the blessed life to
come. Thus, by its example and witness it accuses the world of sin and
enlightens those who seek the truth. Consequently. even when
preoccupied with temporal matters, the laity can and should perform a
work of great value for the evangelization of the world." (Par. 35.)
Looked at negatively Baptism is the sacrament of the washing away of
original sin. Looked at positively it is the sacrament of our entry
into the kingdom of God, the sacrament which confers an us an apostolic
responsibility for our fellow men and the grace to discharge that
Growth Through Charity:
It is not sufficient that we should be willing to share our spiritual
resources. When Saint John the Baptist was preparing men for the coming
of the kingdom of God he taught that the man who had two coats ought to
share with the man who had none. The willingness to share material
resources remains a basic condition for the growth of the kingdom of
God in the world and for our own growth within that kingdom. In regard
to the latter point it is not sufficient to understand that our faith
is a vocation to charity. It is also necessary to understand that our
faith grows through the exercise of charity.
When we speak about sharing our material resources we are not thinking
primarily of sharing our superfluous possessions, although in the
present state of the world neither individuals nor nations can afford
to overlook this point. We are speaking more of the necessity of
realizing that the service of others is at the heart of Christ's saving
work. His compassion for others can live on in the world only through
the practical charity of individual christians. Many people, doctors,
teachers, public servants, tradesmen, nurses, shop assistants. legal
men, politicians, union officials, entertainers, housewives, farmers,
factory workers, the list is almost endless, lead lives of valued
service. What Baptism does is to transform this service into positive
redemptive activity. Christianity does not withdraw men from the world.
It gives point and purpose to their involvement in the world.
Paul on Baptism:
In Paul's writings specific references to the sacrament of Baptism and
its consequences for daily living are numerous. Perhaps his most
central thought is that we are caught up by Baptism into the very life
In writing of this favourite theme Paul sees Baptism as a great deal
more than the basis of a relationship of sonship between God and the
individual christian. He is more truly personal in his writing. He
stresses the fact that we are all baptized in the one body of Christ.
In this body each of us has his individual role to fulfil: but together
we constitute a community that is animated so thoroughly by the spirit
of Christ that it can be regarded as a single organism, the body of
Christ. Those who are members of this body are empowered to worship in
the spirit of Christ and to serve with the generosity of Christ.
These realities are caught up in a single phrase that Saint Paul used
more than two hundred times in his writings. He says that the baptized live in Christ. Although the phrase
is an elusive one, we can be sure that it embraces at least the
Life in Christ is a sharing in Christ's
own life through the gift of grace.
Life in Christ is membership in the Church which is his body.
Life in Christ makes possible the continuance of Christ's acts in the
Life in Christ contains the promise of a yet more perfect union with
the glorified Christ after death.
The person who is aware of being baptized into the life of Christ in
this way will try to live according to certain standards:
He will try at all times to carry out
the will of the Father in imitation of Christ.
He will try to honour God by prayer in union with Christ.
He will try to serve others with something of Christ's generosity.
He will try to avoid conduct unworthy of his status as an adopted son
of God - impurity, dishonesty, gluttony and all forms of selfishness
He will try to cultivate what Saint Paul called the fruits of the
Spirit of Christ - peace, patience, forgiveness, justice, mercy,
TO THE FUTURE
The Second Coming of Christ:
God's plan for the world will be completed at the second coming of
Christ when the Son hands the kingdom of the redeemed over to his
Father. Then for the first time we shall understand the wisdom of God's
creation and the grandeur of his love for the world. We shall enter
into a fullness of life quite beyond our present understanding.
"Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
neither has it entered into the heart of man to know what things God
has planned for those who love him."
( 1 Cor. 2:9)
We have seen that Baptism equips us to restore all things in Christ. At
the end of the world, when our task is complete. we who have been one
with Christ here on earth shall be one with him in the fullness of
glory. Our bodies, already temples of the Holy Spirit, shall then rise
glorious and immortal. We shall experience in God our full maturity as
persons made for God. We shall enter into the perfect freedom of sons
of God. Meanwhile we are committed to a life of charity such as will
show the rest of creation that the christian community is an
anticipation of the unity of mind and heart that the blessed enjoy
The Perfection of Adoration:
Although our present worship is a true sharing in the worship offered
by Christ to the Father, it is as yet an imperfect thing. It will find
its perfection in the liturgy of the heavenly court. The prospect of
joining in the perfect adoration of Christ, of the angels and of the
saints in the court of heaven is not one with an immediate appeal. This
is surely because we fail to realize that we shall then be in the
presence of the all holy God and see him face to face. The vision shall
be so complete and shall delight us so fully that we will wish nothing
other than to join in the hymn of praise that is at the same time our
happiness. We may possibly have experienced some anticipation of this
in those fleeting moments of worship either in private prayer or in
ceremony when the burdens of daily living slip temporarily from us and
we seem lost in the timelessness of God.
The Place of the Religious Community:
All are called by Baptism to lead a life of poverty, chastity and
obedience fitted to their state in life. But some members of the Church
have answered a vocation to the religious life and undertaken by vow to
live by poverty, chastity and obedience as a way of life. Such
communities would seem to play an important place in the life of the
church because they anticipate in a unique way the life that awaits the
faithful servant of God in eternity. When these communities are imbued
with a deeply christian and therefore apostolic spirit they make the
final hopes of all the baptized seem more attainable and thus encourage
the pilgrim Church on its way to God.
By Baptism we enter into a life of grace. Grace is a freely given gift
of God that makes it possible for us to live in union with God. By
grace we become sons of the Father, brothers cf Christ and friends of
the Holy Spirit. Provided we are faithful in these relationships they
shall never be taken away from us. They are an anticipation of and a
preparation for the more perfect union with God that will be our heaven.
The life of grace that we now live has its greatest moment in the
celebration of the Eucharist. We are never so truly the People of God
as when we assemble around the altar to offer ourselves with Christ to
God. The sense of community that we ought to experience there, is an
anticipation of the heavenly community, as we have already seen. But in
addition the Eucharist is food for eternal life.
"He who eats my flesh and drinks my
blood has life everlasting and I will raise him up on the last day."
Not the least of the privileges of the baptized is the right to the
nourishment provided by the body of Christ.
However, it should be understood clearly by all the baptized that
anticipations of this kind simply lose their meaning unless we live
uprightly and are zealous for good works. Paul reminds us of this with
his usual insight into the consequences for daily living of the gifts
we have received,
"For the grace of God has appeared for
the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and
worldly passions, and to live sober, upright and godly lives in this
world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our
great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to purify
for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good works."
(Titus 2: 11-14)
Baptism is a new creation. By it there came into being a new kind of
man, one who had not existed before. Christ, the first-born of this new
creation, received his baptism first in the river Jordan and finally on
Calvary. When he rose to new life on Easter Sunday the whole of mankind
rose to new life with him. We begin to live this new life when we are
reborn of water and the creative Spirit through Baptism.
By this sacrament, too, a new type of community comes into being. This
community, which we call the Church, derives its life from Christ and
continues the presence of Christ in the world, being itself the
Mystical Body of Christ.
The baptized are expected to live the lives of sons of God, following
the pattern established by Christ in his life and teaching. They
receive the mission and grace of worshipping the Father in union with
the Son, of bringing men to the knowledge and love of God, and of
establishing God's kingdom in the world by lives of generous service.
The challenge facing the baptized person is to die daily to sin in
himself and to work consciously towards christian maturity.
Already the baptized may live a life of intimate union with God; but
the life they now possess is itself directed towards a completeness
that will consist in sharing fully in the happiness of the glorified