Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (To the Greater Glory of God)
For: Saturday, April 11, 2009
The Resurrection of the Lord -- The Easter Vigil
From: Romans 6:3-11
 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were
baptized into His death?  We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into
death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we
too might walk in newness of life.
 For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be
united with Him in a resurrection like His.  We know that our old self was cru-
cified with Him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer
be enslaved to sin.  For He who has died is freed from sin.  But if we have
died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.  For we know that
Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has domi-
nion over him.  The death He died He died to sin once for all, but the life He
lives He lives to God.  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin
and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
1-11. The universal dominion of sin, which began with the sin of Adam, is not the
only event to be reckoned with. When sin reached its full extent, the grace brought
by Jesus Christ came in superabundance. Through Baptism this grace reaches
each of us and frees us from the control of sin. When we receive this Sacrament
we die: that is to say, our blameworthiness is destroyed, we renounce sin once
and for all, and are born again into a new life.
"The Lord", St. Ambrose tells the newly baptized, "who wanted His benefactions
to endure, the serpent's plans to be turned to naught, and the harm done to be
put right, delivered a sentence to mankind: 'You are dust, and to dust you shall
return' (Genesis 3:19), and made man subject to death [...]. The remedy wa
given him: man would die and rise again [...]. You ask me how? [...] Pay
attention. So that in this world too the devil's snare would be broken, a rite was
instituted whereby man would die, being alive, and rise again, being alive [...].
Through immersion in water the sentence is blotted out: 'You are dust, and to
dust you shall return'" ("De Sacramentis", II, 6).
This passage of the epistle, which reveals the key truths concerning Baptism,
also reminds us of the profound meaning of this rite which Christ established, its
spiritual effects in Christians and its far-reaching effects with respect to the Chris-
tian life. Thus, we can apply to Baptism what St. Thomas Aquinas says about
all the sacraments: "Three aspects of sanctification may be considered--its very
cause, which is Christ's Passion; its form, which is grace and the virtues; and its
ultimate end, which is eternal life. And all these are signified by the sacraments.
Consequently, a sacrament is a sign which is both a reminder of the past, that
is, of the Passion of Christ, and an indication of what is effected in us by Christ's
Passion, and a foretelling and pledge of future glory" ("Summa Theologiae", III,
q. 60, a. 3).
In the specific case of Baptism, the various things which the Sacrament implies
carry a special nuance--a new birth which presupposes a symbolic death. It
reproduces in us not only the Passion, Death and burial of Christ, symbolized by
immersion in water (verses 3-4, 6), but also new life, the life of grace which pours
into the soul, enabling the person to share in the Resurrection of Christ (verses
4-5). This sharing in Christ's Resurrection to immortal life is a kind of seed which
will ultimately produce the glorious resurrection of our bodies.
The baptized person is, therefore, someone newly created, someone born into a
new life, someone who has moved out of darkness into light. The white garment
used at Baptism symbolizes innocence and grace; the burning candle, the light
of Christ--two symbols the Church uses in the baptismal liturgy to signify what
Thus, in Baptism, God "removes every trace of sin, whether original or personal"
("The Rite of Baptism", Introduction, 5) and also remits the penalties that these
sins incur. On being baptized in the name of the Three Divine Persons, the
Christian is shown God the Father's love for him (a love he has not merited), is
given a share in the Paschal Mystery of the Son, and to him is communicated
new life in the Spirit (cf. "Instruction on Infant Baptism", 20 October 1980, 9).
Baptism, which is also described as "the door of the spiritual life", unites a per-
son to Christ and to the Church by means of grace, which makes us children
of God and heirs to Heaven. Finally, in addition to the infused virtues and super-
natural gifts, the person is given "the graces necessary to live in a Christian way,
and on his soul is impressed the sacramental character which makes him a
Christian for evermore" ("St. Pius X Catechism", 250).
Baptism, which confers a "character", that is, a kind of seal confirming our
Christian calling, gives us a share in Christ's priesthood and makes us capable
of receiving the other sacraments.
4. It is easier to grasp the symbolism of burial and resurrection if one remembers
that in earlier times, and particularly in the apostolic period, Baptism was usually
administered by immersion in water--in some cases by total immersion, up to
three times, with one Person of he Blessed Trinity being invoked each time.
"They asked you, 'Do you believe in God the Father almighty?' You said, 'I be-
lieve', and you were immersed, that is, you were buried. Again they asked you,
'Do you believe in our Lord Jesus Christ and in His Cross?' You said, 'I believe',
and you were again immersed. This time you have been buried with Christ, and
he who is buried with Christ rises with Christ. For a third time you were asked,
'Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?' You said, ' I believe', and for a third time you
were immersed, so that by this three-fold confession you might be loosed of
your many attachments to your past life" (St. Ambrose, "De Sacramentis", II, 7).
Today Baptism is normally administered by pouring water over the head -- a
method also used in apostolic times and which gradually came into general use
because it was found more convenient.
5. Just as the ingraft and the plant form a single thing and make a single prin-
ciple of life, Christians by being grafted onto or incorporated into Christ through
Baptism form one single thing with Him and begin to draw on His divine life. We
are also "united with Him in a death like His": Christ suffered physical death; we,
in Baptism, die spiritually to the life of sin. St. John Chrysostom explains this as
follows: "Baptism is for us what the Cross and burial were for Christ; but with
this difference: the Savior died physically, He was physically buried, whereas we
ought to die spiritually. That is why the Apostle does not say we are 'united with
Him with His death', but 'in a death like his'" ("Hom. on Rom.", 10).
9-10. Jesus Christ chose to bear all the consequences of sin, even though He
was sinless. His voluntary death on the Cross and His glorious Resurrection
broke the bonds of death, for Himself and for all His own. Death no longer shall
have dominion: "[Christ died] that through death He might destroy him who has
the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of
death were subject to lifelong bondage" (Hebrews 2:14-15). And as a conse-
quence He won, for His own human nature and for us, a new life.
In all those who have been baptized these same events in Christ's life are in
some way reproduced. "Our past sins have been wiped out by the action of grace.
Now, so as to stay dead to sin after Baptism, personal effort is called for, although
God's grace continues to be with us, providing us with great help" (Chrysostom,
"Hom. on Rom.", 11). This personal effort might be encapsulated in a resolution:
"May we never die through sin; may our spiritual resurrection be eternal" (St. J.
Escriva, "Holy Rosary", 1st Glorious Mystery).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.
Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States. We encourage readers to purchase
The Navarre Bible for personal study. See Scepter Publishers for details.
"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." -- St Jerome
"The Father uttered one Word; that Word is His Son, and He utters Him forever
in everlasting silence: and in silence the soul has to hear it.
-- St John of the Cross