Even months later, I am still living inside the halo effect of my baptism.
Raising out of the baptismal water that night in Los Angeles, I could literally feel the close presence of Christ securely enfolding me, invisible but palpable. Vic and I took our time walking back to the van. I couldn’t talk, except to say, “I’m so happy.”
…for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” [Heb 13:5]
The joy I felt was unexpected. I had struggled for so many months to impress Catholic priests of the deep hunger I had for baptism. That was all I could think of…the hunger…and the anxiety of not knowing how much longer this hunger would continue.
Even as I had finally found a path to the baptismal font, my emotions on the drive to California had been a mixture of relief in finally “getting on with it” and anxiety about the possibility of being let down once again. Maybe it wasn’t really that easy…that I would have to be a California resident…that I would have to have a sponsor…that I would have to prove I had attended their church for two months. Maybe “after every service” did not include “this service” on Saturday night. Maybe the pastor had gotten sick and had put a sign near the pool…Closed. In my meetings with the priests, I was so used to baptism being problematic that I couldn’t believe it would be that easy.
Jason and Fr. Kevin had each tried to carry me with anticipation through eight months up to the Easter Vigil Mass, mentioning the wonderful ceremony of baptism. But ever since that night in Los Angeles, I can’t imagine anything more wonderful than my own baptism, confirming my new life with Christ.
Even as I write, at this very moment and every day of the year, people from around the world are being baptized in Galilee at the Yardenit Baptismal Site on the Jordan River. Their joy in fulfillment of the promise of Christ is proclaimed by the gospel verse Mark 1:9-11, engraved on the nearby Wall of New Life in more than 80 languages and dialects. Baptism on the Jordan River would also be an amazing experience. But it doesn’t top my baptism.
At Yardenit on the Jordan…and on every continent of the earth…baptisms have taken place for 2000 years every day of the year…on Easter…and on the other 364 days of the calendar. I don’t doubt for a minute that the baptism at Easter Vigil Mass is beautiful and joy-filled. I truly understand the person who anticipates this joy for eight months because the anticipation satisfies their longing.
But the joy of baptism is not constrained nor is it defined by place or liturgical customs. The joy of baptism comes as the overflow of love proclaimed between Christ and Christian. It is the darkness overtaken by Light. It is the radiance that is left behind in a halo of Love that follows us on earth until we arrive home with Christ.
While Deacon Dave was terribly concerned about my being baptized a second time, I still wonder at his apparent lack of concern at my being baptized at all. The catechism assures me that having the intent to get baptized would save me at death, if I should die before I wake. That being true, if I died today, the last 65 days of my life lived on earth as a baptized Christian have been heaven on earth. I would not change a thing!
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Rom 8:38-39]
NEXT: Loose Ends
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