Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Sacrament of Baptism - By St. Thomas Aquinas

Having considered the Sacraments in general, it is now necessary to say something about each one in particular. First, we consider Baptism, of which it must be known that the matter of this Sacrament is natural water, and it makes no difference whether it is cold or warm. In artificial waters, however, such as rose water, one cannot baptize. The form of Baptism is: "I baptize thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost." The minister of Baptism ordinarily is the priest, whose office it is to baptize. In case of necessity, however, not only a deacon but also any lay person, even a pagan or a heretic, can baptize as long as he observes the form specified by the Church, and intends to act according to the intention of the Church. If a person is baptized by these not in a case of necessity, he received the Sacrament and must not again be baptized; but the grace of the Sacrament is not received, because such persons are not truly deputed to baptize outside of cases of necessity, and, hence, they act contrary to the law of the Church regulating reception of the Sacraments.[14]


The effect of Baptism is to remit both original and actual sin as well as all guilt and punishment which they incur. No kind of punishment must be enjoined for past sins upon those just newly baptized. Hence, those who die immediately after Baptism are admitted to the glory of God without delay. The effect, therefore, of Baptism is the opening of the gates of paradise.


There have been certain errors concerning this Sacrament. The first was that of the Solentiani, who received a baptism not of water but of the spirit. Against them the Lord says: "Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."[15] The second error was that of the Donatists, who re-baptized those who had been baptized by the Catholics. Against them it is written: "One faith, one baptism."[16] They also err in holding that a man in the state of sin cannot baptize. Against them it is said: "He upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining upon Him, He it is that baptizeth."[17] It is thus seen that a minister who is himself evil does not invalidate either this or any of the other Sacraments, because it is Christ who, by the merits of His passion, gives to each Sacrament its efficacy; and He is good. The fourth error is that of the Pelagians who say that children must be baptized because by their regeneration they, as adopted children of God, are admitted into the kingdom, but by this regeneration they are not freed from original sin.


14. The priest is the ordinary minister of Baptism. In case of necessity, however, anyone who observes the proper form and intention can baptize validly but not licitly; and an adult who permits himself to be baptized without necessity by a layman would be acting illicitly, but the baptism is valid. For such conduct places an "obex" (obstacle or hindrance) to the reception of grace. The grace of the Sacrament is revived ("reviviscitur") with at least contrition, and probably attrition, or simply by an act of perfect contrition.

No comments: