As your child or a close family member prepares for an upcoming baptism, you'll want to familiarize yourself with the most common baptism symbols in order to celebrate the baptism, choose a fitting gift, and help older children understand the symbolism surrounding the items.
Familiar Symbols Used in Baptism
There are five universal symbols of baptism: the cross, a white garment, oil, water, and light. In order to understand these symbols, a basic understanding of the philosophies and stories involved in the Christian Religion can clear up a lot of questions. Baptism is one of the sacraments of the church, and babies being baptized are welcomed as members of the Christian community. It is part of the Christian faith that once a baby has been baptized, heaven is open to him or her.
The cross is a universal symbol of Christianity. You will find this symbol in many Christian rituals, as well as all over the interior of Christian churches. The cross is a symbol coming from Jesus' crucifixion on the cross. Jesus' death was his sacrifice to clear the sins of all mankind, not just his own sins. The cross is one of the most familiar of all Christian symbols.
White is the color of purity, and wearing a white garment during baptism symbolizes that the person being baptized now has a clean slate in the eyes of God. Being born is considered the original sin, and a baby being baptized is cleared of the original sin of being born. The white garment gives the person being baptized the signal that he or she will start a clean life in the eyes of God, and in the church.
Oil is the baptism symbol of the Holy Spirit. Of course, oil also symbolizes the Holy Spirit during other sacraments and religious gatherings. During a baptism, the baby is anointed with oil, as is mentioned several times in the Bible as a symbol of bringing the person and the Holy Spirit together. Oil is thought to bring strength to the person with whom it is anointed.
Water is the Christian symbol of life, as well as a sign of purity and cleansing. While a white garment symbolizes the purity of the person wearing it, the purifying or cleansing quality of water is considered to be something that can purify a person from the outside. Water is the baptism symbol that signifies that life is given to man by God.
Light is the fifth and final baptism symbol and is generated by the passing of a lighted candle. Light, like water, is essential to the survival of life because without the light of the sun, nothing would exist on earth. In addition to being a baptism symbol of the genesis and vitality of life, light is a symbol of Christian faith. When candles are burning, one knows that religious faith is present.
Using Symbols in Baptism
All of the five symbols will be used during a standard church baptism ceremony. The only one that you are responsible for, as a parent or relative, is dressing the child in a white garment before attending the baptism. Of course, your child may receive several cross ornaments or jewelry items as well, from family and friends, but you may want to already have one for your baby to wear during the religious ceremony itself.
You can use these symbols to teach older children about the symbolism surrounding the sacrament of baptism, or you can make a scrapbook with all the symbols, with pictures from the baptism ceremony, to teach the child who was baptized about it several years later.
These symbols are closely interwoven into the Christian faith and can be found in many other sacraments and churches than simply during a baptism ceremony.