It feels, lately, that we live in particularly dark times. We’re not the first Christians to live through difficult times. In fact, the whole liturgy of entry into the Church is the story of emerging from darkness into light.
Baptism is the sacrament that brings a person—usually a child or even a baby—into the life of the Church. Baptism is so important that it’s the only sacrament the Church permits lay people to perform in an emergency! And it’s perhaps in baptism that we see and refer to the Holy Spirit most fully.
We know something about the way baptism was administered in the early days from a fourth-century church order. Then, baptism was only available after years of formation, years of having candidates’ motives and lives scrutinized, years of hearing the word of God read, years of being dismissed with prayer before the faithful went on to celebrate the Eucharist.
In the darkness that preceded the dawn of Easter, candidates were taken naked into the water of the baptistery and there plunged under the water three times, pledging their belief in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. When all the new Christians were baptized, the bishop affirmed and sealed their baptism after prayer, for all the faithful to see, with an authoritative gesture: laying his hand on each head, signing each oily forehead once again in the form of a cross, while declaring, “The servant of God is sealed with the Holy Spirit.” To which all replied in a thunderous “Amen!”
Look inside our Holy Spirit Prayer Book.
The servant of God is sealed with the Holy Spirit.
It couldn’t be clearer, could it, that Christians of the fourth century had a special, a unique relationship with the Holy Spirit? And yet for most of us, the Spirit remains the most mysterious part of the Holy Trinity. That may be in part because we don’t spend enough time with the Holy Spirit in prayer; we naturally turn to God the Father or to Jesus.
But if we started to pray to—and with—the Holy Spirit, we too might recover that sense of having been sealed. Of belonging.
Pauline Books & Media is pleased to help, with our beautiful Holy Spirit Prayer Book: Deepen your devotion to the Holy Spirit through these beloved and familiar prayers that include a litany, a Holy Spirit Rosary, and an introduction to praying with Scripture, as well as daily prayers and prayers for various occasions.
In times of darkness and uncertainty, it’s comforting to turn to words that echo with centuries of usage. Words that comforted and sustained our forefathers and foremothers through crises and troubles. We, too, have been sealed by the Spirit in baptism and marked as God’s own: there is nothing in our earthly life that can come between us and the Holy Spirit. At times such as these—and at any time—that’s something worth remembering, and celebrating... and praying.