May 17, 2009
Why do some churches baptize by pouring water on the forehead and others by immersion?
Is one way better than the other?
In terms of what baptism means and accomplishes – escape from sin and death into the life of the Risen Jesus – immersion is no better than pouring. But in the dramatic power of the symbol of the water, immersion is better.
The power of the sacrament of baptism is not from the method of bringing the water into play, but from the direction given to the pouring or the immersion by the words of Jesus, who commanded us to baptize “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit,” (Matthew
Saint Paul said, “Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of
life” (Romans 6:3–4). Down into the death of Jesus, and up again into a new life.
Even on the level of symbol and drama, a trickle of water is still water. It still means and symbolizes life, as in drinking and cooling. It also symbolizes death, as in a hurricane or a drowning. This union of words and water in the Church makes this action the sacrament of baptism. John Hamrogue, C.Ss.R.
© 2009 Liguori Publications, Liguori, MO 63057-9999. Printed in U.S.A. Imprimatur: Most Rev. Robert J.
Hermann, Archdiocese of St. Louis. No part of this work may be used without the prior written permission of Liguori Publications. Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Revised Psalms © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.