Death & Baptism
In The Genius of Christianity, or Beauties of the Christian Religion, Chateaubriand wrote an eloquent description of baptism. This “first act of the Christian life,” he exulted, is perhaps the most “divine mixture of theology and morality, of mysteries and simplicity” to be found in all religion.
It was with this sentiment in mind that I took my child to Mexico to be baptized over the summer. My wife is Mexican by birth, and she was baptized, along with all her siblings, in the Templo de la Merced, which is a splendid Baroque church in the center of the city of their birth, the construction of which began in the first decade of the seventeenth century. In respect for this venerable family tradition, we had our first child baptized there a decade ago, and we had intended from the birth of her sister to do the same for our second child, but because of restrictions on travel during the Covid pandemic, we had to wait until last summer to make the trip .
As part of preparation for the class my wife and I attended in our parish church, we closely studied the sections of the catechism on baptism. We rediscovered the profound mythos that connects water with birth, life, fruitfulness, and the mystery of death and the cross. We meditated on the prefiguring of baptism in the crossing of the Jordan by the people of Israel, a passage through water that led them from a state of homelessness and wandering to a covenant and a homeland. The mystical beauty of these reflections brought me several times to tears as I pondered them.
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Alexander Riley is a senior fellow at the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization.
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