Imagine going through life never taking a bath or shower. Dirt accumulates on encrusted dirt as it weighs down the body and slows movement because the skin’s elastic flexibility is encased in the daily dryness of life’s activity until, after years of layer upon layer, the body can barely move. It wants to collapse in the heat and become one, once again, with the dirt.
Imagine a world of constant night. No dawn awakens it from sleep. The world rotates constantly in the shadows of a universe where the sun is hidden, dimly lit only by what little light reflects from the moon or reaches it from distant stars.
Imagine life without water. The mouth parches and can no longer produce saliva to dissolve food and the muscle sinews stiffen into rigor mortis. Wait, you say, the body cannot live beyond seven or ten days without water! Exactly.
Observe a Baptism some time and pay attention to the symbols. The candle, the oil, the white garment, the water – especially the water. Each reveals the realities of Baptism.
Oil penetrates and softens the skin. The head and heart are anointed with oil signifying the penetration of the Holy Spirit. He inspires (Lt. in + spirare – breathe into) the heart with God’s life and love and informs the mind of God’s truth and ways.
The candle is the light of Christ, which enlightens the heart and the mind – softened and made nimble by the oil.
The white garment represents the newness and freshness that comes from being cleansed for the first time in life.
Water, the most important symbol, cleanses the soul and nourishes it with the life of God – Grace – and makes it a true child of God so that, just as He said at Christ’s Baptism, the Father can look at each of us, male or female and proclaim, “You are my beloved son” (cf. Gal. 3:23-4:7).