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Timothy Holtsman was baptized by Father Tom Vordtriede at the Easter Vigil on April 8, 2023, at Holy Rosary Parish in Warrenton. Behind Holtsman was Deacon Ray Burle. Holtsman said his baptism was an important moment in helping him understand how he is called to live Christ’s mission daily.
Timothy Holtsman was baptized by Father Tom Vordtriede at the Easter Vigil on April 8, 2023, at Holy Rosary Parish in Warrenton. Behind Holtsman was Deacon Ray Burle. Holtsman said his baptism was an important moment in helping him understand how he is called to live Christ’s mission daily.
Photo Credit: Jacob Wiegand

Through baptism, we experience the paschal mystery with Christ and share in the new life of the resurrection

Easter and baptism go hand-in-hand: Through baptism, we die to sin and are given the path to eternal life

One year ago, Timothy Holtsman was baptized at the Easter Vigil, and with that, he was stamped with the image of Christ — to live like Him and share in His mission.

Holtsman was among two dozen people who were received into the Church at Easter in 2023 at Holy Rosary Parish in Warrenton. Through the process of Christian initiation, he learned more about the Church’s purpose, her teachings and the sacraments.

The Paschal candle, blessed at the Easter Vigil, symbolizes Christ as light of the world. In the darkened church, newly initiated Catholics light their candles from the Easter candle, spreading the flame to candles held by others in the congregation.

“It’s up to the newly baptized to go out and spread the light,” Holtsman said. “For me, it placed an importance on being part of the Church and spreading (Christ’s) message.”

Baptism is the source of that new life in Christ from which the entire Christian life springs forth, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Being baptized at the Easter Vigil was an important moment that Holtsman said helped him understand how he is called to live Christ’s mission daily. It’s something he also wants to be able to teach his children, ages 2 and 5 months.

“It’s really changed how I understand the purpose of the Church,” he said. “Before, I couldn’t receive the (Eucharist) and didn’t fully understand what was happening at Mass. It’s changed how I feel about the Mass and its importance.”

The paschal mystery

Father Tom Vordtriede baptized Bryant Watkins at the Easter Vigil on April 8, 2023, at Holy Rosary Parish in Warrenton. The practice of baptizing people at the Easter Vigil dates back to the earliest centuries of the Church.
Photo Credit: Jacob Wiegand
Easter and baptism go hand-in-hand.

During the Triduum, which begins on Holy Thursday and ends with the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday evening, we celebrate the paschal mystery of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection.

Through baptism, we die to sin and are given the path to eternal life.

As St. Paul wrote to the Romans: “Are you unaware that we who are 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).

The practice of baptizing converts at the Easter Vigil dates back to the earliest centuries of the Church, said Father Nicholas Smith, director of the archdiocesan Office of Worship.

“People would hear the Gospel, and then they would want to become Christian,” Father Smith said. After a period of preparation, on Holy Saturday night, the catechumens would gather with the rest of the congregation to listen to the readings of salvation history before processing to the baptistry to be baptized and receive a white garment.

The baptistries were often built in the shape of a cross, Father Smith said, “which brings to mind that notion of dying…that’s what Easter is. It’s death to life. Jesus rose from the dead, and that’s why we are what we are.”

The catechumenate — the process by which adults prepare for the sacraments of initiation — was restored during the Second Vatican Council; the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults was promulgated in 1972 and mandated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1986. The Rite states that the Easter Vigil is the preferred occasion for the elect to enter into the paschal mystery through the sacraments of initiation, continuing the practice of the early Church.

Easter Mass also includes the opportunity for all the faithful to renew their baptismal promises. It’s the culmination of the previous weeks of Lent, when we’ve examined where we need to grow in our spiritual lives and made reforms accordingly, Father Smith said.

“Lent is all about looking at our lives to make sure that they reflect our baptismal promises. Hence, at the end of that season, that’s why we renew them,” Father Smith said. “And hopefully, there’s been some change when we renew them.”

Father Smith also noted that besides Easter, baptismal promises are renewed by candidates before their confirmation.

“When they were babies, somebody else did it,” he said. “Now to show that they are adults and embracing the faith, they do it on their own.”

Living our baptism

Elizabeth Watkins lit another’s candle shortly after her baptism at the Easter Vigil on April 8, 2023, at Holy Rosary Parish in Warrenton.
Photo Credit: Jacob Wiegand
During a 2018 audience, Pope Francis reflected on the sacrament of baptism as a gift that “illuminates our entire life, guiding our steps until (we reach) the heavenly Jerusalem.”

“No one deserves baptism, which is always a gift for everyone, adults and newborns. But like what happens to a seed full of life, this gift takes root and brings forth fruit in a land nourished by faith,” the pope said.

We can continue to draw on the graces of baptism to bring forth fruit throughout the entire year, Father Smith said.

Each time we enter a church, we can dip our fingers in holy water to make the sign of the cross, feeling a tangible reminder of the waters of baptism. Re-reading our baptismal vows can also serve as food for reflection, Father Smith said. “Do I really believe in God, or do I just say I do? Do I believe in Jesus Christ — truly, do I?”

It can be tempting to compartmentalize Lent and Easter, wanting to move on once the seasons are over. “But that is supposed to inform our lives every single day,” he said. “If Lent is looking at making sure our lives are reflective of baptismal promises, that’s something we do every day. That’s why I think the Church asks us to do an examination of conscience every night. Where do we see God active in our day? Where did we fall short? And we ask the Lord to help us do it better the next day.”

Renewal of Baptismal Promises

A catechumen held a baptism candle at the Easter Vigil last year at Holy Rosary Parish in Warrenton. At the Easter Vigil, baptism candles are lit from the Paschal candle.
Photo Credit: Jacob Wiegand
Dear brothers and sisters, through the Paschal Mystery, we have been buried with Christ in Baptism, so that we may walk with Him in newness of life. And so, now that our Lenten observance is concluded, let us renew the promises of holy baptism, by which we once renounced Satan and his works and promised to serve God in the holy Catholic Church. And so I ask you:

Priest: Do you renounce Satan?

All: I do.

Priest: And all his works?

All: I do.

Priest: And all his empty show?

All: I do.

Priest: Do you believe in God, the Father almightly, Creator of heaven and earth?

All: I do.

Priest: Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered death and was buried, rose again from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the father?

All: I do.

Priest: Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?

All: I do.

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