In a society that prioritizes personal satisfaction, many of us find a deeper, more significant fulfillment when we give our lives to a worthy cause, something greater than ourselves: faith. We all have a personal and communal part to play in salvation history, even today. By Christ’s saving work, our reception of baptism restores our broken relationship with God, unites us to one another, and grants salvation for us and the whole world.
We are all created in God’s image, brought to life by God’s own breath. As part of the greater human family, we also experience the effects of sin because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the garden. Our common roots of sin should not be a cause for despair, but for hope: as part of the common human race, we too can take part in its redemption through the waters of baptism. In her book, Baptismal Imagery in Early Christianity, Robin M. Jensen explains that “the candidate, dipped in the font and sealed with the Holy Spirit, is a re-creation of the first human being, once again a recipient of the divine breathing (spirate deo)” (Jensen 179).
Early Christians connected Adam and Eve to the Gospel narrative of the Good Shepherd at the baptistery at Dura Europos, one of the earliest surviving Christian churches. The newly baptized Christian journeys from death to life, from separation to reunion: “from a shared state with those first humans after their expulsion from paradise to their safe return into the flock of the divine Shepherd” (Jensen, 183).
Our participation in baptism acts as a gateway to new life. We enter a new Eden, at once present in this world, and living beyond it: “those who enter the water cross a time-space threshold into a new world. […] Even though they continue to live in the fallen world, they are spiritual residents of the future, restored creation” (Jensen, 179). Early Christian writers knew that baptism “was not merely a washing away of inherited or personal sin; it also brought healing, both to individuals and to humanity as a whole” (Jensen, 13). When we receive the sacrament of baptism, the newly baptized Christians “are given a glimpse of their personal future and the restoration of creation itself” (Jensen, 177).
In the early Christian church, reception of baptism led immediately into the new member’s first Eucharistic celebration. Through the cross of Christ, our salvation is won, and our thirst is quenched during the re-presentation of Christ in the sacrifice of the Mass: “when Christ’s side was pierced, the water that sprang forth imitated the water of baptism, while the blood was the cup shared in the eucharistic meal, thus uniting in one sign the mysteries of both regeneration and redemption” (Jensen, 192). Thus in our baptism and in receiving the Eucharist, we are united as one body of Christ at the foot of the cross.
Despite inheriting human brokenness and a fallen nature from Adam and Eve, Christ renews us in his paschal mystery and invites us to sacramental union with him, through concrete signs that make present an invisible reality. The waters of baptism and the presence of Christ in the Eucharist restore us to communion with God and neighbor, and together, we renew the face of the earth.
Author’s Note: pages referenced above refer to the Amazon Kindle pagination of the book and may vary slightly from the printed version.