Baptism and Advent – Our hope in salvation

Mercy holds her daughter María Isabella as she is baptized. (COURTESY)

Last names have been omitted to protect the privacy of children.

CLOUD | In recent months, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish near Lake Nona has celebrated at least a dozen Baptisms. These events are so close to Advent and begs the consideration of similarities between Baptism and Advent – a season that ultimately celebrates the reason we are Baptized, the coming of Our Lord and the hope of salvation.

Advent is a time of waiting, of anticipation for the birth of the Messiah. When the archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary at the Annunciation, she confessed her fears. She had doubts about how she would explain this to her husband. She felt joy at the Visitation with her cousin, Elizabeth. Later, she most likely felt concern about traveling through the desert at the peak of her pregnancy and finding shelter.

On Nov. 8, Father Viviano baptized Asher, son of parishioners Manon and Sandip. Manon relates to Mary. “As we waited for Asher to arrive, I, like any mother or father, went through a roller coaster of emotions. I was full of excitement, anxiety, anticipation and uncertainty…while in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic! I have no doubt Mary experienced similar feelings while awaiting the birth of Jesus.” Like Mary, it was her faith, hope and love that propelled Manon. “As a parent, you want to love and provide for your children as best you can and Baptism is the beginning of their (a person’s) relationship with God,” she said. Manon diligently prepared for the celebration, selected godparents and taught her elder daughter about the family history of Asher’s baptismal garment.

Pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Palm Bay, Father Jeremiah Payne explains, “John the Baptist is one of the principal ‘narrators’ of early Advent. Advent means ‘coming to’ or ‘arrival’ and John the Baptist, as the last of the Old Testament prophets, is the one to herald His arrival: whether he is leaping in Elizabeth’s womb at the presence of the Divine Savior, or crying out in the desert – ‘Prepare the way of the Lord’ (Mk 1:1-8).”

Just as John encourages others to prepare through repentance, Christians also prepare for Advent through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. “The liturgical season of Advent celebrates the arrival of Jesus in history, but more so anticipates His glorious Second Coming on the Last Day. John ties these two Comings of Christ perfectly together in his witness and prophetic preaching,” Father Payne said. “And as we journey through this time between Jesus’ Advent in Bethlehem and the Advent of His Second Coming, John gives us the synopsis of the graced work to be done in each of our hearts and in the world as a whole: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease (Jn 3:30 RSV-CE).’”

Mercy is a single mother. When her daughter Maria Isabella was born, Mercy’s life was in turmoil. “Like Mary, I wondered if this was the right time,” she said. “The last two and a half years have been filled with challenges… Sometimes I doubted the plans God has for me,” acknowledged the St. Cabrini parishioner. For her, this time prior to her daughter, Maria Isabella’s Baptism, October 24, was a time to “decrease”. She said, “All the good things and struggles are God’s way of proving that He has never been away from me… He is never going to forget about me and my daughter… (Baptism) is a very important part of being Catholic. I want her to know everybody is born with sin and through Baptism that sin is wiped away.”

Father Viviano points out the baptized, “are not only cleansed of original sin, but of the sin of the world in which that child is born.” He tells parents, “This child is being cleansed of racism, prejudice, bigotry, greed, hatred and more.” His instruction is in line with the Catechism of the Catholic Church 537, “Through Baptism the Christian is sacramentally assimilated to Jesus, who in His own Baptism anticipates His death and resurrection. The Christian must enter into this mystery of humble self-abasement and repentance, go down into the water with Jesus in order to rise with Him.”

Elizabeth and her husband, Brian, also attend St. Cabrini and reflected on this connection, after the Baptism of their daughter, Gwen. Elizabeth wrote, “As parents, we have the opportunity to be reborn with the birth of our child. Christmas has a translucent meaning without the anticipation of the solemnity of Advent. If preparing for a baby just means buying supplies and not considering how the child will be raised, we miss the true joy God intends for us.”

Father Viviano notes these children are being born in a pandemic environment where many families are worried what future their children will have. Perhaps some are out of work or in fear of losing their homes. They are afraid of contracting the virus and so much more. Yet they are still filled with hope for their children’s salvation. As Mary prepares to bring the Lord of hope and salvation into the world, baptized Christians celebrate and embrace the hope of God’s promise through the birth, death, and resurrection of His son. Father Viviano expects possibly half a dozen more Baptisms by the end of the year.

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic, December 1, 2020