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Baptism Day

Today, water baptism is most readily identified with Christianity, where it symbolizes the cleansing (remission) of sins, and the union of the believer with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection so that he becomes one of Christ's Faithful. Most Christian groups practice some form of literal water-based baptism and agree that it is important, yet strongly disagree with other groups regarding any or all of several aspects of baptism, such as:

* form of the baptism
* recipients of baptism
* meaning/effects of the act of baptism

However, a few Christian groups assert that water-based baptism has been supplanted by the promised baptism of the Holy Spirit, and water baptism was unnecessarily carried over from the early Jewish Christian practice.

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Baptism Pool

The Baptismal Pool Area of the Church

One of the first things we see when we enter a Catholic church is a pool of water. Baptism is our "door" to the Church. It is the way we enter Christ's family. The baptismal pool, or baptismal font, which ideally stands at the door of the Church, reminds Catholics that every time they come to Eucharist they come through baptism. They dip their hand in the water and mark themselves anew with that sign in which they were baptized—the sign of the cross. In some churches a bowl of water, a holy water font, at each door serves as a reminder of the baptismal pool.

Standing by the baptismal pool is a large candle, the paschal candle. At the Paschal Vigil on the eve of Easter Sunday this candle impregnated the waters of the baptismal pool as the Church prayed that the Holy Spirit unseal this font to become the womb of new life for the Church. As the candle is placed in the water we pray: "May all who are buried with Christ in the death of baptism rise also with him to newness of life" (Prayers for the Easter Vigil). This prayer takes on special meaning at funerals when this water is sprinkled on the casket as it arrives at the church door.

Also in this baptismal area of the narthex or vestibule of the church, you will see a niche in the wall or a little chest, the ambry, which contains three vessels of oil: the oil of catechumens which is used to bless and strengthen those preparing for baptism; the oil of the sick with which the priest brings Jesus' strength and healing to those who are joined with the suffering Christ in serious illness; and the sacred chrism which is used in celebrating the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders. The word "Christ" means "anointed," and when one is anointed with holy oil it is a sign of a special relationship with Christ, the Anointed One.

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