Our 7-week-old Stella Maris was baptized on Saturday. It was so beautiful. It was a small gathering of our family and Stella’s godparents in our church’s chapel on the hill that was built in the 1700s.
Attending a baptism is always a powerful and moving thing. There is no question that something “other-worldly” is happening as the stain of original sin is removed from this little soul and she enters into the eternal life of the church. This realization is certainly intensified when the child is your own, when you are personally responsible for guiding her journey here on earth.
I tried to take it all in with fresh eyes, as her forehead was marked with the sign of the cross, her chest and head anointed, and the cleansing waters blessed and poured over her. Finally, her baptismal candle was lit from the Easter candle, signifying the transfer of the light of Christ that has now come into her life and given it new birth. She now carries that light with her on her journey — however long that journey may be.
We had to exit the chapel fairly quickly, because a funeral was taking place right after. As I took Stella’s gown off and packed her up in her car seat, people began filing in and the Easter candle was moved in front of the altar in preparation for the Mass. I was suddenly struck by the circle of the Christian life that was playing out before my eyes with these sacred and sacramental events in close succession.
That same Easter candle from which my daughter’s symbolic “new light” had been lit minutes before would be the same candle used in the Mass of a life on earth now extinguished. My little girl’s pilgrimage was just beginning, but another pilgrim’s journey on this earth had ended. I did not know the person whose funeral was being celebrated; I did not know what kind of journey it had been or how it had ended. But it did give me pause to reflect on my own journey, my own candle burning in this world.
This Christian life is a gift — it’s all grace. When we receive the light of Christ at our baptisms, we are receiving a gift meant to be shared with the world through our love. We should not hide our light; we should not keep it to ourselves. We are to give it away every day. The beautiful reality is that, just like that Easter candle, we don’t lose any of our light as we bring the light to others. We have just as much as before. Why would we keep it to ourselves?
But perhaps we do not often enough think about what giving it away means. We sang a hymn (“We Are Called” by David Haas) in Mass this weekend that expressed how we live our light:
Come, live in the light! Shine with the joy and the love of the Lord!
We are called to be light for the kingdom, to live in the freedom of the city of God!
We are called to act with justice, we are called to love tenderly, we are called to serve one another; to walk humbly with God.
As I read over these words in Mass on Sunday, I was even more moved by the picture of events that transpired the day before. As my little one entered the Church on earth, that same Church celebrated someone else leaving this earth, bound for a heavenly home. And all of us in between are on different journeys, with different gifts and graces and duties from God. But we are all called to the same thing on our pilgrimages — live the light; share God’s love; follow Christ’s example and bring heaven to earth while we are here.
Copyright 2018 Jessica Ptomey