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Gestis Verbisque: The Words and Actions of the Sacraments
What is baptism? This is how St. Augustine explained it to the faithful in a homily: β€œThe bath of water with the word. Take away the water, it is not baptism. Take away the word, it is not baptism.” These same words are found in documents produced under Charlemagne for the instruction of the clergy. In the first millennium, instructions on how to baptize were refreshingly direct.

The rite of baptism is astonishing for both its simplicity and its power. It requires only the most basic of elements – water – and a formula that echoes the words of Jesus (cf. Matt 28:19). Yet this simple ritual means both death and rebirth. Baptized in obedience to the command of Jesus, Christians participate in his Paschal Mystery and the eternal life it opens up (cf. Rom 6:3-5, John 3:5). What baptism promises is beyond what human power can give.

While Christian faith in baptism existed before the New Testament took written form, theology has become considerably more complex since that time. Gestis Verbisque (GV), a Note issued by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) on February 2, 2024, wades deep into the complexities of sacramental theology in order to affirm something primordial. The Note is unusually forceful and direct because what is at stake is so fundamental: the nature of the sacraments and their role in salvation. To fully appreciate the significance of Gestis Verbisque we must first examine the events that provoked it and their broader theological context.
© Union of Catholic Asian News 2024
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