Baptism Symbolism


Sunday in worship the baptismal font wasn't where it usually is. I suspect it had been moved the previous day due to a wedding ceremony that took place in the sanctuary. When it has been moved like this I miss seeing the reminder of baptism, then the communion table, then the cross that hangs in our chancel as visual reminders, that all work together, of the sacraments of our faith. Baptismal fonts have intrigued me since I was asked several years ago to talk about some images of fonts throughout the ages. As always when I research a topic I learned a lot. For example, here is the ancient baptismal basin which was actually behind the apse of the Basilica of St. Vitalis. Its shape is beautiful and the mosaic details are amazing.

Symbolically the baptistry was situated close to the western poral on the north side. Interestingly this was the direction from which the pagen peoples who were called to faith came. Moreover, the old missal stipluated that the deacon should face west to proclaim the Good News.

Large above-ground cruciform fonts are still being constructed in churches today. There are often steps on opposite interior sides. One is for entrance into the pool and the other for exit. This movement of entering the water and then moving forward to exit while leaving our sins behind buried in the water makes me think of Romans 6: 4…"We are therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."

My church does not baptize through immersion therefore we use a movable font instead of a large basin. Regardless of how large the water container, whether the water used came from the River Jordon or not or the setting for the baptism we can rejoice in the symbolism of the use of water. Jesus spoke of water as the symbol of a new rejuvenated spiritual life. I am thankful for new spiritual life and for the symbolic reminder of this gift!

Baptism stoles with symbols of water, the Trinity, shells and more can be found here.