An Introduction to Baptism
The term baptism is derived from the Latin word baptismos, or the act of ritual washing and purification. Generally speaking, baptisms are performed within a Christian context. It is a symbolic act of purification and has its roots in the ancient Jewish practice of bathing in a mikvah. A mikvah was a large bath where Jews went to restore a state of ritual purity lost through various acts. These acts included coming into contact with a corpse or the completion of a woman’s menstrual cycle, the latter being one of the most common uses of the mikvah.
Baptism appears in the New Testament when Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist in the River of Jordan. This scene marks the beginning of the Christian tradition of baptism. In the twelfth century, the Catholic Church deemed the ritual of baptism to be a sacrament and one of the holy seven rites. The term “baptism” is also used for initiations in various kinds of other spiritual traditions. For example, the Native American “vision quest” journeys that young men and women participated in a form of initiatory practice that is considered to be similar to baptism.
Who can be baptized, and who can perform the baptismal ceremony?
People of all ages can be baptized, although it is common practice amongst Christian denominations for baptisms to occur within a few months of birth. In this way, certain devout Christians believe that the soul of their child is wiped clean of original sin and will go directly to heaven in the event of an untimely death. People also get baptized when they convert to Christianity at any age, even as adults.
A wide range of officials are able to perform baptismal ceremonies. The Catholic Church, for example, allows its bishops, priests, deacons and parish priests to perform baptisms. People who become legally ordained online through online ministries like the Universal Life Church Ministries are also able to perform baptisms. In the event of a life-threatening situation, any individual with the right intention, regardless of faith, may perform the rite of baptism.