I have been reading from two different books about our baptismal vows. Marcellino D’Ambrosio talks about them in When the Church was Young: Voices of the Early Fathers. It is a very interesting story about how the Didache was found, which I’ll skip. However, in it were instructions for Worship. One of which included instructions for baptism. It “insists candidates for baptism and the ministers must fast for a few days, along with as many others as can join them. Within a century or two, baptisms were customarily done in large groups, and reserved for Easter or Epiphany (Jan 6). The fast of a few days grew to 40 days in honor of Christ’s fast in the desert. So we see the origin and original meaning of the penitential seasons of Lent and Advent.”
Every year on Easter or at the Easter Vigil we renew our baptismal promises. I’m gradually realizing how important this is. Like everything else in the Church, it is not to be glossed over. Those words are eternally significant and full of practical meaning for my life. The whole season of Lent is leading us up to this renewal of vows, and we are doing it as Jesus’ Passion is made present in the Liturgy. That really brings to the forefront who we are making the vow for, our Lord Jesus Christ.
St Augustine says “this vow is the greatest and most indispensable of all vows.” Canon law experts say the same, “The vow we make at baptism is the most important of all vows.” St Louis de Montfort, in his book True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary says “Yet there is a universal failure to be faithful to these vows, coming from our habitual forgetfulness of the promise and responsibilities of baptism.” He goes on to talk about the moral breakdown as we disregard our obligations. This was a known problem in the church and the remedy was to remind Christians of their baptism and renew the vows they made at the time. So this consecration (setting oneself apart) to our Lord in the renewal of baptismal vows goes back a long time and is recommended to all the faithful. “It is not valueless, since the chief source of moral disorders and the consequent eternal loss of Christians spring from forgetfulness of this practice and indifference to it.”
St Louis de Montfort presents the devotion – Total consecration to Jesus through Mary – as a perfect renewal of baptismal promises. We solemnly renounce Satan, and choose Jesus as Master and sovereign Lord. We renounce the devil, the world, sin and self and give ourselves entirely to Jesus through Mary. I made that consecration 2 years ago on the Feast Day of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and renewed it last year. I’ll be doing it again soon and with a richer understanding. The beauty of the Liturgy is that each year we can dive deeper into the mysteries of faith. I love that. I can’t wait for the next Lent as well. I’ll get to see the 40 days as a preparation for the renewal of these life changing vows. I can pray the rosary through that lens, thinking about those vows and their meaning in relation to the mystery I’m meditating on. I’m fired up!
All praise to Thee my God this night, for all the blessings of the light, keep me O keep me King of kings, beneath Thine own Almighty wings.