Christ’s baptism brings new life

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Fr Elie Francis lowers a statue of the Christ Child into the Holy Water three times. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

The Baptism of Our Lord, which brought new life to the whole of creation, was celebrated by Melkite Catholics during the Feast of the Theophany on 6 January.

Parishioners of St John the Beloved Melkite Catholic church in Greenacre celebrated the special feast at a vigil Mass on 5 January including the traditional Blessing of the Waters.

During the Mass, a cross with olive and basil branches wrapped around it was lowered into the Holy Water font three times, recalling the three days Christ spent in the tomb.

Parish Priest, Fr Ibrahim Sultan, centre, and Fr Elie Francis, right, dip crosses entwined with olive and basil branches into the Holy Water. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

Parish Priest, Fr Ibrahim Sultan explained the symbolism of the blessing.

“In the Old Testament the waters of the Flood destroyed the world. Water brought death. However, the dove brought an olive branch to announce the end of the Flood and the return of peace, moving from death into reconciliation and peace,” Fr Sultan told The Catholic Weekly.

The faithful gather at St John the Beloved Church in Greenacre. Melkite Catholics around the world celebrate the Feast of the Theophany every year on 6 January. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok.

“In the New Testament, God purifies the world with the waters of Christ’s baptism. Water brings life. In the first story water brings death, and now water brings life.”

“The Holy Spirit is in the form of a dove, comes down onto Christ, the King of peace. The Holy Spirit leads the whole world out of sin and toward heaven.”

Frs Sultan and Francis bless the congregation with Holy Water. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

“So the olive is the sign of peace and reconciliation and the basil is the new fragrance, a new perfume.”

A statue of the Christ Child was also lowered into the waters three times.

An icon of Christ’s baptism is carried into the church. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

“Putting the baby Jesus in the water is not part of the liturgy, but sometimes we do it to help the people understand what we are doing.”

Fr Sultan blessed everyone with the Holy water and the whole church, symbolising the blessing of all creation.

Faithful drink from the Fountain of Life. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

Everyone in the congregation then came forward and drank from the “Fountain of Life.”

“This reminds them of their baptismal vows. Drinking the water brings healing, forgiveness and protection,” Fr Sultan said.

In the Melkite Catholic Church it is traditional following the Feast of the Theophany for the Parish Priest to bless every house in the parish with the Holy Water.

St John the Beloved Church in Greenacre was full for the celebration of the Feast of the Theophany. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok