One of the great communal celebrations is to welcome an infant into the community through the waters of Baptism. There are many ways in which the celebration occurs, depending on the construction of the church – especially the location of the baptismal font. At my previous parish, to give you an idea, there was no narthex. The large wooden front doors were perhaps 16 feet behind the last pew and opened up to the sidewalk and the main downtown thoroughfare.
It was right at the front doors that we greeted the beaming family and their newborn, along with the godparents. The first part of the Baptismal ritual occurred there at the doors of the church, the family was escorted to their pew in the front of the church as part of the entry procession, and we continued with the celebration of Mass.Later in the ceremony, there is a point at which the baptismal candle is lit from the Easter candle and as the candle is handed to a parent or godparent, the words are “Receive the Light of Christ…” The image is powerful and echo the imagery of today’s gospel. Shortly thereafter comes a humorous but interesting moment. The ceremony is complete, we have well welcomed the child into the Family of God…and the godparent realizes that they need to extinguish the lit candle before returning to the pew… and so they look to me as if asking for permission. Years ago one godparent leaned over and asked, “Is it OK to extinguish the Light of Christ…it seems wrong…”
It was a funny moment and certainly I did not want the person holding a lighted wax candle in the pew…but the question goes to the core of this day’s gospel. At the end of days, when the Lord comes again, will we have extinguished the Light of Christ given us in Baptism. Or will we have nourished and fed the flame in our reception of the Eucharist and our participation in the fullness of Sacramental life? Will we be someone who has daily examined their conscience to discern how we have enhanced or diminished the Light in our lives – especially how we shine that Light into the world? Will we daily join into the great river of Light ever streaming through the world?