Comments on a recent post on Baptism brought to mind Luther’s letter attached to his revision of the rite. Of particular note is the importance of ongoing prayer and catechesis for children who are baptized.

Baptism 800x474

Martin Luther to all Christian Readers:

Grace and Peace in Christ our Lord.

 

I daily see the carelessness and disrespect—not to say frivolity—with which the high, holy, and comforting sacrament of Baptism is being administered to little children.…

 

In all Christian earnestness, I would ask all those who administer Baptism, who hold the children, or witness it, to take this wonderful work to heart in all its seriousness.  For here, in the words of these prayers, you hear how meekly and earnestly the Christian Church concerns itself about the little child and how it confesses before God in plain undoubting words that he is possessed by the devil and is a child of sin and wrath, and prays very diligently for aid and grace through Baptism that he may become a child of God.

 

Remember, then, that it is no joke to take sides against the devil and not only to drive him away from the little child, but to burden the child with such a mighty and lifelong enemy.  Remember too that it is very necessary to aid the poor child with all your heart and strong faith, earnestly to intercede for him/her that God, in accordance with this prayer, would not only free him from the power of the devil, but also strengthen him, so that he may nobly resist the devil in life and death.  And I suspect that people turn out so badly after Baptism because our concern for them has been cold and careless; we, at their Baptism, interceded for them without zeal.

 

Remember too that in Baptism the external things are the least important, such as blowing under the eyes, signing with the Cross, putting salt into the mouth, spittle and clay into the ears, anointing, signing the crown of the head with chrism, putting on the christening robe, placing a burning candle in the hand, and whatever else has been added to extol Baptism.  Baptism can be performed without all these, and they do not frighten the devil.  He sneers at greater things than these!

 

See to it, then that you are present in true faith, listen to God’s Word, and earnestly join in prayer.  For when the pastor says, ‘Let us pray,’ he is urging you to join with him in prayer.  And all sponsors and the others present should repeat with him the words of his prayer in their hearts, to God.  For this reason the pastor should say these prayers very clearly and slowly, so that the sponsors may hear and comprehend them and pray with him with one accord in their hearts, earnestly carrying the need of the little child before God, setting themselves against the devil with all their strength on behalf of the child, and showing that they realize this is no joke, especially not to the devil!

 

For this reason only faithful pastors should baptize and faithful Christians should serve as sponsors, who can be expected to treat Baptism with seriousness and true faith, lest the holy sacrament be made a mockery for the devil and an insult to God, who through it showers us with the abundant and infinite riches of His grace.  He Himself calls it a new birth by which we are being freed from all the tyranny of the devil, loosed from sin, death and hell, and become children of life, heirs of all the gifts of God, God’s own children, and brethren of Christ.  Let us not be indolent and indifferent, for Baptism is our only comfort and admits us to every blessing of God and to the communion of all saints.  To this may God help us.  Amen.