Sunday, February 07, 2010
Baptism and Churching
Baby and godparents are met in the church porch, where two exorcisms and an anointing take place. The priest gives the baby some salt, representing the wisdom of the Church's teaching, which has itself been exorcised.
Yesterday Margaret Shaw was baptised, and her mother was given the blessing of a woman after childbirth, 'churching'. A friend of mine present at the service, a permanent deacon, said he 'hadn't realised we had it' - he'd heard of churching as an Anglican thing, but not as a Catholic one. It deserves to be more widely used: you can buy laminated cards with the prayers and rubrics on it from Southwell Books here.
During the confession of faith, the priest leads the child and the godparents into the church with his stole.
The ceremonies took place in St Bede's Clapham Park, and were performed by Fr Andrew Southwell. We have a long association with St Bede's, and going to London makes it possible for my mother to attend. Margaret is her sixteenth grandchild.
The godfather, in case you were wondering, is Br Stephen Morrison, a novice of the Premonstratensians at Chelmsford.
Arriving in the baptistery, the priest gives the child a third exorcism, and pronounces a blessing of the child's ears and nostrils: 'Ephpheta! Be opened, and breath fragrance. But thou, foul fiend, begone, for the judgment of God will overtake thee.'
After the renunciation of the devil by the godparents, an anointing with oil, and a second confession of faith, the baptism proper is performed. The water used, as is traditional, is blessed at Easter with the addition of chrism. In medieval churches it was regarded as so valuable it was kept under lock and key, hence the large fonts with elaborate closing tops.
The baby is anointed with chrism, and given her white linen baptismal garment (a cloth, in this case), and a beeswax candle lit from the Paschal candle. 'Take this burning light, and keep your baptismal innocence.'
The Churching of Women also involves the leading of the woman into the church by the stole: again, it is symbolic of her (re-)entering the church. After prayers in the porch, and the recitation of Psalm 23, where she is given a candle which is lit, she is led to the communion rail. Psalm 23 is one of the 'enthronment' psalms, about the 'King of Glory', God, entering His Temple.
She kneels again for a blessing. 'Let not the enemy prevail against her.' - 'Nor the son of iniquity approach to hurt her.'
It is a ceremony which combines thanksgiving with prayers for protection and blessing.
"Almighty, everlasting God, who, through the delivery of the blessed Virgin Mary, hast turned into joy the pains of the faithful in childbirth, look mercifully upon this Thine handmaid, coming in gladness to Thy temple to offer up her thanks: and grant that after this life, by the merits and intercession of the same blessed Mary, she may merit to arrive, together with her offspring, at the joys of everlasting happiness. Through Christ our Lord."
More photos here.