Holy Baptism is the Sacrament of Initiation into the Christian Life. It is the basis of our ongoing relationship with Almighty God. The B.A.S. emphasizes our response to God as both 1) an individual responsibility, and 2) a corporate responsibility.
Our Individual Response
The Baptismal vows
The B.A.S. requires six promises instead of the three promises of the Prayer Book, although the promises cover the same ground.
If we were baptized when an infant, or even when still a child, and were committed to Christ by our sponsors, then when we are old enough we are expected to "confirm" our baptismal promises thereby making a personal commitment to Christ. The B.A.S. permits us to renew our Baptismal vows more than once. We might feel a powerful desire once again to renew our commitment to Jesus Christ in this very personal but public way in the presence of the Bishop and the Church and to be, as it were, "re-Confirmed". Baptism should be understood not as an event but as a condition. The act of Baptism does in fact take place at a certain time and in a certain place, but the act confers upon us a certain condition, and that condition is an ongoing relationship with God.
Our Corporate Response
Sponsors at Baptism
Sponsors represent the Christian community. They remind us that we are baptized into a community of persons. In Baptism we all share in the community's response to God. Sponsors set an example for their candidates. They pray for them, encourage them, and lead them to know that they are part of a loving and understanding community of Christian people. The congregation as a whole, just before the act of Baptism, expresses itself as the People of God. This is the fellowship into which the candidate is admitted. The B.A.S. recommends that Baptism be administered on special festivals: The Vigil of Easter; The Day of Pentecost; All Saints' Day (or the Sunday after); The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. The B.A.S. envisages that Baptism will be administered on these four major occasions in order to emphasize the corporate implications of Baptism, and its importance as a community event in the life of the parish.
The basic symbol in Baptism, and the "sign" of the Sacrament, is the pouring of water in the name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Water signifies washing, cleansing, purifying. In Baptism we are made clean from sin by the blood of Christ's Sacrifice. The sign of the cross is placed upon our forehead to be our badge of belonging to Christ. The oil of Chrism may be used to make the sign of the cross. Anointing with oil is an ancient symbol for setting people apart for sacred purposes Baptism cleanses us from all sin, but such is our human weakness that in this fallen world we continue to sin even after Baptism. Sin separates us from God. It also separates us from each other. Ultimate separation from God and from each other is the curse of Hell. The B.A.S. provides two forms whereby a penitent may be relieved of the burden of sin and be assured of God’s forgiveness.