A couple of years ago, my wife and I attended Holy Week services in our old neighborhood in England, at a church where chimes ring out each day from a tall bell tower. Inside, columns and arches frame each side of the nave, and a large, gold icon of the sitting, crowned Christ is painted on the wall high above the altar.
On Good Friday, a cross with the figure of Christ was placed in the center aisle. People lined up and knelt down, one-by-one, kissing it before returning to their seats. The next evening, we all stood outside around a lit campfire—the fire representing Christ’s victory over death and darkness. From this flame, a large Easter candle was lit, symbolizing the risen Christ, and we followed this candle, procession style, into the church for the Easter vigil.
Inside, we were invited to gather near the baptismal font for a communal re-affirmation of baptismal vows. The priest dipped a leafy branch from a shrub into the water and flicked it in the air, like cracking a leather horse whip, launching sprinkles of water toward all of us. I wanted to be sure I received enough of those sprinkles—enough to be reminded of the sacredness of baptism and the meaning of faith in my own life.
I thought about how Dr. Gilbert Stafford, my theology professor at the School of Theology, would talk about the practice of feet washing as a way of remembering one’s baptism.
But what does it mean to remember your baptism, and why is that important?
The world has always been a place where our thoughts and aspirations can easily drift away from God’s good desire for us. In this condition, it is easy not to remember—indeed, maybe even forget—the sentiment Barney Warren once described in song lyrics, “Salvation, oh, glory! its rapture I feel, a current of heavenly bliss.”
In such a state, we come to a place where we need to be re-calibrated to where God wants us to be, even if we do not know exactly how or when that will come about. That is where remembering your baptism becomes critical to your faith and spiritual wellbeing.
Having your feet washed, or being refreshed by waters from a baptismal font, allows us an opportunity to recall the holy mystery of the spiritual washing of our sins. It provides an opportunity for us to re-calibrate ourselves to the sacred place we need to be, by remembering who we once were.
So, whether you practice feet washing this year, or find yourself in the company of believers being sprinkled with baptismal waters, may those moments prompt you to remember what you may have forgotten. In those times, and throughout the rest of the year, may you remember your baptism.