“Man cannot have God as a Father…unless he has the Church as Mother.”
BAPTISM IS NOT ONLY A WORD
“Heaven opens above us in the sacrament of baptism. The more we live in contact with Jesus in the reality of our baptism, the more heaven will open above us… A washing of regeneration: baptism is not only a word, it is not only something spiritual but also implies matter.
ALL THE REALITIES OF THE EARTH ARE INVOLVED
All the realities of the earth are involved. Baptism does not only concern the soul. Human spirituality invests the totality of the person, body and soul. God’s action in Jesus Christ is an action of universal efficacy. Christ took flesh and this continues in the sacraments in which matter is taken on and becomes part of the divine action.
WITHOUT WATER THERE IS NO LIFE
We can now ask precisely why water should be the sign of this totality. Water is the element of fertility. Without water there is no life. Thus, in all the great religions water is seen as the symbol of motherhood, as fruitfulness. For the Church Fathers, water became the symbol of the maternal womb of the Church.
NEVER IS CHRIST WITHOUT WATER
Tertullian, a Church writer of the second and third centuries, said something surprising. He said, “Never is Christ without water.” By these words, Tertullian meant that Christ is never without the Church. In baptism we are adopted by the heavenly Father, but in this family that he establishes there is also a mother, Mother Church. Man cannot have God as Father, the ancient Christian writers were already saying, unless he has the Church as Mother.
BEING PART OF THE CHURCH
We perceive in a new way that Christianity is not merely an individual, spiritual reality, a simple subjective decision that I take, but something real and concrete, we could also say something material. Adoption as children of God, of the Trinitarian God, is at the same time being accepted into the family of the Church, it is admission as brothers and sisters into the great family of Christians. And only if, as children of God, we are integrated as brothers and sisters into the reality of the Church can we say ‘Our Father’, to our heavenly Father. This prayer always implies the ‘we’ of God’s family…
INSTITUTED BY CHRIST
In Jesus Christ we see that God comes to meet us. In Christian baptism, instituted by Christ, we do not only act with the desire to be cleansed through the prayer to obtain forgiveness. In baptism God himself acts, Jesus acts through the Holy Spirit. In Christian baptism the fire of the Holy Spirit is present. God acts, not only us. God is present here today… Baptism will remain throughout life a gift of God, who has set his seal on our souls. But it will then be our cooperation, the availability of our freedom to say that ‘yes’, which makes divine action effective.”
– Text in quotation marks by Pope Benedict XVI (capital headings and header of this post added)