Prince George, the future King of England, was baptized yesterday. For that occasion, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who baptized the prince, made a quite remarkable video about the meaning of baptism. Read the excerpts and watch the video after the jump. Note the very end, especially, about the Sacrament signifying that Christ is “for you.” It sounds pretty Lutheran to me!
“Most of all we are celebrating baptism, and baptism at its heart is about the gift of God, about God’s gift of life, just ordinary physical life, but also the offer of spiritual life to all of us, so life forever,” explained Welby in a video released by Lambeth Palace on Tuesday. “All through Christian history, for 2000 years, being baptized meant you joined the family of the church, and that’s what it means today. What a family.”
Infants in the Church of England are baptized in a symbolic assertion that God’s grace precedes even a person’s ability to choose faith. Like all priests who perform a baptismal service, Welby will mark Prince George with the sign of the cross on his forehead. He will also splash water Prince George’s head three times, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. “It is an extraordinary moment, because that is the sign by which we understand that this person belongs to God,” Welby explained.
Baptism services in the Church of England typically follow traditional liturgy from the Book of Common Prayer and Common Worship. Usually that means the parents of the child being baptized offer confessions of their Christian faith—they verbally reject the devil, deceit, and sin, they submit to Jesus Christ, and they commit to lead their child to do so as well. There are a small handful of varying liturgies available for a baptism service, and the royal family has not made the details of the one they have chosen public, so it is unclear whether or not Welby will give a short sermon. But Welby does say he has a message for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, George’s parents. “My message to them would be, What a treat, what an amazing gift, what wonderful times that you will have. There will be great times and tough times, there always are with children,” he said. “Through christening, you are bringing God into the middle of it all, and I know when he is in the middle of it all, somehow it is held in his hands, and that is extraordinary.”
Welby’s message for young George is a blessing and a reminder, Welby says, that originated in the Church of Scotland and carries weight even though George is too young to understand its full meaning: ”For you Jesus Christ came into the world. For you he lived and showed God’s love. For you he suffered the darkness of Calvary and cried at the last, ‘It is accomplished.’ For you he triumphed over death and rose to new life. For you he reigns at God’s right hand. All this he did for you, though you do not know it yet.”