Chapter Five: Christ the Light and Baptism
Cavaletti begins by saying that for every subject a “linking point” is necessary, “an especially striking element that emphasizes the vital nucleus of the theme.”
The subject presented is contained in the linking point as a tree is contained in the seed, in a way that is capable of opening to us an ever greater and deeper knowledge….It is not necessarily the most important liturgical or theological element; in Baptism, for instance, the linking point is the light.
Light has an immediate effect on the sense and it is psychologically gratifying and reassuring; thus the child associates the image of Christ the Light with the Good Shepherd and consequently the effect of the former image is reinforced.
Of course, to an adult the more obvious sign of baptism would be water, but I can see why light is perhaps a more fruitful entry point for young children. Of course they will notice the water and learn about it, but in some ways the light is more theologically rich on the level at which they are able to access.
We live theology in the Liturgy, and the baptismal signs let us participate in the death and resurrection of Christ by making us “see” this reality through the darkness-light contrast. The baptismal material the children work with consists of the liturgical signs of the sacrament, which are highlighted one at a time; in fact, the material contains nothing apart from these signs.
One of the things I like so far about CGS is the incarnational aspect of the materials. As Cavaletti suggests here, there is no need to invent materials in order to present baptism, the sacrament itself is rich enough.
Children already know the prophecy of Messiah-Light in Isaiah and Easter Liturgy of Light. So baptismal presentations build on that knowledge, begin with sign of paschal candle.
I absolutely love the Liturgy of the Light at Easter and I noticed at Sophia’s baptism that the moment I started to tear up was not when father poured the water over her head so much as when my nephew went to light her candle from the Paschal candle on the altar. That image of the small candle that represents my daughter being lit directly from the Christ candle is somehow more tangible than the water. And I have two candles and two white garments in a box for Isabella and Sophia. When we get to the point of presenting this to them in a formal way, I will bring them out and the girls will be able to handle not generic candles and garments but the very ones that were given to them at their baptisms.
In the first presentation on baptism, Cavaletti says, the children are also shown the baptismal gown:
On our baptismal day our gown covered us completely to show, even on the outside, that inside we are totally different…. “Because the light is inside and outside us.”
The second presentation focuses on the book of God’s word and on the water. The third presentation is dedicated to the imposition of hands and the sign of the cross.
If we synthesize the doctrinal points the children perceive through the baptismal signs it will be seen that they contain the fundamental doctrine of Baptism.
(participation in the death and resurrection of Christ, becoming children of God, the Trinity, Christocentric, gift of God or grace, the Church is the sheepfold.)
All this would be terribly laborious for the child if the liturgical elements of the sacrament did not offer us a concrete theology.
repeated emphasis “not to overwhelm the immediate efficacy of the language of signs with our own words.”
Discussion of how children make connections on their own, create synthesis of the various elements. Makes me think of another discussion (in Charlotte Mason maybe? I can’t recall for certain just now and can’t be bothered to hunt it down) about education being the act of making connections. I do like the way the CGS presents the elements separately and allows the child to make the connections himself. If the catechist connects the dots for him, the child is denied the opportunity to make the knowledge his own. And yet I know in my own eagerness, my excitement about how beautiful those connections are, I will be very prone to try to point them out rather than stepping back and allowing that process of discovery to unfold. Less is more. Or as CM says, masterful inactivity.
Perhaps that’s one reason Narnia has been such a powerful influence on my own spiritual life, I made the connections between the books and the spiritual life on my own, they were not traced for me. I still can feel that rush of excitement as I realized Who Aslan was, that joyous recognition. Especially that moment on the shore when he appears as a lamb and offers fish to the sailors in VDT. Realizing the parallel of Christ and Peter, oh I can’t put it into words but it is a little taste of heaven, my heart speeds up even as I type this. I must keep that in mind as I present things to Bella and Sophie, I want them to have that epiphany of recognition and do not want to steal it with a flood of didactic lectures.
Additional Reading Notes to The Religious Potential of the Child by Sophia Cavaletti: