Saturday, 2 April 2011

Colloquium on Baptism in the Spirit

In his message for Lent 2011, Pope Benedict XVI drew attention to the baptismal orientation of the Lenten season. It is therefore appropriate that, under the auspices of the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services (ICCRS), a colloquium should have taken place addressing the question of "Baptism in the Spirit". ZENIT have a report here, and ICCRS have their own report here (you will need to scroll down the page to find the account of the event itself).

During Eastertide last year I took part in some Life in the Spirit seminars taking place locally, and at that time posted on the idea that Baptism in the spirit should be seen as a particular specification of the grace received in the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation and that this gave it a close parallel to Marian consecration in the tradition of St Louis Marie de Montfort. This theme is clearly articulated in the accounts of the ICCRS colloquium.

Fr Raniero Cantalamessa was one of the speakers at the colloquium, and in part spoke of the ecclesial nature of Catholic Charismatic Renewal. This is pertinent, since the subject matter of the colloquium is not just of relevance to those who take part in the life of the Charismatic Renewal but of relevance to the whole Church.
The preacher noted that in contrast to many other charismatic and prophetic groups in Church history, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal has had a strong ecclesial bent. “It aligned itself with previous renewal movements through the capacity it brought for a change of life, but differed from them in its fidelity to the institutional Church.” He emphasized that credit for this belongs not to the Charismatic Renewal alone but also to the hierarchy, and particularly to the courage of popes Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
Another speaker described how the fathers of the Church wrote about Baptism in the Spirit, relating it clearly to the sacraments of initiation:
Bishop Michel Santier of Créteil, France, observed that for Justin Martyr, Origen and Cyril of Jerusalem, “baptism in the Spirit” was synonymous with Christian initiation. Many of the Fathers regarded the reception of charisms as integral to the sacraments of initiation. Santier quoted St. Cyril, who urged baptismal candidates, “Let each one prepare himself to receive the divine gift (that is, prophecy),” and St. Hilary of Poitiers, who wrote, “We who have been reborn through the sacrament of baptism experience intense joy when we feel within us the first stirrings of the Holy Spirit. We begin to have insight into the mysteries of faith; we are able to prophesy and speak with wisdom.”

Santier noted that the ancient Syriac church, like the Church today, practiced infant baptism and faced the need for a way to “activate” the grace of initiation in adult life. The eighth-century Syriac mystic Joseph Hazzaya, he said, spoke of a “sign by which you will sense that the Spirit received at baptism is at work in you,” and mentioned effects familiar to charismatics today: “a flow of spiritual words” and “a knowledge of two worlds, with joy, jubilation, exultation, glorification, praise, song, hymns and odes.”
It is expected that the proceedings of the colloquium will be published in due course as a book. I look forward to reading it.

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