Cleansing Fire

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Let’s Talk Jacuzzi Baptismal Fonts: Part 1

January 11th, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

Some call this the 'Jacuzzi' style font

 

That’s what my orthodox Catholic friends usually call the pool-like baptismal fonts that have often been installed in new and renovated churches over the last forty years. Usually located at the opposite end of the nave from the altar, just inside the main doors, they are often six to ten foot wide recessed pools of water, one to three feet deep. With a marble railing surrounding it, and steps down into the water, they do look (more so if elevated) somewhat like a hot tub –a Jacuzzi.

This style of baptismal font became popular following the Second Vatican Council in a revival of baptism by immersion. Immersion generally means to plunge or immerse in water as in “full immersion” in which the candidate is completely submerged in (or covered by) the water in one of a couple of different ways. This is radically different from what had been for a long time the traditional Catholic practice of baptizing by pouring water over the forehead of the candidate who bent over a font that rested on a pedestal. Perhaps because full immersion baptism is a popular image we have of

Eastern full immersion Baptism

fundamentalist protestant sects and because the method was highly touted by heterodox liberals in the Church following the Council, orthodox Catholics have tended to ridicule full immersion baptismal fonts.

As far as I know, full immersion has been and continues to be the only method used by the Eastern Church. With some exceptions, mainline Protestants before the Council generally followed the Catholic practice of using pedestal fonts and baptized by pouring water over the forehead. Baptists use full immersion.

Baptism by pouring

Baptism by pouring

How to baptize –immersion or pouring- is a hot topic of debate among some Christians. Most non-Catholic and non-Orthodox groups maintain that baptism is merely an ordinance of the Church, nothing more. Yet, bring up the issue of immersion vs. pouring and it seems one’s immortal soul depends upon which method is employed. (Talk about legalism!). Catholics have the most liberal attitude; they even have a baptism that does not involve water.

What seemed most important to the early Christians, however, was the water and not so much how the person got wet. A first century Christian document called the Didache does not mention immersion but does outline several alternatives that suggest an attitude of considerable flexibility:

“But concerning baptism, thus baptize ye: having first recited all these precepts, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in running water; but if thou hast not running water, baptize in some other water, and if thou canst not baptize in cold, in warm water; but if thou hast neither, pour water three times on the head, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (Didache 7:1-3, as translated by Charles H. Hoole.)

In the early Church baptism was apparently approached pragmatically.

I don’t wish to get into the history of Christian baptism or speculation concerning how Christ was baptized. There are plenty of informative as well as polemic (far more of the latter) sites available on the internet for anyone really interested in researching those topics. I wish only to offer my opinion and explanation on what I think a baptismal font should look like –Jacuzzi or pedestal. I’ll tackle the issue straight on in Part 2. I hope you find it interesting.

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12 Responses to “Let’s Talk Jacuzzi Baptismal Fonts: Part 1”

  1. avatar Nerina says:

    Interesting and informative as always.

    I’ve seen priests attempt to baptize babies by full immersion where the baby’s butt is the only thing that makes it into the water. Do you think this is valid?

  2. avatar Eliza10 says:

    Oh, my, that comment gave me a good laugh! Its a good example of what is so ridiculous about the things. Isn’t it more dignified to baptize the baby’s forehead? Isn’t that much more dignified? And how many babies respond to a wetted bottom with wetting the holy water tub? Seems natural, to me.

    I am suspicious of the whole jacuzzi thing. Something just doesn’t seem right about it. The people are NOT calling for it but they are called to pay for them while being refused to have their money go to what they’d like it to go to, like Catholic schools or keeping their Church open.

    No meaningful reason is ever given for having it. However, the jacuzzi installers seem very proud of their accrument.

    As an ex-Baptist, I suspect that the movement was started by Catholics who did not know their faith, responding to Baptists who eyebrowed them about full-immersion baptism. They then pushed the tubs on us all so that we could be more like the Baptists, less like Catholics. Which is one of my chief complaints about the whole progressive, Litur-nazi, DOR movement: they are trying to be Protestant and they will always make bad pretend-Protestants, and just appear ridiculous. They are like people with a personal identity crisis and their dysfunction is what drives them.

    I am glad that when I converted, my infant baptism at a Methodist Church was considered valid, and I did not have to get dunked in a hot tub, indoors, getting fully wet, fully dressed on such an important occasion while everyone else is dressed up and dry.

  3. avatar Robert says:

    I think to ordinary form of baptism is to pour the water over the head [in caput]. These tubs are joke!

  4. avatar Matt says:

    As always, I state…we didn’t have these problems in 1962…

  5. avatar Rick D. says:

    Another thing I have noticed when Jacuzzi style tubs are installed is the absence of
    holy water at the Church doors. In our desecrated Cathedral you need to go to the “hot tub”
    for this Sacramental. Very few do.

  6. avatar Nerina says:

    Eliza10, you “scratch me where I itch” with your comments. I can’t agree more with everything you say.

  7. avatar A Catholic says:

    I agree with what’s being said here. Another frustrating aspect is the amount of $$$ that has to be spent to put in an immersion pool when the older style of baptism is just as valid and arguably more dignified.

  8. avatar Mike says:

    Ezekiel 36:25-27 is usually read as a prophecy of sacramental baptism, as it mentions both water and the Spirit. Interestingly, Ezekiel does not mention pouring or full immersion, but sprinkling

    I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees.

    Could it be that all we really need is this?

  9. avatar Eliza10 says:

    I’m anxiously waiting for the next installment on holy water hot-tubs! (So much for my recently acquired gift of patience). Why do the Litur-nazi’s like these so much??

  10. avatar Eliza10 says:

    Let me know if “Liter-nazi” offends anyone. I don’t know if I made it up or heard it somewhere. It seems a fitting term but perhaps using “nazi” in anything is offensive? I’m open to alternative suggestions if it is.

  11. avatar Matt says:

    Liturnazis might be even worse than feminazis

  12. avatar thomas_lautus says:

    I agree that baptism by pouring is more dignified and reverent
    as a sacramental symbol.
    I have seen a lot of antics performed during pool baptism,
    including candidates clenchig their fist upwards as a sign of
    “victory” etc etc.
    I hope not more and more Catholic churches would adopt this
    rampant protestanism. What I love about Catholic church is the
    symbol and reverence to the Sacraments, something which is
    lacking and devoid in protestant churches.


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