The recent discussion on language and grammar incited by my last entry is reminiscent of a lecture that I gave a few years back in which I defined the Sacraments as "Divine-language incarnated in tangible, created matter (water, bread, wine)." For the Church, I argued, Sacraments are the fundamental vocabulary of our "Mother Tongue." Here's an excerpt from the conclusion of my paper relating to baptism:
One of the first things that all new parents do at the birth of a child is to cuddle and comfort that child with the "coos" and gentle re-assuring sounds of their voices. It does not matter that the baby in their arms cannot define the words spoken or even that it will ever remember that particular moment. All that matters is that someday our children will understand. They will not only learn to recognize the voice of the parent they will also learn how to speak the parent's language, and consequently the language of the parent will undergo a transformation to become the language of the family. Someday they too will be parents and cuddle and comfort their own children with the "coos" and gentle re-assuring sounds of their voices; and the cycle will be repeated generation after generation, "even unto the end of the world."
In Baptism in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, even when it takes place in the earliest moments of a child's existence (for those of us who practice infant baptism), God speaks to us in Divine "coos" and re-assuring words. It does not matter that we cannot yet understand what He says, or even whether we will ever be able to recall that particular moment. The only thing that matters is that one day we will understand: that it was at this very moment that our Father told the world "This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased"; that a Husband rejoiced with his spotless Bride over the birth of another child and its inclusion in the family; that our Mother, the Church, held a child to her breast and promised in the power of the Spirit to love, nurture, and protect that child from harm's way.