On the occasion of the baptism of HRH Prince George of Cambridge
Today the Archbishop of Canterbury will baptise HRH the Prince George of Cambridge. In this film, Archbishop Justin explains the significance of baptism and why it is such an important moment for anyone, whoever they are. When Prince George is baptised he will join two billion people around the world in "the family of the Church", he says. He says that baptism is not just for royal babies but is offered to everyone, because "God’s love is offered without qualification, without price, without cost, to all people, in all circumstances, always."
Explaining what will happen when he baptises Prince George, the Archbishop says: ‘I will mark Prince George with the sign of the cross on his forehead, and that’s exactly what every single priest does at every single baptism. It’s an extraordinary moment because that is the sign by which we understand that this person belongs to God.’ The Archbishop encourages anyone who is thinking about christening – either for themselves or their child – to go along to their local church and find out more. At the end of the film, Archbishop Justin shares what he would like to say in his mind to the Prince as he baptises him, citing words used by the Church of Scotland:
For you Jesus Christ came into the world:His Grace would just like to add that baptism doesn't make Prince George a Christian any more than it makes him a future Supreme Governor of the Church of England. In baptism we begin the life of grace within the Church: it is a means of participation in the divine life; the sacrament which unites the Church to the baptism of Christ in the River Jordan, and it is water from that very river which fills the font in the Chapel Royal at St James's Palace.
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 of life;
for you he reigns at God’s right hand.
All this he did for you, though you do not know it yet.
Baptism is a public rite of a covenantal nature, pledging the infant to Christ and to the Church. It is, as the XXXIX Articles affirm, 'effectual' of grace and has an 'instrumental' relation to the action of the Holy Spirit. It is not a man-made piece of theatre, but truly effects what it signifies. It is the foundation of Christian initiation, which also includes catechesis, liturgical profession of faith and confirmation of the Holy Spirit, participation in the Eucharist and reception of Holy Communion.
Today, Prince George will receive the sign of the cross upon his forehead to identify him with the death and resurrection of Christ. It will require a later response from him 'after the example of the Holy Apostles', and a commitment to discipleship throughout his life. The sacrament is theological and eschatological: its meaning and effect are only partially realised in this life.
But instead of quibbling in the comment thread about how and why the Church of England errs in its baptismal ecclesiology, why not pray that the Holy Spirit will lead Prince George to the fullness of faith, and equip him to resist temptation, to follow Christ ardently, to serve the Church, and witness boldly to the world?