Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan: Catechesis on the Rites Preceding Baptism by Rev. Fr. L. Stephen Galambos, o.f.m.
We gave a daily instruction on right conduct when the readings were taken from the history of the patriarchs or the maxims of Proverbs. These readings were intended to instruct and train you, so that you might grow accustomed to the ways of our forefathers, entering into their paths and walking in their footsteps, in obedience to God’s commands.
Now the season reminds us that we must speak of the mysteries, setting forth the meaning of the sacraments. If we had thought fit to teach these things to those not yet initiated through baptism, we should be considered traitors rather than teachers. Then, too, the light of the mysteries is of itself more effective where people do not know what to expect than where some instruction has been given beforehand.
Open then your ears. Enjoy the fragrance of eternal life, breathed on you by means of the sacraments. We explained this to you as we celebrated the mystery of “the opening” when we said: Effetha, that is, be opened. Everyone who was to come for the grace of baptism had to understand what he was to be asked, and must remember what he was to answer. This mystery was celebrated by Christ when he healed the man who was deaf and dumb, in the Gospel which we proclaimed to you.
After this, the holy of holies was opened up for you; you entered into the sacred place of regeneration. Recall what you were asked; remember what you answered. You renounced the devil and his works, the world and its dissipation and sensuality. Your words are recorded, not on a monument to the dead but in the book of the living.
There you saw the levite, you saw the priest, you saw the high priest. Do not consider their outward form but the grace given by their ministries. You spoke in the presence of angels, as it is written: The lips of a priest guard knowledge, and men seek the law from his mouth, for he is the angel of the Lord almighty. There is no room for deception, no room for denial. He is an angel whose message is the kingdom of Christ and eternal life. You must judge him, not by his appearance but by his office. Remember what he handed on to you, weigh up his value, and so acknowledge his standing.
You entered to confront your enemy, for you intended to renounce him to his face. You turned toward the east, for one who renounces the devil turns toward Christ and fixes his gaze directly on him.
℟. We ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray; we passed our days in malice and envy, hateful ourselves and hating one another;* but God, in his mercy, saved us through the water of rebirth and the renewing power of the Holy Spirit.
℣. All of us lived according to our natural desires, and we too were naturally bound to suffer God’s wrath,* but God, in his mercy, saved us through the water of rebirth and the renewing power of the Holy Spirit.
Hymn Te Deum
God, we praise you; Lord, we proclaim you!
You, the Father, the eternal –
all the earth venerates you.
All the angels, all the heavens, every power –
The cherubim, the seraphim –
unceasingly, they cry:
“Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts:
heaven and earth are full of the majesty of your glory!”
The glorious choir of Apostles –
The noble ranks of prophets –
The shining army of martyrs –
all praise you.
Throughout the world your holy Church proclaims you.
– Father of immeasurable majesty,
– True Son, only-begotten, worthy of worship,
– Holy Ghost, our Advocate.
– You are the king of glory.
– You are the Father’s eternal Son.
– You, to free mankind, did not disdain a Virgin’s womb.
– You defeated the sharp spear of Death, and opened the kingdom of heaven to those who believe in you.
– You sit at God’s right hand, in the glory of the Father.
– You will come, so we believe, as our Judge.
And so we ask of you: give help to your servants, whom you set free at the price of your precious blood.
Number them among your chosen ones in eternal glory.
The final part of the hymn may be omitted:
Bring your people to safety, Lord, and bless those who are your inheritance.
Rule them and lift them high for ever.
Day by day we bless you, Lord: we praise you for ever and for ever.
Of your goodness, Lord, keep us without sin for today.
Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us.
Let your pity, Lord, be upon us, as much as we trust in you.
In you, Lord, I trust: let me never be put to shame.
Let us pray.
God and Father,
to those who go astray
you reveal the light of your truth
and enable them to return to the right path.
Grant that all who have received the grace of baptism
may strive to be worthy of their Christian calling
and reject everything opposed to it.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Ghost,
one God, for ever and ever.
Let us praise the Lord.
– Thanks be to God.