What Are the Symbols and Their Meanings Regarding Baptism?


Quick Answer

The sacrament of Christian baptism has many associated signs, symbols and traditions. Most come from the Bible, while others hearken back to the earliest churches in Asia Minor. The most common baptismal symbols include water, doves and the color white.

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What Are the Symbols and Their Meanings Regarding Baptism?
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Full Answer

Water is a universal symbol of Christian baptism. St. John the Baptist baptized hundreds of people in the Jordan River, including Jesus Christ. Water signifies purity, cleanliness and holiness. Another important baptismal symbol is the dove, which symbolizes the Holy Spirit that the newly baptized person receives. This symbol is also associated with the end of the biblical Great Flood and the doves Noah released to search for dry land. During Christ's baptism, onlookers saw the Holy Spirit appear over Jesus' head in the form of a dove. In both cases the doves represent restoration; Noah's dove returned with proof that the dry land was restored, and the dove that descended on Jesus Christ manifested the Holy Trinity and the restoration of humans to God.

The color white has strong connections to baptism. Like water, white connotes the washing away of sins, renewal, holiness, purity and heavenly joy. Infants usually wear elaborate white dresses during baptism, and adult converts often don a white choir robe, bathrobe or set of sleep clothes. The practice of wearing white baptismal garments is a reference to the white-robed martyrs mentioned in the Revelation of St. John.

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