Originally Posted by De Mariaresponse by fellow Catholic:
Can we baptize without water? Here's what I say, correct me if I'm wrong:
It is not, "In Baptism, water is the sign of what the Spirit does". It is that "in Baptism, water is the effectual sign which signifies and produces what the spirit does."
To compare, if a man claims that he has been baptized by the Holy Spirit because he claims this happens by "faith alone", this may or may not be true. Scripture says the Spirit blows where it will.
But, if a man claims that he has been baptized by the Holy Spirit when he was baptized in the Sacrament of the Catholic Church, then this is true. Because Christ has tied the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, to the pouring of the water and proclamation of the word.
The Church says it this way:
1238 The baptismal water is consecrated by a prayer of epiclesis (either at this moment or at the Easter Vigil). The Church asks God that through his Son the power of the Holy Spirit may be sent upon the water, so that those who will be baptized in it may be "born of water and the Spirit."40
What do yo think?
You bring up an interesting point here De Maria. I think the discussion can be broke down to (1) whether the sacraments are merely outward signs of an invisible reality i.e. the conferring of grace or (2) whether the sacraments are both outward signs of the conferring of grace and causes of grace.
Stated briefly, the Church teaches the second point. The sacraments worthily received confer the grace that they signify (CCC #1127). They are not just mere signs. The principle cause of grace is of course God or the Holy Spirit in the sacraments. According to St Thomas Aquinas, by divine power, the sacraments are an instrumental cause of grace such like the humanity of Jesus was an instrument of his divinity in bringing about the redemption of the human race. For example, the water used in baptism not only signifies a washing away of our sins and a cleansing of our soul, but there is in the water as well as in the words used in baptism, a divine spiritual power that actually causes the cleansing of the soul and the bestowal of grace. This seems to be the meaning of #1238 from the CCC De Maria quotes above.
St Augustine, which St Thomas Aquinas quotes in his Summa Theologica, says this:
"whence hath water so great a power , that it touches the body and cleanses the heart"
Again St Augustine:
"Nor should you marvel, if we say that water, a corporeal substance, achieves the cleansing of the soul. It does indeed, and penetrates every secret hiding place of the conscience. For subtle and clear as it is, the blessing of Christ makes it yet more subtle, so that it permeates into the very principles of life and searches the innermost recesses of the heart"
And St Bede:
"Our Lord conferred a power of regeneration on the waters by the contact of His most pure body."