When Joseph was nine days old, he was baptized in St. Andrew By the Bay Church of Annapolis, Maryland.
It was the third Sunday of Advent, so joyous pink decorations were put up everywhere. In terms of his age, Joseph was being baptized a bit earlier than some, but with Christmas coming, Maria and Georg were glad to be able to have him baptized as soon as possible. Dominik had, again, made the trip down from New York City, and the congregation was full for Sunday service in witness to the sacrament. Along with the altar boys who would lead the procession, five people stood just inside the church at the main entrance: the priest, Maria, Georg, Dominik and Liesl.
Maria, in a rose-colored dress reflecting the joy of the day and the joy of her heart, held baby Joseph in her arms. Georg stood beside her proudly, his arm around her waist, wearing a matching tie of the same rose color.
Joseph was wearing his pure white baptismal gown that Max and Philomena had sent from Europe as a gift. Georg had called them once the time difference had seemed appropriate for both parties, and both were thrilled about the news, and wished that they could be there. The gown had been a surprise, but a beautiful one. Also, it was not itchy or uncomfortable for him, so he was very comfortable in the gown and his mother's arms. The godparents Dominik and Liesl stood by them with linked arms. The rest of the children stood in the first aisle of the church, the furthest away for the moment but no less happy.
The priest spoke in a voice that carried in the echoing church. "My dear friends, welcome on this third Sunday of Advent, a true day of joy. Not only because the day of Christ's birth is close within our sights, but because today we welcome a new member into the Church. Parents, godparents, family and friends, you have experienced unbelievable joy in bringing this child into the world. A true gift from God is the miracle of life, and his life will be further blessed in this sacrament."
He turned to Maria and Georg with a smile. Father Philip was a kind man in his sixties, who had welcomed the Von Trapps to the congregation right away. All he had done to prepare them for the ceremony was to say, 'Just answer the questions as I know you will: truthfully.' "What name do you give your child?"
Georg answered in a proud, strong voice. "Joseph Dominik."
Dominik, as always when he heard his nephew's middle name, blushed a bit and smiled a bit. Liesl squeezed his arm and they exchanged smiles.
The priest continued: "And what do you ask of God's Church for Joseph Dominik?"
"The sacrament of Baptism," replied Maria in just as strong of a voice. Just then, Joseph gave a particularly loud coo, which made those around the group and amongst them laugh, especially the priest.
"The motion has been seconded, then," he said, and everyone laughed again. Georg rubbed his son's head and Maria blushed through her smile. "You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him up to keep God's commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?"
Both Maria and Georg replied, "We do."
Father Philip turned to Liesl and Dominik. "Godparents, are you ready to help the parents of this child in their duty as Christian parents?"
Both Liesl and Dominik exchanged a look and said, "We do."
Father Philip smiled. "The Christian community welcomes you with great joy. In its name I claim you for Christ our Savior by the sign of his cross." With his thumb, the priest made the sign of the cross on Joseph's forehead. Then the service began, the Von Trapps walking in the small procession up the aisle. They turned to the first pew and sat with the children to the liturgy of the word and the intercessions.
After they were over, Father Philip called the five of them up to the altar for the sacrament. Joseph, bless him, had fallen asleep, which made those closest smile. There's no harm, thought Maria. It's not him who will be answering the questions, anyway. Also, Maria had gotten some very valuable advice when Joseph was born: You never wake a sleeping baby.
The priest commenced: "Dear parents and godparents: You have come here to present this child for baptism. By water and the Holy Spirit, he is to receive the gift of new life from god, who is love.
"On your part, you must make it your constant care to bring him up in the practice of the faith. See that the divine life which God gives him is kept safe from the poison of sin, to grow always stronger in his heart.
"If your faith makes you ready to accept this responsibility, renew now the vows of your own baptism. Reject sin; profess your faith in Christ Jesus. This is the faith of the Church. This is the faith in which this child is about to be baptized."
The priest went on to renew the baptismal vows of Maria, Georg, Liesl, and Dominik by reciting back the Nicene Creed to them. "This is our faith," said Father Philip when this was finished. "This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it, in Christ Jesus our Lord."
"Amen," said the congregation.
Father Philip invited the parents and godparents to the font of holy water, and said to them. "Is it your will that Joseph should be baptized in the faith of the Church, which we have all professed with you?"
Maria, Georg, Liesl and Dominik all responded in unison: "It is."
Smiling, Father Philip motioned for Maria. She walked right up to the basin of the font and, with Georg using his hand to support Joseph's head, held him carefully over the water.
"Joseph Dominik, I baptize you, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Three times during this speech Father Philip dipped his cupped hand into the font, and carefully poured it over Joseph's head. As this happened, Joseph woke up but he did not cry. His eyes opened, and he looked between his beaming father and his beautiful mother. "Amen."
The cantor near the piano sang the tradition words, which the congregation repeated back:
"You have put on Christ! In Him, you have been baptized!
The proud parents and godparents smiled with joy as Father Philip wiped Joseph's head. Because he had such abundant dark hair, it was a tougher job than normal, and he chuckled at that. This caused Joseph to give a very annoyed cry at the annoying sensation. This made everyone laugh. Maria gathered him close to her and soothed him with a kiss.
Still smiling, Father Philip resumed the sacrament. "God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin, given you a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and welcomed you into his holy people. He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation. As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life."
Father Philip dipped his thumb into the chrism oil the altar boy held out for him, and made a cross on Joseph's forehead. Maria had calmed him, so he accepted it without resistance.
After wiping his thumb on a towel, Father Philip resumed, looking at Joseph and making a sign of the cross over his white baptism gown. "Joseph, you have become a new creation, and have clothed yourself in Christ. See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity. With your family and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven."
The altar boy handed him a small, slim, but beautifully carved white candle. He lit it with the light from the Easter candle, and handed the candle to Dominik and Liesl, who held it together.
"Godparents, this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly. This child of yours has been enlightened by Christ. He is to walk always as a child of the light. May he keep the flame of faith alive in his heart. When the Lord comes, may he go out to meet him with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom."
Both Dominik and Liesl nodded to the priest, and smiled at Maria and Georg, who smiled right back.
The sacrament was nearly over, and only the final blessings remained. Father Philip stepped up to Maria and Georg, smiling. His gaze turned to Maria.
"God the Father, through His Son, the Virgin Mary's child, has brought joy to all Christian mothers, as they see the hope of eternal life shine on their children." He made a sign of the cross over Maria. "May He bless the mother of this child. She now thanks God for the gift of her child. May she be one with him in thanking Him for ever in heaven, in Christ Jesus our Lord."
"Amen," said the congregation.
Tears of joy and love streamed down Maria's face, and she closed her eyes as the blessing washed over her, silently giving her thanks to God. She could still remember a time when she never imagined she would ever be a mother, or a wife, or a lover, or part of a family at all. And now…Maria opened her eyes again and looked down at her infant son laying in her arms, looking back up at her. She smiled at Joseph and pressed her forehead gently to his for a moment.
I am so blessed.
Father Philip turned his gaze to Georg. "God is the giver of all life, human and divine. May he bless the father of this child." He made the sign of the cross over Georg. "He and his wife will be the first teachers of their child in the ways of faith. May they be also the best of teachers, bearing witness to the faith by what they say and do, in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Georg felt tears fill his own eyes as the blessing came over him. Like Maria he closed his eyes for a moment in silent gratitude. In a year and a half, he had gone from being the tormented shadow of a man, estranged from his children and closed off from beauty, to…He opened his eyes and looked at his beautiful wife, his angel, who had saved his life, saved his children, and now held the living proof of their love in her arms, a love he never expected, never thought he deserved, but wouldn't trade for the world.
I am so blessed.
"By God's gift, through water and the Holy Spirit, we are reborn to everlasting life. In His goodness, may He continue to pour out his blessing upon these sons and daughters of His. May he make them always, wherever they may be, faithful members of His holy people. May He send his peace upon all who are gathered here, in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Father Philip motioned for Maria and Georg to turn towards the congregation, which they did, along with Liesl and Dominik. Father Philip spread his arms wide to the congregation. "My brothers and sisters, welcome Joseph Dominik Von Trapp to our Church!"
The entire congregations, everyone in the church, burst into applause. The six children in the first pew cheered the loudest with the biggest smiles. Liesl and Dominik, their arms still linked and holding the candle, exchanged a smile. Maria and Georg looked around the applauding congregation, smiling in gratitude and joy before looking lovingly at their son and then each other. Joseph, unfamiliar with this loud but joyous sound, open his eyes and looked around in curiosity, but he didn't cry. He was too fascinated to interrupt this curious sound.
At the end of the service, the entire family led the way out of the church, and they came out to a beautiful, rarely cloud-free, December sky. The sun was shining radiantly on everything, and it shone radiantly on the family. Before everyone else from the congregation came out to congratulate them and fawn over Joseph, Georg wrapped his arms around his wife, holding their child, and kissed her tenderly.
When the kiss ended, they took the last free moment to look down adoringly at their son, their creation, their miracle, their extraordinary love's living proof.