When godparents (or the catechumen to be baptized) recite their baptismal promises, they affirm and reject a variety of statements.
In particular, they are asked to reject Satan, all his works and all his empty promises.
The Latin word used in the last question is sometimes translated as “pomps.”
What is that?
Pope Benedict XVI offered his own commentary on this word in a 2006 homily on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord:
In the ancient Church these “noes” were summed up in a phrase that was easy to understand for the people of that time: they renounced, they said, the “pompa diabuli,” that is, the promise of life in abundance, of that apparent life that seemed to come from the pagan world, from its permissiveness, from its way of living as one pleased.
Rejecting the devil’s “pomps” meant a great deal and summed up an entire worldview that is opposed to a Christian way of life.
It was therefore “no” to a culture of what seemed to be an abundance of life, to what in fact was an “anticulture” of death. It was “no” to those spectacles in which death, cruelty and violence had become an entertainment:
Let us remember what was organized at the Colosseum or here, in Nero’s gardens, where people were set on fire like living torches. Cruelty and violence had become a form of amusement, a true perversion of joy, of the true meaning of life.
This “pompa diabuli,” this “anticulture” of death was a corruption of joy, it was love of deceit and fraud and the abuse of the body as a commodity and a trade.
In today’s culture, these “pomps” are still there and require a firm rejection by every Christian:
It is an “anticulture” manifested, for example, in drugs, in the flight from reality to what is illusory, to a false happiness expressed in deceit, fraud, injustice and contempt for others, for solidarity, and for responsibility for the poor and the suffering; it is expressed in a sexuality that becomes sheer irresponsible enjoyment, that makes the human person into a “thing,” so to speak, no longer considered a person who deserves personal love which requires fidelity, but who becomes a commodity, a mere object.
The next time we renew our baptismal promises, may we truly reject the devil’s “empty promises” and his culture of death.