Baptism in the Orthodox Church

New Life Given In Baptism and Fulfilled in the Church

I. The Connection between Baptism & Pascha 
"The Passover (Pascha) provides the day of most solemnity for baptism, for then was accomplished our Lord's passion, and into it we are baptized." Tertullian

By the end of the 4th C. Baptism was also performed on the Nativity of Christ (12/25), Theophany (1/6) and Pentecost (50 days after Pascha)

1.) The Liturgy of Pascha is a "Baptismal Liturgy"

2.) Old Testament prototypes of Baptism

  • The crossing of the Red Sea.
  • The three children in the furnace.
  •  Jonah in the belly of the whale

II. The absence of Baptism today.

1.) It is absent from the Liturgy - corporate gathering of the Church.

2.) Absent from our piety - the Church of those who have died and have risen with Christ
"A Christian of the past knew, for example, that Easter each year was the celebration of his own baptism, of his own entrance into the participation in the life of the Risen Christ." Fr. Schmemann, Of Water and Spirit, SVS, 1974 p. 8)

3.) A Baptismal Philosophy of Life consists of:

Orientation toward the world Orientation toward God's Kingdom

4.) The divorce between theology, liturgy & piety due to "School Theology"

The consequences are: a Liturgy to view but not participate theology becomes something for intellectuals - piety was no longer connected to liturgy.

The recovery of the interdependence : Our Liturgical gatherings are mystical experiences in which we manifest and celebrate what we are in Christ. The "work of worship"{Liturgy as the living source of Theology} as the "Body of Christ"{Theology} which is "dead to the world - living by faith in Christ."(the Liturgy is the reference point of our piety}

III. The Journey to New Life

1. Preparation for Baptism:

Preparation lasted from one to three years 
Catechumens (those preparing) were prepared through specific rites: -exorcisms, prayers, explanations of the Holy Scripture.

The preparation involved the entire community - the community prepared to receive the new converts at the same time.

Consequently - the creation of Great Lent.

A.) Preparation as part of Worshiping in Orthodoxy

"It is impossible to enter into the spirit of the Liturgy, to understand its', meaning and to truly participate in it without first understanding that it is built primarily on the double rhythm of preparation and fulfillment and that this rhythm is essential to the Church's liturgy because it reveals and indeed fulfills the double nature and function of the Church herself." (Schmemann, Of Water and the Spirit, p. 16)

B.) What preparing does an infant participate in?

"The Orthodox Church . . .has never posited understanding as the condition for Baptism. She would rather say that true understanding is made possible by Baptism, is its result and fruit, rather than its condition." (Schmemann, Of Water and the Spirit, p. 18)

2. The Catachumenate

1. The convert was brought by sponsors to the Bishop for enrollment.

a.) A sponsor - beginning in the 4th C. it was necessary for sponsors to vouch for the intentions of the one seeking Baptism.

Responsibility: they will be held "liable" Paternal love (spiritual fathers & mothers) encouraging counseling correcting St. John Chrysostom

b.) Enrollment for restoration in Christ "&ldots;Inscribe him in your Book of Life, and unite him to the flock of your inheritance."

3. The Exorcisms:

Evil as a real presence of irrationality - Satan was not willed or created by God.

The Devil - a created spiritual being perfect enough to have a choice to be against God.

"If there is one thing we learn from spiritual experience, is that evil is not to be "explained" but faced and fought" (Of Water and the Spirit, p. 23)

The Church understands that the moment the hand of the priest signs the child with the Cross, satan is there defending that which he has stolen from God.

The words destroy satan - liberation from demonic powers is the beginning of man's restoration.

The breathing of the breath of life once again as satan is cast out.

We are now free to chose Christ.

4. The Renunciation of Satan Historically this took place on Holy Friday or Holy Saturday.

Facing West : West is the Symbol of darkness - the side which is against the East.

"A Christian has to renounce something and this "something" is not a few obviously sinful and immoral acts, but above all a certain vision of life ( and self-pride), a set a priorities, a fundamental attitude towards the world; the idea that Christian life is always a "narrow path" and a fight. . ." (Of Water and the Spirit, p. 29)

"Breathe and spit upon him" - a war is declared

5. Allegiance to Christ "Turning East" - facing Paradise which was planted in the East.

"When you renounce Satan, utterly breaking all covenant with him, that ancient pact with hell, there is open to you the Paradise of God, which He planted toward the East and from which our first father was exiled for his sin. The symbol of this is turning from West to the East, the place of light." (St. Cyril of Jerusalem)

"Do you unite yourself unto Christ?" Sintaxo = to adhere and attach

On "renewing Baptismal vows"

This decision and this oath are taken once and for all; they are not to be reconsidered and re-evaluated "from time to time" for "no man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62) " I Believe in Him as King and as God."

The Kingdom is our home, living in the world we are in "diaspora" (dispersed /exile)

6. The Confession of Faith - the Creed. I believe...

"Bow down and worship Him"

7. Baptism

1. Theology of Water

Three symbols of Water:

  • Life - there can be no life without water - it is the principle of life {Creation}
  • Death - the depths that kill and drown {Fall}
  • Purification - renewal, regeneration, new life {Salvation}

Baptism is: cosmical - as producing a New Creation ecclesiological - as a sacrament of the Church eschatological - as a sacrament of the Kingdom

Baptize in living water (Didiache 7,1) - living water refers to running water as well as, "holding together" the three elements:

  • It re-creates- our fallen nature is re-newed.
  • It Redeems - unites us to the Church and saves us.
  • It saves by bringing us into the Life of the Kingdom.

2. The blessing of the Water

A. Only the sacraments of Baptism, Marriage and the Eucharist begin with:

"Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen

  • The context of these sacraments was the Divine Liturgy
  • The Eucharist was the "end" and fulfillment of these Sacraments

"Each sacrament is, by its very nature and function a real passage into [the] Kingdom; that the grace it bestows on us in indeed the power which transforms our life by making it both a participation in and a pilgrimage toward the Kingdom of God; that the miracle of grace is always to make our heart love, desire and hope for the new treasure implanted in it. Thus the sacrament is a passage, a journey - [to the Kingdom]" (Of Water and Spirit, p. 40)

B. The Great Litany of prayers:

That this water may be sanctified with the power and effective operation and the decent of the Holy Spirit&ldots;

a. The Holy Spirit descends upon the water and re-creates the world again.

b. Water assumes the power of redemption

"That there may be sent upon it the grace of redemption and the blessing of the Jordan&ldots;"

c.) By Christ descending into the Jordan - he made it into the power of redemption.

"That there may come upon this water the purifying operation and the Super-Substantial Trinity."

d.) To be redeemed is to "know" the Trinity - to be in communion.

"That we may be illumined by the light of understanding and piety, and by the decent of the Holy Spirit."

e.)The entire Church is involved in the act of recreation and redemption.

"That this water may prove effectual unto the averting of every snare of enemies both visible and invisible."

f.) Water now returned as a means of communion with God, averts the "snare" of the demonic life - visible {the world as an end in itself} and invisible {demonic powers}

"That he who is baptized therein may be made worthy of the Kingdom incorruptible&ldots;"

g.) We are united to God's Kingdom as a beginning of our Salvation process.

"For him who is now come unto Holy Baptism and for his salvation&ldots;"

h.) Salvation is directed at the person - He it is that the Church now prays.

"That he may prove himself a child of the light and an heir of eternal good things . . ."

"a child of light" - our adoption by God - made into sons of God.
"an heir" - we have been given rights to God's eternal Kingdom.

That he may become a member and partaker of the Death and Resurrection of Christ our God . . . .)

We must desire to make the death and resurrection of Christ as the decisive event in our life. 
That he may preserve his baptismal garment and the earnest of the Spirit pure and undefiled unto the awesome day of Christ our God . . .

i.) Faithfulness to our baptismal event by living by it and making it a "rule of life."

That this water may be unto him a means of regeneration unto the remission of sins, and a garment of incorruption . . .

j.) That all that the Church knows and reveals to be the meaning of Baptism be given and received, fulfilled and appropriated in this Baptism, in this person.

3.) The Sanctification of the Water

Thanksgiving (Eucharistic Prayer)
Anamnesis - the remembrance of the saving events of Christ.
Epiclesis - calling upon the Holy Spirit to change the Water.

4.) The Oil of Gladness

Oil as a medicine
Oil as a source of light and joy
Oil as peace and reconciliation - the olive branch during the flood

The person is anointed as a symbol of life as fullness, joy and participation in the Life of the Holy Spirit - "The oil of gladness" - Unto the healing of body and soul - Unto the hearing of Faith - Thy hands have made me and fashioned me. - That he may walk in the way of thy commandments - Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

5. The Baptism

"sin entered the world and death by sin" (Romans 5:12)

1. We are baptized into the likeness of Christ's death and resurrection.

a.) There are two kinds of death - physical - spiritual - separation from God who is Life

"There is no other life but God's life; the one who rejects it dies because life without God is death. This is the spiritual death . . . makes man's life solitude and suffering, fear and illusion, enslavement to sin, meaninglessness, lust and emptiness." (Of Water and the Spirit, p. 63)

Christ comes to destroy and abolish spiritual death not physical death.

b.) Christ destroys the sting of sin from death

He abolishes death as a spiritual reality ( as separation from God)
By filling death with Himself - with His love and Life.
He makes death into our passage into fuller life: It is no longer a sign of separation and corruption of life

"For me to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Phil 2:21)

Death as "being with Christ"
Death now has become in this world the sign of Christ's victory over sin.
Death is no more for Christians "death is swallowed up in victory" (1 Cor. 15:54)

c.) The likeness is in us - in our faith in Christ before we enter the rite:

- In our faith in Christ - to be His faith - In our love for Him - to be His love - In our desires - to be His desires

To give one's life totally to Christ and to make His will our will

This is our faith. Desiring to die to the world and sin and to become free from "spiritual death". Desiring to Live in Christ, Who is resurrected, alive and present and fills my life with true Life and Fulfillment, joy and peace, love and gentleness.

"we are dead and our life is hid with Christ in God." (Col 3:3)

*Personal Faith brings us to the Church where we receive the gift of Christ's perfect Faith in Baptism:

1. Baptism does not depend (for its reality i.e. Being our death and resurrection with Christ) on personal faith. [adult or infant]

Baptism depends upon Christ's Faith - the very gift of His faith. This is the meaning of the Hymn.

"All those who have been baptized in Christ have put on Christ, Alleluia" (Gal 3:27)

The presence in this world of Christ's Faith is the Church:

"Thus it is on the Faith of the Church that Baptism "depends" ; it is the faith of the Church which knows and desires it to be - and therefore makes baptism that which it is - both "tomb" and "mother. . . the newness of life which baptism bestows is fulfilled only in the Church&ldots;" (Schmemann, Of Water and the Spirit, p. 69)

"It is his personal faith in Christ which brings the catechumen to the Church (makes it possible); it is the Church that will instruct him in and bestow upon him Christ's faith by which she lives.(fulfillment) " (Schmemann, Of Water and Sprit, p. 68)

"In Baptism, the death and resurrection of Christ are truly fulfilled as His death for me, His resurrection for me, and therefore my death in Christ and my resurrection in Him." (Schmemann, Of Water and the Spirit, p. 70)