HOLY BAPTISM

               Holy Baptism is the First Mystery of the Church, and considered to be the foundation of our new life in Christ. In the Holy Scriptures our Lord Jesus Christ said the following concerning baptism: 

  • "He who believes and is baptised will be saved" (Mark 16:16).

  • "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit..." (Matthew 28:19).

  • "Truly. truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:5).

Through this great Mystery, death, which was the result of the Ancestral Sin of our Forefathers Adam and Eve, is put to death and "no longer has dominion over" us, as St. Paul the apostle writes in his epistle to the Romans. The death which Paul the apostle speaks of, is eternal death, because up until the time of our Lord's Crucifixion, all men were condemned to death. Furthermore, concerning baptism, the God-inspired Apostle Paul in Romans 6:3-11, adds: "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Through this great Mystery of Holy Baptism, not only are we redeemed from the curse of death of the Ancestral Sin, but we are also cleansed from all of the sins which we previously committed throughout our life. As Christians, we believe in only "One Baptism" for the remission of sins, just as we recite in the Holy Nicene Creed, and as the holy Apostle Paul says, there is, but: "One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism." Ephesians 4:5 

 

This is NOT to say of course, that those who had previously received baptism outside the true Church, had indeed received a valid baptism, not at all, God forbid such a notion! The Holy Canons of the Church are very clear about the non-validity of "Mysteries" outside the Church, therefore the "One Baptism," is the baptism given by the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ. Baptisms performed by those outside the Church, namely; schismatics and heretics, are not recognised by the Orthodox Church. Let us say for example, someone of the Roman Catholic, Protestant or Ecumenist1 Orthodox "Churches," seeks and finds the True Church, then that person, according to the strictness of canons of the Church, must be baptised from the from the beginning, in order to receive only his First Baptism, despite having been baptised in one of the aforementioned "Churches".

 

Without analysing the etymology of the word baptise, in Greek it basically means "to dip, plunge, or immerse" something entirely into water. In the Orthodox Church this is exactly how people are baptised, they are fully immersed into water three times. The person being baptised is immersed three times, and with each plunge a the Name of a Person of the Holy Trinity is invoked, in order to be baptised in the Name of the All-Holy Trinity. The priest or bishop, while laying his right hand on the head of the person being baptised, (who is already standing in the water facing the east), says: "The servant/Handmaid of God .............. is baptised in the Name of the Father (Down into water) Amen. (Out of the water). And of the Son (Down into water) Amen. (Out of the water). And of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

In the Holy Orthodox Church, it is not just adults who are eligible to be baptised, infant baptisms are customary tradition and practice of the Church. In fact, contrary to the misconception that baptism was only performed on adults in the ancient Church, furthermore, infant baptism has Biblical routes as we will see below. In the early Church  St. Polycarp described himself as having been in devoted service to Christ for 86 years in a manner that would clearly indicate a childhood baptism. St. Justin Martyr tells of the “many men and women who have been disciples of Christ from childhood.” St. Irenaeus of Lyon wrote about “all who are born again in God, the infants, and the small children . . . and the mature.” St. Hippolytus of Rome insisted that “first you should baptize the little ones . . . but for those who cannot speak, their parents should speak or another who belongs to their family.”

 

In the Holy Gospel, our Lord Himself said"Then little children were brought to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these."  (St. Matthew 19:13-14)

  • In 1 Corinthians 1:16: Saint Paul baptised the household of Stephanus.

  • Acts 11:3: St. Peter baptized the household of Cornelius.

  • Acts 16:15: Saint Paul baptizes the household of Lydia.

  • Acts 16:31: Philippian jailer's household is baptized.

The fact that entire households were baptised, shows us that baptism was not limited to just adults, since children are part of most households.  The first recorded opposition to the practice comes from Tertullian the historian in the third century. He objected to the practice of baptizing infants because of the heretical idea that sin after baptism was nearly unforgivable2. His dissension should be understood within the larger debates of his day, centered around perceived laxity in church morals and government. Many of the greatest Fathers of the third and fourth centuries were not baptized until they were adults, despite having been born to Christian parents. Among them were St. Basil the Great, St. Augustine, and St. Jerome. The later baptism of these men reflects a larger crisis in the newly legalized Church under St. Constantine. One reason postponing baptism became popular was the desire of some Christians to counteract the new wave of baptisms of pagans wishing only to belong to the faith of their emperor. While not yet a requirement of Roman loyalty or citizenship, baptism ensured that one was on the right side of Rome. Postponing baptism emphasized the significance of the rite, and was an attempt to preserve the genuineness of the life for which baptism served as the initiation. Postponement had nothing to do with the validity of a child’s baptism. Many of those Fathers whose baptism was postponed insisted later on that families baptize their new born children, notably St. John Chrysostom, St. Ambrose, and St. Cyril of Alexandria.

When 
an infant is baptised, the confession of faith is solemnly pronounced by his godparent who thereby is obligated to bring the child up in the Christian faith and make his Baptism conscious. An infant who receives the Mystery of Baptism cannot rationally understand what is happening to him, yet he is fully capable of receiving the Grace of the Holy Spirit. 'I believe'; writes Saint Symeon the New Theologian, "that baptized infants are sanctified and preserved under the wing of the All-Holy Spirit and that they are lambs of the spiritual flock of Christ and chosen lambs, for they have been imprinted with the sign of the Life-Giving Cross and freed completely from the tyranny of the devil. The Grace of God is given to infants as a pledge of their future belief, as a seed cast into the earth: for the need to grow into a tree and bring forth fruit, the efforts both of the godparents and of the one baptized as he grows are needed."

The concept that the infant is "saved" on account of the faith of the Godparent, namely; that the infant can receive this gift of Grace and entrance into the Church, through the faith of the Godparents, can be compared with the Gospel accounts were Christ healed certain people, on account of the faith He saw within a mediator or a third person, for example, when Christ saw the faith of the Centurion and healed his servant from afar: "The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour." (Matthew 8:8-13)

Then there is also the example of the man whom was sick with the palsy whom Jesus healed, because of the display of faith which the four men, which carried his bed had shown: "And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee." (Mark 2:4-5)

 

 

 

Information will be added as soon as possible.

 

1:  Ecumenists are those who are active in the 'Ecumenical Movement', an ideology which encourages unity between all Christian denominations regardless of the theological differences, as well as unity between Christianity and other religions. At the forefront of Ecumenism is the organisation, the World Council of Churches (WCC). The World Council of Churches promotes that every Christian denomination and religion have a portion of the truth, and that truth is not concealed within only one Church. This is known as the 'Branch Theory', according to which each ecclesiastical tradition possesses only part of the truth, so that the true Church will come into being only when they all join together; such a belief encourages the "churches" to continue as they are, confirming in their fragmented state, and the final result is Christianity without the Church. Each church, in its more pronounced form, displays, according to its own native spirit, a particular version of the unique revelation. So, for example, Roman Christianity is characterized by filial love and obedience expressed towards the fatherly authority hypostatized in the first Person of the Trinity: the Church is there to teach and to obey. For the Reformed Churches the vital thing is sacramental reverence for the Word; it is the Church's duty to listen and reform itself. The Orthodox treasure the liberty of the children of God that flowers in liturgical communion, while the Church hymns the love of God for the human race.

2:  This is a heresy refereed to as Novationism, which stemmed from Novatian who was a scholar, priest, theologian and antipope between 251 and 258. Some Greek authors give his name as Novatus, who was an African presbyter.

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