TEXTS – ORTHODOXY
The rites of Baptism and Christmation
The Rites of Baptism and Christmation (known as Confirmation in the Western) are the rites of passage and entry into the Eastern Orthodox Church. It is the Divine Economy of Faith, what brings Life to all Christians that become in Communion with the Patriarch of Constantinople, the First Among Equals. For of course, ”In the beginning God made the Heavens and the Earth. But the Earth was unsightly and unfurnished, and darkness was over the deep, and the Spirit of God moved over the waters.” (Genesis 1:1,2) These are the very first words of Scripture! The “Spirit of God,” the Holy Spirit, was in “the waters.” This is a prefigurement of baptism, of what gives us life, since God used water to make creation, but also uses it to renew creation.
He then did just that, by renewing creation through the flood. “And the flood was upon the Earth forty days and forty nights, and the water greatly abounded and bore up the ark, and it was lifted on high from off the Earth… and the ark was borne upon the water… and (water) covered all the high mountains which were under the Heavens… And there died all flesh that moved upon the Earth, of flying creatures and cattle, and of wild beasts, and of every reptile moving upon the Earth, and every man… (But) Noah was left alone and those with him in the ark… (Genesis 7:17-24) All Christians are “lifted on high from off the Earth,” towards the “Heavens” when they are baptized, since they are renewed as Creation was renewed, and become one with God. Noah’s ark is a type of the Church, and we all must be purified by water and Spirit to enter this Church, and not die like the men and women who laughed at Noah. Indeed, they died because of their wickedness and lack of faith. But Noah was faithful,and was a type of Christ.
And then, in Exodus, there is the crossing of the River Jordan and the Pillars of Cloud and Fire:
“And the Angel of God that went before the camp of the children of Israel removed and went behind, and the pillar of the cloud also removed from before them and stood behind them. And it went behind the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel, and stood; and there was darkness and blackness; and the night passed, and they came not near to one another during the whole night. And Moses stretched forth His hand over the sea, and the Lord carried back the sea… And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry land, and the water of it was a wall on the right hand and a wall on the left. And the Egyptians pursued them and went in after them… (with) Pharaoh… And it came to pass in the morning watch that the Lord looked forth on the camp of the Egyptians, and bound the axle-trees of their chariots, and caused them to go with difficulty; and the Egyptians said, ‘Let us flee from the face of Israel, for the Lord fights for them… And the Lord said to Moses, ‘stretch forth thine hand over the sea, and let the water be turned back to its place, and let it cover the Egyptians…’ And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea… and the Lord shook off the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. And the water returned and covered the chariots and the riders… and there was not left of them even one… So the Lord delivered Israel in that day from the hand of the Egyptians… (and) the Egyptians (were) dead by the shore of the sea.” (Exodus 14:19-30)
This pillar of cloud was a type of the soothing waters of Baptism, and the pillar fire which led them by night was a type of the fire of the Holy Spirit within every follower of Christ. This cloud of Baptism also soothes the fire of our sins. The Egyptians are a type of our sins, and we must flee from them across the Red Sea, and then across the Jordan River to make it to the Land of Promise, Cainaan, the Land of Milk and Honey, the New Jerusalem. We fight against our sins until they are “turned back,” and “dead,” and we do this with “difficulty.” It also prefigures and symbolizes the death of the old man, and the putting on of the new, as well as becoming slaves of “Christ,” instead slaves to “sin.” This is because we must “Act as free men… and… not use (our) freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.” (1 Peter 2:16
And then there is Naaman the leper, who gets cleansed of his leprosy in the River Jordan:
“And the King of Syria said to Naaman, ‘Go to,’… ” He then said, “I have sent to thee my servant Naaman, and thou shalt recover him from his leprosy. And it came to pass, when the King of Israel read the letter, that he rent his garments, and said, ‘Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends to me to recover a man of his leprosy?’ … And it came to pass, when Elisha heard that… he sent to the King of Israel, saying, ‘Wherefore has thou rent thy garments? Let Naaman, I pray thee, come to me, and let him know that there is a prophet in Israel.’ So Naaman came with horse and chariot… And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go and wash seven times in the Jordan, and thy flesh shall return to thee, and thou shalt be clean.’ And Naaman was angry, and departed… and he turned away and went in a rage. And his servants came near and said to him, ‘Suppose the prophet had spoken a great thing to thee, wouldst though not perform it? Yet he has but said to thee, Wash, and be cleansed. ‘ So Naaman went down, and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of Elisha: and his flesh returned to him as the flesh of a little child, and he has cleansed.” (4 Kings 5:5-14)
Leprosy is a type of the sins of mankind, since God commonly punished people for sin in the Old Testament with leprosy. The people would go out of the camp, and come back after the prescribed amount of days, and, if healed, would be proclaimed clean by the high priest. This was a part of the Mosaic Law’s observances. When the King of Israel said that he is not “God,” he spoke rightly, since man needs to be “cleansed,” by God in baptism, and man cannot make one “alive,” or “recover” one from “leprosy.” Sin can only be cleansed by God. The priest only forgives a catechumen’s sin in the place of God during the Baptism and Chrismation. Also, we are cleansed “seven times” from our seven sins, and our “…flesh (is) returned to… the flesh of a little child.” We become as innocent as when before we sinned, and get cleansed of the consequences of Adam and Eve’s Original Sin, but it does not cleanse the guilt of Adam and Eve, since this guilt was never ours in the first place. Every man is guilty for his own sin only.
This event truly prefigured baptism in the New Testament Church. For, even in the Septuagint, the Greek word baptizein is used for the immersions that heal the Gentile Naaman from his skin infection, which is called tzaraath. His being a Gentile also prefigured the fact that Gentiles would be baptized, and then grafted into the Church with the old olive tree of the Jews. Salvation would be brought to all, and not just to the Jewish people.
And then there is Psalm 22 in the Greek Old Testament known as the Septuagint or LXX: “The Lord Shepherdeth me, and I shall not want. In a place of green pasture, there hath He made me to dwell; he hath nurtured me beside the waters of rest. He hath restored my soul; he hath led me in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake. For though I walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou Art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they have comforted me. Thou hast prepared a table before me in the presence of those that trouble me; Tho hast anointed my head with oil; and like the best wine doth Thy cup inebriate me. And thy mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the House of the Lord unto the length of days.” This means that Christ is our Shepherd, and we will “not want.” He makes us “dwell,” among the righteous, he “nurture(s),” us and he brings us to “waters of rest,” or baptism. Our souls and bodies are then “restored,” and we are put to “death” I through Christ. We escape the “shadow(s),” of sin and “evil,” and are “comforted” by the Holy Trinity. His “rod” and His “staff” are His crucifixion, which we have used to put away the old man, and become new men or creatures in Christ. He has “prepared a table,” and has “anointed (our) head(s) with oil,” meaning the holy Myron used for Chrismation, which heals us and purifies us. The table is the table where the sacred oil is prepared for this sacrament. We are also “inebriate(d)” by the “cup” of The Lord, which we can now partake of as a sacrament in “the House of the Lord,” or His Church, for “length of days,” or forever. We are now members of Christ’s Church.
In Isaiah, we are told that “… though your sins be as crimson, I will make them white as snow; and though they be as scarlet, I will make them white as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18) This means that our sins will be cleansed, and we shall be made pure by the Holy Trinity. Christ died for us in the likeness of our human nature and flesh, but never sinned, so was as “white as wool,” but became “crimson” in His death for us through His Crucifixion, so that we could be like snow or white wool through baptism, having our previous sins forgiven us. No longer is our baptismal garment bloodied through sin, but is pure white.
In the Book of Ezekiel, we are told that God will “… take (us) from among the nations, and gather (us) out of all the lands, and will bring (us) into (our) own land:
And (He) will sprinkle clean water upon (us), and (we) shall be purged from all (our) uncleanesses, and from all (our) idols, and (He) will cleanse (us). A new heart also (He) will give (us), and a new spirit will (He) put within (us): and (He) will take away the heart of stone out of (our) flesh, and He will give (us) an heart of flesh. And (He) will put (His) Spirit within (us), and cause (us) to walk in (His) ordinances, and keep (His) judgements, and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:24-27) When God talks of us being “among the nations,” and brought into our “own land,” wit means that God will save the Gentiles as well, and not just the Jews, and that He will lead is into Heaven, the New Jerusalem.
We will be “clean” because of this “water”, and “purged” from “uncleaness.” This holy water will purge our sins, and make us new creations in God. He makes sure we are not of a “heart of stone” like Pharaoh, but with a “heart of flesh,” like Moses, who follow His “ordinances,” and keep His “judgements.” If we do all this, we shall receive the “Spirit.” This Spirit is imparted to us by Holy Baptism. And this Spirit is the Holy Spirit Himself, who “…proceeds from the Father…” (Nicene Creed)
In the New Testament, St John the Baptist (known as the Forerunner or Prodromos in Greek in the Eastern Orthodox Church) preaches a baptism of penance, but not the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, or of Jesus. He prefigured Christ’s Baptism, which was at first administered by Christ’s Disciples in the times of the early Church. Many churches were built for John the Baptist in the Byzantine Emprein numbering more than 30 just in the Imperial Capital of Constantinople. In Edessa, in 457 A.D, Bishop Nona built a Cathedral named St John the Baptist’s Cathedral from red brick. He made many monasteries in Edessa, as well. “Then went out to (John) Jerusalem and all Judea, and all the country about the Jordan: And were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. And seeing many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them: ‘Ye brood of vipers, who hath showed ye to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of penance. And think not too say within yourselves, We have Abraham for our father. For I tell you that God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham. For now the axe is laid to the root of the trees… That doth not yield good fruit, (and will) be cut down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you in the water unto penance, but He that shall come after me, is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; He shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire…’ Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to the Jordan, unto John, to be baptized by him. But John stayed Him, saying: ‘I ought to be baptized by Thee, and comets thou to me?’ And Jesus… said to him: ‘Suffer it to be so now. For so it becometh us to fulfill all justice…’ And Jesus being baptized, forthwith came out of the water: and lo, the heavens were opened to Him: and He saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him. And behold, a voice from Heaven, saying: ‘This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:5-17)
Indeed, Saint John Prodromos brought a great message to all, and prepared the people for the reign of “the Lamb who takes away the sins of the World.” John the Baptist became very famous, and many people came to believe in Christ through him. When John the Baptist says that God can “raise up children to Abraham,” from “stones,” not only is this literal, since God can do anything He pleases, but is also a metaphor for something else: that all would become children of Abraham through faith, works, and Grace. The ones who go to Heaven are not like the Pharisees and Sadducees, who are a “brood of vipers,” but innocent children as simple as a “descending… dove.” John’s Baptism was not as great as Christ’s, and he dies before the Crucifixion. Also, he is just a man, where as Christ is God Incanate. He baptizes the people “in the Holy Spirit and fire,” which cleanses us, and prepares us for God’s Kingdom. Even though Christ was truly God and Man, He was baptized as a sign to us, to give us an example, and to sanctify baptism. He did not need to receive the “Spirit of God,” since He was consubstantial with the Father and Holy Spirit since before the beginning of time. He is the “beloved Son,” of God, and He does everything the Father does. But He did submit His Created Human Nature under His Divine Nature, of the Father, for a short time, since He was tempted like us, but never sinned Himself. He was made slightly lower than the angels for a time, but was then glorified. This is His Human Nature and Will receiving the Holy Spirit, after all, and His Human Nature being glorified for the first time in His ministry. Our natures are also glorified in baptism, so we can partake of God’s holy things.
After this, Jesus later has a conversation with Nicodemus about the nature of baptism:
“Nicodemus saith unto Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?’
Jesus answered, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (St John 3:4-6) Nicodemus misunderstood the real nature of baptism, thinking and supposing that Christ was talking about being made young again, and being reborn from one’s mother, which is not correct. Nicodemus judges things by the “flesh,” but God judges them by the “Spirit.” Nicodemus was too carnal-minded to see and perceive this, even though he is a “ruler among the people.” This true nature of this rebirth is baptism by triple immersion, and the cleansing away of our sins like the dust from the outside World. We must be of “the Spirit,” and not of “the flesh,” since “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 15:50) But we must not understand this as being literal flesh, since both the soul and the body are raised to Heaven. Otherwise, we will be erring like the heretical and dualist Manichees and Gnostics, who declare all matter evil, and that there is a god of darkness and evil in the Old Testament, and a god of light and good in the New Testament, which is not so! No, flesh, which is being sinful and carnally minded, and not filled with the Holy Spirit, is what is meant in this verse. We must savor the heavenly ways of God and His Church. Everything God made was good, after all! For, “It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and Life.” (John 7:63)
Indeed, “Jesus saith… He that is washed, need etch not but to wash his feet, but is clean wholly. And you are clean, but not all.” (John 13:10) This means that baptism is only meant to be administered once, a part from apostates and heretics who return to the Church, who need to be rebaptized to re-enter the Church again. That is why when new members from the Catholic Church, the Church of England, Lutheran, etc, are allowed into our Church with just the use of holy Myron, it is not enough, since they are heretics, and have been baptized the wrong way, and not with the triple immersion, since they favor sprinkling or affusion over thrice immersion, and do not teach rightly on other doctrines on the Church, either. This was done to please the World Council of the Churches, for reunification between all churches, which would gravely compromise our Orthodox Faith. This would be terrible for the Church and Her faithful, and would lead to nothing but disbelief and teachings of wrong doctrines. The faith must be upheld at all times, no matter what. Heretics must be baptized with a baptism of entry or re-entry into the Church. Oikonomia must only be used in extreme matters. I know that this had to be done when the Byzantine Empire was losing power to the Muslims, and the Pope and Western Europe were becoming more and more powerful to the Orthodox people’s detriment, but now we are not under the same threats, nor are we under the threats of Communism, or earliest of all, when the threat of Arianism, Macedonianism, and other heresies were rife, but now we are in a state of relative peace, and can use Akribeia (strict application of the Canons.)
Canon 7 of the First Council of Constantinople in 381 A.D is an example of Oikonomia:
“Those who embrace orthodoxy and join the number of those who are being saved from heretics, we receive in the following regular and customary manner… when they hand in statements and anathematize every heresy which is not of the same mind as the holy, catholic and apostolic church of God. They are first sealed or anointed wi holy chrism on the forehead, eyes, nostrils, mouth and ears. As we seal them we say ‘Seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit.’ But Eunomians , who are baptized in a single immersion, Montanists, Sabellians, who teach the identity of Father and Son and make certain other difficulties, and all other sects — since there are many here, not least those who originate in the country of the Galatians — we receive all who wish to leave them and embrace orthodoxy as we do Greeks. On the first day we make Christians of them, on the second catechumens, on the third we exorcise me by breathing three times into their faces and their ears, and thus we catechize them and make them spend time in the church and listen to the scriptures; and then we baptize them.”
But Catholics and Protestants do not use triple immersion, but sprinkling, so they should be re-baptized, since they were not properly baptized into Christ. Only the Orthodox baptism is legitimate and true.
So an example of Akribeia is St Cyprian’s Council in Carthage in 257 A.D:
“For if anyone could be baptized among heretics, certainly he could also obtain remission of sins. If he attained remission of sins, he was also sanctified.”
Does this mean that Schismatics and Heretics that are received into the Church do not become truly Orthodox without Baptism, but just anointing with oil? Of course not! It just means it is not as legitimate as Baptism, and is not complete. One feels more purified when one has been baptized properly, which is what should be done now. Pools or baptisteries should be used again, and built at the sides or inside churches as they used to be before. The catechumen was stripped, and lathered in oil, immersed three times behind a screen, and then lifted out of the font by their sponsor and/or godparent. For decency’s sack, a pair of trunks could be worn by a man, and a two piece for a woman, even though it was traditionally done naked, to show that we are like Adam and Eve before the Fall, without sin or shame, and also that we have stripped off the old man, and put on the new. A chiton can be worn too, but is usually quite clingy, and most of the body is seen through the fabric, anyway. The deacon usually helps with the procedure, and a prayer is said for the catechumen later on. The Nicene Creed is also said, as well. Babies are usually put in smaller fonts, usually without wearing clothes. This is the traditional Orthodox baptism.
Baptism and Chrismation, together with the Eucharist, are all given at the same time, since Jesus said “Let the children alone, and do not hinder the, from coming to Me; for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14) This means that one should become like a child in simple faith, without arrogance or being puffed up, and should not doubt anything that God, His saints or Saints, His Church, or the Ecumenical Councils say. One should not be a skeptic, and accept God’s scriptures as Divine Word. Also, a child should be baptized from a young age, since a child brought up being taught about God in a believing home is more likely to grow up as holy and righteous, and knowing about God’s holy Word. It also means that one is less likely to become a heretic, and to be received into the Kingdom of God. Parents always take care of their children, giving them food, water, clothes, shelter, vaccinations, education, love, and everything else for one’s child’s welfare, so why not the child’s salvation, the most important thing of all. For “Jesus took them in His arms and began blessing them.” (Mark 10:16) This included “babies.” (Luke 18:15) We are told to “Believe in The Lord Jesus… And you shall be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31) So our whole household requires salvation, not just the adults. The whole household must be Eastern Orthodox, and all are legible to become so, more simply speaking.
This is why Saint Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus (died 457 A.D) said “If the only meaning of baptism were remission of sins, why would we baptize newborn children who have not yet tasted of sin? But the mystery of baptism is not limited to this; it is a promise of greater and more perfect gifts. In it are the promises of future delights; it is a type of the future resurrection, a communion with the Master’s passion, a participation is His Resurrection, a mantle of salvation, a tunic of gladness, a garment of light, or rather it is light itself.” We are given “gifts” by the Holy Spirit, “future delights,” a “mantle of salvation,” to protect us from the Hell fire and lead us into Heaven, a “tunic of gladness,” a “garment of light,” indeed, “light itself.” We are protected by this light in a world of darkness, and so pare our children.
Jesus gives His last salutations to the Apostles with these words: “All power is given to me in Heaven and in Earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you always, even to the consummation of the World.” (Matthew 28:18-20) These words are given by Him to the Apostles to spread the Orthodox Christian Faith, and to baptize people within this Faith.
“After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was taken up into Heaven and He sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed His words by the signs that accompanies it.” (Mark 16:20) The disciple now begin preaching the Gospel, and baptize everyone who comes to be a part of the Faith.
That’s why St Paul says in Romans 6:3-4, “All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death. Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” All that is old and antiquated from sin is put to death, and we are given newness of life.
And then there are writings of the saints written after the times of the Apostles by great Orthodox Saints, when the Faith was no longer persecuted in the Roman Empire:
Saint Athanasius, in his discourse against the Arians in Book III: 33, written in 360 A.D, says, “And with reason; for as we are all from Earth and die in Adam , so being regenerated from above of water and Spirit, in the Christ we are all quickened.” We die in Adam, but are brought to life by Christ. We also take on a renewed state through baptism.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa, a faithful Orthodox Christian and Bishop, in his On the Baptism of Christ written after 394 A.D, says, “For ‘the Spirit breathes where it wills, and thou headrest His voice, but canst not tell whence He cometh and wither He goeth.’ He blesses the body that is baptized, and the water that baptizes. Despise not, therefore, the Divine lather, nor think lightly of it, as a common thing, on account of the use of water. For the power that operates is mighty, and wonderful are the things that are thereby.” We must not despise our baptism, and we must keep our baptismal promises, and not dirty our baptismal garments through sin. Baptism does not give one permission to be worse, but to be saved through Christ by both Grace and works, as well as Faith, and not just by faith alone. We must believe in this simple fact in all sincerity and truth, and we then shall only be saved. We all need this “Divine lather” from the most holy font, and we all need the most Holy Trinity.
That is why John Chrysostom, faithful Orthodox Christian and Archbishop of Constantinople says, “Weep for the unbelievers; weep for those who differ in nowise from, those who depart hence without the illumination (baptism) , without the seal! They indeed deserve our wailing, they deserve our groans; they are outside the Palace, with the culprits, with the condemned: for, ‘Verily I say unto you, Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he shall not neater into the Kingdom of Heaven.’ Mourn for those who have died in wealth, and did not from their wealth think of any solace for their soul, who had power to wash away their sins and would not.” (Homily on Philippians, 3:24, 404 A.D.) We are indeed illuminated by the Holy Spirit through baptism, like a precious treasure used by only the King, Christ Himself. We glimmer like gold, and receive a “seal” from Christ of the faith from the Divine Seal from His holy ring. All those who refuse baptism are rascally scoundrels and culprits, and shun Christ and His baptism, as well as any chance of Divine assistance, and do not receive true “wealth” from Christ, but only material possessions from their material wealth. The only true wealth is spiritual, not material, since spiritual wealth is treasured up in Heaven, by material wealth is eaten by the Moths, and perishes. We all need the “solace” from the “power to wash away… sins,” that leads us to God’s “Palace” in Heaven, where one rests in repose from all unhappiness and illnesses, and live a life in Christ, forever and ever, and unto ages of ages
Through the Theotokos have mercy on us.