THE MYSTERY OF BAPTISM: “…Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God…” (John 3:3-6).

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

THE MYSTERY OF BAPTISM: The Savior replied that the new birth
would be accomplished by water and the Spirit:
"Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a
man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom
of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which born of
the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:3-6).

The establishment of this Grace-giving Mystery (Sacrament) occurred after the Resurrection of Christ. Having appeared to His Disciples, the Lord said to them that He had received from His Father all authority in Heaven and on earth, and He continued: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, BAPTIZING THEM IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, AND OF THE SON, AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And lo, I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS, EVEN UNTO THE END OF THE WORLD " (Matthew 28:19-20). And to this, He added: "He that believeth and IS BAPTIZED SHALL BE SAVED; but he THAT BELIEVETH NOT SHALL BE DAMNED" (Mark 16:16).

Saint Symeon the New Theologian writes concerning THE SAVING FRUITS OF THIS MYSTERY (SACRAMENT): "There has come another birth, or rebirth, which REGENERATES MAN THROUGH Holy Baptism by the Holy Spirit, again UNITES HIM WITH THE Divine Nature as it was when he was created by the hand of God, RESTORES ALL THE POWERS OF HIS SOUL, RENEWS THEM AND BRINGS THEM TO THE CONDITION IN WHICH THEY WERE BEFORE THE TRANSGRESSION OF THE FIRST-CREATED Adam; IN THIS WAY LEADS HIM INTO THE KINGDOM OF GOD, INTO WHICH NO ONE UNBAPTIZED CAN ENTER, AND ENLIGHTENS HIM WITH ITS LIGHT AN GRANTS HIM TO TASTE ITS JOYS. Thus each one who is baptized BECOMES AGAIN SUCH AS ADAM WAS BEFORE THE TRANSGRESSION, AND IS LED INTO THE NOETIC PARADISE AND RECEIVES THE COMMANDMENT TO WORK IT AND KEEP IT–TO WORK IT BY FULFILLMENT OF THE COMMANDMENTS OF JESUS CHRIST WHO HAS RECREATED HIM, AND TO KEEP
IT BY THE KEEPING OF THE GRACE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WHICH WAS GIVEN TO HIM THROUGH HOLY BAPTISM, CONFESSING THAT THE POWER OF THE GRACE WHICH DWELLS IN HIM FULFILLS TOGETHER WITH HIM THE COMMANDMENTS OF CHRIST" (First-Created Man, p. 71).

The comparison of Baptism with a washing by water, with the grave, and other such things indicates that this Mystery (Sacrament) is to be performed THROUGH IMMERSION. The Greek word VAPTIZO (Βαπτίζω) itself signifies "TO IMMERSE." The immersion in water IS DONE THREE TIMES WITH THE PRONUNCIATION OF THE WORDS: "The servant of God (name) is baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," in accordance with the commandment given by Christ Himself (Matthew 28:19). Thus was it performed in the ancient Church.

In certain passages of the Holy Scripture, there is mentioned a Baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48). According to the interpretation of the Holy Fathers of the Church, the expression "in the name of the Lord Jesus" means, "according to the command and tradition of Christ," or as a testimony of one’s faith in Christ.

In Baptism a man receives, in place of the old existence he had, A NEW EXISTENCE AND LIFE, and BECOMES A CHILD OF GOD, A MEMBER OF THE Body of Christ, or the Church, an INHERITOR OF ETERNAL LIFE, it is therefore evident that Baptism IS INDISPENSABLE FOR ALL, including infants, so that growing in body and spirit they might grow in Christ. In the Apostolic Scripture many times there is mention of the Baptism of WHOLE FAMILIES (the house of Lydia, the house of the prison guard, the house of Stephanas–1 Corinthians 1:16), and NOWHERE IS IT MENTIONED THAT INFANTS WERE EXCLUDED FROM THIS.

Baptism is not only a symbol of cleansing and washing away the defilement of the soul, but IN ITSELF IS THE BEGINNING AND SOURCE OF THE Divine gifts which CLEANSE AND ANNIHILATE ALL THE SINFUL DEFILEMENTS AND COMMUNICATE A NEW LIFE. ALL SINS ARE FORGIVEN, BOTH ORIGINAL AND PERSONAL SINS; THE WAY IS OPENED FOR A NEW LIFE; OPENED IS THE POSSIBILITY TO RECEIVE THE GIFTS OF GOD. Further spiritual growth depends upon THE FREE WILL OF MAN. But since temptation is capable of finding sympathy in the nature of man, WHO FROM THE DAYS OF HIS FIRST FALL INTO SIN HAS HAD AN INCLINATION TO SIN, THEREFORE SPIRITUAL PERFECTION CANNOT BE ACCOMPLISHED WITHOUT BATTLE. A MAN FINDS HELP FOR THE INWARD BATTLE IN THE WHOLE GRACE-GIVEN LIFE OF THE CHURCH. The Holy Church opens up further Grace-given help to the newly baptized in the Mystery (Sacrament) of Chrismation.

"The baptism of Christ in the River Jordan and our own baptism are an extraordinary flood, much higher and more beautiful than Noah’s flood, as Patriarch Proklos of Constantinople says. Then the water put human nature to death, but now the water of baptism through the baptized Christ gives life to those dying of sin. Then Noah constructed an ark of undecayed wood, while now the intelligible Noah, Christ, has constructed the ark of the body from the incorrupt Mary. Then the dove which held an olive branch brought news of the fragrance of Christ the Lord, now the Holy Spirit, which came as a dove, pointed to the Merciful Lord. All that happened at Christ’s Baptism in the River Jordan IS REPEATED IN OUR LIFE THROUGH THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY BAPTISM."

The Holy Fathers of the Church formed the Creed reminding us constantly that there is only "ONE BAPTISM FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS." And so does Saint Paul the Holy Apostle who says, "ONE LORD, ONE FAITH, ONE BAPTISM" (Ephesians 4:5) UNITING THEM ALL IN CHRIST. Saint Cyril of Jerusalem states: "…Regard not the Baptismal waters as simple water, but RATHER REGARD THE SPIRITUAL GRACE THAT IS GIVEN WITH THE WATER." Saint Diadochos the God-bearer writes: "Baptism RENEWS THE IMAGE OF GOD IN US."

We, as Orthodox Christians, must appreciate God’s Grace, agape, mercy, and countless blessings given to us throughout our life. Our Baptism is the key to His Kingdom and, therefore, we must treasure it and keep it always pristine and holy. The new garments that we were given by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ must remain unsoiled and pure. In the service for the catechumens conducted just before the Holy Baptism, the priest offers the following prayer:

O Lord and Master, our God, call Thy servant (name) to Thy Holy illumination and make him (her) worthy of this Wondrous Grace of Thy Holy Baptism; take from him (her) the things of old and renew him (her) unto the Life Eternal, and fill his (her) with the power of Thy Holy Spirit UNTO UNION WITH THY CHRIST, SO THAT HE (SHE) BE NO MORE A CHILD OF THE BODY BUT A CHILD OF THY KINGDOM. Through the favor and Grace of Thine Only-Begotten Son with Whom Thou art blessed with Thine All-Holy, Righteous, and Life-Giving Spirit now and forever and form all ages to all ages. Amen. At the Mystery of Holy Baptism, the priest chants: "AS MANY OF YOU HAVE BEEN BAPTIZED INTO CHRIST, HAVE PUT ON CHRIST. ALLELUIA [Sources: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, The Feasts of the Lord]

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Please note: Sadly, we witness in our Church, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and even in Greece an indifference to baptizing children among young couples. There is tragically a lack of understanding of how indispensable Holy Baptism is and the Grace of God that one receives when baptized. From what has been said above, there is no salvation without Holy Baptism. It was reported in recent years by officials at the Clerg-Laity Congress of the Metropolis of Chicago in Minneapolis, Minnesota that 65% or more, of young adults, are not interested to be married in the Church and have given no consideration to baptizing children who were born outside of marriage. This is wrong and a great spiritual crisis, to say the least. We definitely need to pray that the Lord God will enlighten these young couples to do what is proper and right for Orthodox Christians.

_______________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George

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