Christ the Savior Orthodox Mission
Orthodox Church in America, Diocese of New England
Home / News/Bulletins / Older Bulletins / 2017, April
April 2017

Christ the Savior Orthodox Church

Bangor, Maine

Baptism

Notes from My Journey

April/May 2017 Bulletin 

 CHURCH NEWS

 Prayer requests: Please pray for God’s direction in our search for a permanent location for Christ the Savior Parish. For now, we are welcome to stay at St Johns Chapel at 234 French Street. 

Prayer requests: Please remember the following in your personal prayer both Orthodox and Non-Orthodox included. (Place names on the prayer sheet for inclusion herein)

 For the Living: Athena, Pete (health) and Maria and Adam Metropoulos, June, Kathy, Harold, Vance, Susan, John D., Michelle, Toni, Giovanni Perez and Family, Jon and Heather and Family, Christine, Michael, Mary, David Miller, Melvin Hampton (health), Sophie, Stavros, Jackie Reifer, John Saccone, John and Mariah Cummines. 

For the Departed: Mark, Herman, Jane, Carolyn, Carolyn Elaine, Jane Ruth, Mrs. Echols, Scott, John G., Ezra, Craig, Robert, Ruth, Constance, Mildred, Richard, Peg, Stanley, Darlene, Robert Miller, Christos Mendros. 

Orthodox Teaching of the Month

Baptism 

The establishment of the Mystery of Baptism

In first place in the series of Mysteries of the Holy Church stands the Mystery of Baptism. It serves as the door leading into the Kingdom of grace, or the Church, and it grants access to participation in the other Mysteries. Even before the establishment of the Mystery of Baptism, the Lord Jesus Christ in His conversation with Nicodemus indicated the absolute necessity of it for salvation: "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of Heaven." When Nicodemus expressed his perplexity, "How can a man be born when he is old?" 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 is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:3-6).

The establishment of this grace-giving Mystery 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" (Matt. 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). On the day of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, when after the speech of the Apostle Peter his listeners asked what they should do, the Apostle Peter said to them: "Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:37-38). In the same book of the Acts are recorded several instances of Baptism performed by the Apostles. Thus, the Apostle Peter baptized Cornelius (Ch.10), the Apostle Paul baptized Lydia and those of her household (Ch.16), as well as the guard of the prison with his whole household.

The meaning of the Mystery.

The mystical grace-given aspect of Baptism is indicated in the above-cited passages of Sacred Scripture; Baptism is a "new birth," and it is performed for the salvation of men (Mark 16:16). Moreover, setting forth the grace-given significance of Baptism, the Apostles in their Epistles indicate that in it we are "sanctified," "cleansed," "justified"; that in Baptism we "die to sin" so as to walk in renewed life; we are "buried with Christ," and we arise with Him. "Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for it that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word" (that is, Baptism with the utterance of the words instituted to accompany it; Eph. 5:25-26). "Ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6:11). "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" (Rom. 6:4). Baptism is called the "washing of regeneration" (Titus 3:5). As for the subjective side — the state of soul of the person being baptized — it is indicated by the Apostle Peter, who calls Baptism the promise of a good conscience toward God (1 Peter 3:21). Through Baptism one is joined at the same time to the Church.

The means of the performance of the Mystery.

The comparison of Baptism with a washing by water and with the grave indicates that this Mystery is to be performed through immersion. The Greek word baptizo itself signifies "to immerse." Concerning the Baptism of the eunuch by Philip, we read in the book of Acts: "They went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip" (Acts 8:38). As an exception, the Church acknowledges the Christian martyrdom of the unbaptized as a "Baptism of blood." The Church acknowledges Baptism by sprinkling but does not approve it as not being canonical.

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 (Matt. 28:19). Thus was it performed in the ancient Church. The Epistle of the Apostle Barnabas already mentions this, and Tertullian directly indicates that "the manner of baptism is prescribed," indicating the words of the Savior concerning baptism; Tertullian also testifies to the triple immersion and likewise indicates one particularity: that the one being baptized is asked to renounce Satan and his angels, and then to confess the Faith.

In certain passages of Sacred 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 ancient Fathers, 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. This expression does not deny the fact that baptism is made "in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit' despite what some historians of Christianity might think. It is entirely natural that the writer of the book of Acts, the Apostle Luke, and the Apostle Paul also (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27; 1 Cor. 1:13), when speaking of baptism "in Christ" have in mind to distinguish this baptism from the baptism of John or anything similar to it, as the "Baptism into Christianity." Thus even now there is sung at Baptism, "As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Gal. 3:27).

The indispensability of Baptism.

Since 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 Scriptures 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 Cor 1:16), and nowhere is it mentioned that infants were excluded from this. The Fathers of the Church in their instructions to the faithful insist upon the Baptism of children. St. Gregory the Theologian, addressing Christian mothers, says: "Do you have an infant? Do not give time for harm to increase. Let him be sanctified in infancy, and from youth dedicated to the Spirit. Do you fear the seal because of the weakness of nature, as someone faint-hearted and small in faith? But Anna even before giving birth promised Samuel to God, and after his birth she quickly dedicated him and raised him for the sacred garment, without fearing human weakness, but believing in God."

However, it is indispensable in this matter that the persons who offer the infant for Baptism should recognize all their responsibility for the raising up of the baptized infant in Christian faith and virtue. We read an instruction concerning this, for example, in the work On the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, known under the name of St. Dionysius the Areopagite, which has always been highly respected by the Church: "It was pleasing to our divine instructors to allow infants also to be baptized, under the sacred condition that the natural parents of the child should entrust him to someone among the faithful who would instruct him well in divine subjects and then take care for the child as a father, given from above, and as a guard of his eternal salvation. This man, when he gives the promise to guide the child in pious life, is compelled by the bishop to utter the renunciations and the sacred confession."

How important for us is this instruction, which comes from the ancient Christian Church! From it, we see what responsibility the sponsor or godfather of the baptized person takes upon himself. How careful the parents of the child must be in choosing a sponsor! Of course, in a normal Christian family the parents themselves usually teach their children the truths of faith and their moral duty. But the contemporary breakup of the foundations of social life compel one to be on guard so that the child will not remain without Christian guidance. And even under favorable conditions a sponsor should keep close spiritual contact with his godchild and be ready at any needful moment to come to him with heartfelt Christian help.

The tenth paragraph of the Symbol of Faith reads: "I confess one Baptism for the remission of sins." This signifies that Baptism in the Orthodox Church, as a spiritual birth, if it has been performed as a sacred rite correctly through triple immersion in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, cannot be repeated.

Baptism: the door to the reception of other gifts.

As we see from the above-cited statements of the holy Apostles, and likewise from the whole teaching of the Church, 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 sin 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 day of his first fall into sin has had an inclination to sin, therefore moral perfection cannot be accomplished without battle. A man finds help for this inward battle in the whole, grace-given life of the Church.  

“Thinking about our Faith”

We would like to share thoughts and essays from our Parish in our monthly bulletins. This second article is by Johan Selmer-Larsen. Please consider sharing your thoughts or an essay on a topic of interest to you and our Parish; send articles to Fr Scott Ceraphim. Regular Columns are invited!! Thank you.

Notes from my journey

By Johan Selmer-Larsen 

I am new to the church and know nothing. In this season of Lent, I suspect that more experienced and serious Orthodox Christians... do what? Throw about flowers in joy? Cower against the historical reality of Christ’s death? Prepare themselves best they can for some small personal resurrection? I don’t really know. However, I have an inkling, I’m learning, I’m trying this on for size. A lifetime of pure science and cultural relativism has left me out in the cold, as I get older. I’m afraid I don’t have the strength or the confidence to assume I can figure it all out on my own.

As a child, I entered the world and all was fine; I was in The Garden. Then, I spent my middle years doubting all I was given. As a consequence, I managed to drain the meaning out of every story. Or I had many stories, all equal, anything goes, according to one’s perspective, perhaps mostly a philosophy of biological Naturalism, that humans are reproducing machines. Period.

But that’s not much to go on: there’s no story, meaning, or guiding light. Each of us surely looks for a mission greater than himself. I am afraid that without the presence of some transcendent guiding light - something more - I shall go to my grave a bit lonely.

So I am putting on Christ. I am coming from where Western man, who has forgotten or abandoned God, comes from. He must go naked and trusting into new territory. He must abandon himself - his cherished old certainty in exclusively material reality – for what’s been called The Greatest Story Ever Told. It takes some work: prayer, reading, Lenten services by candlelight. It is going into a different world, of self-replacement.

One is afraid, hopeful and joyous. Belief and faith. I’m exploring these things, allowing myself to be moved. But mostly faith in Faith, that I’m giving up something not so good for something better. And slowly it works, all by itself. I trust faith to deliver me, to show me. I am giving Christ and the Bible a chance, after long ignoring them, because I thought the modern alternatives were neatly self-empowering, ego-building. But this is a game, and the consequences down the road are dubious. When I read the Bible, or St. John or St. Teresa, I am assuming, as they all say, or said, there is more to the world than meets

the eye.

Of course, I am speaking from the novice’s perspective, which true and long established believers will not find sufficiently humble. But I am coming, I’m afraid, from a different world: those who think they are best off managing their destinies on their own. The fact is, at this point, this far into Lent, I feel like I am being relieved of a great burden - the burden of totally managing myself. Instead, I have stepped into The Greatest Story Ever Told. It is wonderful, scary and exciting. It is the transformation to a different and more secure future. It is also, quite possibly, the only humility that will save Man. It is the love of Christ, and trusting in his Word. It is restoring the beauty of my world. It is recalling the first words I spoke when entering this world: “Yes, this is good!”

The philosopher Nietzsche said, “Don’t stare too far into the abyss, or the abyss will stare back”. I’ve done that, been there. Now I’ve stepped over the abyss, and am moving on to something excitingly new - for me. These are not the confident and reassuring and inspiring words of saints John and Teresa. But there are many more like me. Perhaps we can reach a few.

 

Christ the Savior Contact information:

For Hospital visits, Pastoral visits, Bible Studies, or Evangelistic Outreach needs, please call or email Fr Scott Ceraphim at 207-478-3088 and scottcmitchell@yahoo.com. For any Church related administrative or charitable donation needs, please call or email Sr. Warden Chris Maas at 924-4553 and chrism@roadrunner.com