“Baptism… means immersion or submersion in water. It was practiced in the Old Testament and even in some pagan religions as the sign of death and rebirth. Thus, John the Baptist was baptizing as a sign of new life and repentance, which means literally a change of mind… in preparation of the coming of the Kingdom of God in Christ.
“The baptismal experience is the fundamental Christian experience, the primary condition for the whole of Christian life. Everything in the Church has its origin and context in baptism for everything in the Church originates and lives by the resurrection of Christ. Thus, following baptism comes ‘the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit,’ the mystery (sacrament) of chrismation which is man’s personal experience of Pentecost. And the completion and fulfillment of these fundamental Christian mysteries comes in the mystery of Holy Communion with God in the divine liturgy of the Church. “ (Hopko, “Doctrine,” p. 129)
Hidden in this simple phrase of the Creed (“I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins…”) is a controversy that arose in the first centuries. While Christians were being persecuted, some denied their faith and thus excommunicated themselves from the Church. Later, many sincerely repented and wished to be part of the Church again. So, should they be re-baptized? It was decided that they should not, but rather, that they should repent, participate in the Mystery of Confession, receive penance, and then be re-admitted to Holy Communion.
In receiving Holy Communion, we identify ourselves completely with the Orthodox Church: its teachings, images, hierarchy, and history. The Eucharist is a profound mystery: it is God Himself of Whom we partake by grace, the very presence of Christ among us. Holy Communion is our nourishment for the journey we began at our baptism.
Many of us were infants when we were received into the Church. Because we could not speak for ourselves, our parents and godparents did so for us. We were set upon our journey without fully understanding it. Like toddlers who hold the hands of others in order to walk, we have been led in our Christian life. There comes a time, however, when we must reflect our personal faith and take our own steps. This is the beginning of spiritual maturity. What must we do to begin walking on our own? We must seek Christ so that we know for ourselves that He is Lord!
Talk with your students about their baptism. Look together at pictures and discuss what you or they remember from that day. Talk about the physical things that happened, but also the spiritual, ie: “That was the day that you became a member of the Holy Orthodox Church! You were reborn in Christ, set apart to follow, serve, and love Him. The Holy Spirit came to dwell in you at your chrismation, just as He came to the disciples at Pentecost. It was a very special day for your spirit!” Point out how they wore white to symbolize their purity in Christ and their union with God’s holiness. Encourage them to keep living in a way that makes them more and more holy.
In case your students are having trouble remembering all that took place at their baptism, keep the following blog post handy. It offers a concise version of what happens during a baptismal service, as well as the symbolisms: http://www.onesmallchild.com/blog/greek-orthodox-baptism-from-generation-to-generation.
Find an idea of one way to teach students about baptism here: http://www.orthodoxcatechismproject.org/complete-title-list-a-m/-/asset_publisher/IXn2ObwXr9vq/content/baptism-i