This post is part of a series about the sacraments of the Orthodox Christian Church. In this post, we will look at the Orthodox Christian Sacrament of Baptism.
Baptism is the first sacrament or mystery that we encounter in our Orthodox Christian life. It is the door through which Orthodox Christians enter into the Church. Stepping into the life of the Church through baptism enables us to experience all of the other sacraments. Our baptism marks the beginning of our death to ourselves, and the glorious unification of our soul with Christ.
The “Orthodox Study Bible” defines baptism as “The sacrament whereby one is born again, buried with Christ, resurrected with Him and united to Him. In baptism, one becomes a Christian and is joined to the Church.” (p. 1776) It continues by discussing Christ’s baptism. His baptism was significant because of its effect on the physical world. Our Lord’s baptism made water become holy, and now water can be used as the means for the Holy Spirit to grant us new life!
We begin the sacrament of baptism with the exorcism, wherein the person to be baptized (or their godparents, on their behalf) rejects Satan and unites themself instead to Christ. Prayers for the consecration of the water happen next, then the anointing by oil of the person to be baptized. After that comes the triple immersion, where the person is baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The newly-baptized person is then chrismated, given the gift of the Holy Spirit through the Holy Chrism which is used to anoint them. After the newly-baptized person has been chrismated, they are tonsured. Tonsuring (cutting bits of hair and burning them as an offering to the Lord) shows that the newly baptized person is willing to be obedient to Christ and sacrifice to Him. Following the tonsuring, there is a procession wherein the newly baptized person and his/her Godparents process around the font and/or table. This procession is a sign of spiritual rejoicing, and it’s done in a circle because God is never ending, as is a circle. The baptismal service culminates in communion. The Eucharist is a physical way in which Christians can mystically be united with Christ, and the freshly-baptized person is now so thoroughly transformed that they are able to meet and receive Him through the Eucharist.
St. Gregory of Nyssa called the baptismal font “both tomb and mother,” a picture that helps us grasp the importance of the sacrament of baptism. At the moment of our baptism, we die to ourselves, and in the same instant we are born into life in Christ and His Church.
Glory to God for His gift of the sacrament of baptism!
Here are some scriptures and quotes from Church Fathers on baptism, as well as a few resources that you may find interesting and helpful as you study this important sacrament. What baptism resources have you found helpful? Comment below and share them with the community!
Teachers of young children may want to use this lesson plan and printables to help their students learn more about baptism: http://www.orthodoxabc.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/013-EN-ed02_Holy-Baptism.pdf
The Teaching Pics ( http://ww1.antiochian.org/christianeducation/teachingpics) offer a series of pictures on baptism that can be very helpful as you teach a lesson on the subject to any age group. Pictures S1 – S8 show the significant events of a baptism. The text that goes with each picture explains the process well. If you do not already have them, you can order the teaching pics here: http://orthodoxchristianed.com/files/4114/9885/4473/ocec2017_2018.pdf
This book can help younger students learn about their baptism: http://orthodoxchildrensbooks.com/eng/index.php/Baptism-Chrismation/View-all-products.html
Dr. Pat’s Orthodox Super Sunday School Curriculum offers free online lessons. Here are links to lessons on baptism for each age group:
For middle school students: http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/middle-school/baptism
For high school students: http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/high-school/baptism
Other Christians with whom our students interact have vastly different beliefs about baptism and its importance, so it is imperative that we help our students to know what baptism is, how it works, why we practice it even with infants, and how vital it is to our life in Christ! Invite older students to read this article during a class on the sacrament of baptism: http://ww1.antiochian.org/content/infant-baptism-what-church-believes. After reading it, challenge the students to read at least one of the biblical accounts of baptism listed in the article, and to make a list of 3 things they didn’t know about baptism or found interesting.
What difference does our baptism make in our life? This article shares two accounts of the power of baptism. Teachers will be encouraged in their own faith by reading these accounts. Perhaps older students will enjoy reading these accounts, as well, if you decide to incorporate them into a lesson on baptism. http://orthochristian.com/80501.html