Tag Archives: Sacraments

On the Sacraments: the Sacrament of Baptism

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!

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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

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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

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This book can help younger students learn about their baptism: http://orthodoxchildrensbooks.com/eng/index.php/Baptism-Chrismation/View-all-products.html

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Dr. Pat’s Orthodox Super Sunday School Curriculum offers free online lessons. Here are links to lessons on baptism for each age group:

For ages 3-5: http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/3-5-years-old/baptism-0

For ages 6-9: http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/6-9-years-old/baptism

For ages 10-12: http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts-and-sacraments/10-12-years-old/baptism

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

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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.

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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

 

On the Sacraments

This is the first in a series of posts about the sacraments of the Orthodox Christian Church.

We hear about the Sacraments, and we know that they are part of our life in the church. Do we really know what the Sacraments are? If we do, is there more that we can learn about them? Whether we’re new converts, or we’ve been Orthodox our whole life, could there be a way for us to more fully enter into the Sacraments of the church? This series of posts will take a closer look at the Sacraments to help us begin!

So what, exactly, are the Sacraments? The glossary of the Orthodox Christian Education Commission’s wonderful student book, “The Way the Truth and the Life,” does not offer a definition for “Sacrament.” In that space, it simply says, “see Mystery.” The Orthodox Study Bible‘s glossary agrees, listing the following definition for “Sacrament:” “Literally, a ‘Mystery’. A Sacrament is a way in which God imparts grace to His people. Orthodox Christians frequently  speak of seven sacraments, but God’s gift of grace is not limited only to these seven—the entire life of the Church is mystical and sacramental…” (2. p. 1786) It goes on to list some of the Mysteries that the Orthodox Church recognizes: Baptism, Chrismation, Eucharist, Confession, Ordination, Marriage, and Healing or Unction. In each of these Mysteries, we rely on the Holy Spirit to work a change in us. “The Way the Truth and the Life” explains the use of the word “Mystery” in lieu of “Sacrament” as follows: “The Greek word mysterion was used by the Church Fathers to describe these acts. The word was translated to Latin as ‘sacrament’.” (1, p. 173) The Latin word for holy is “sacred,” so the Sacraments are all about making us holy.

Fr. Thomas Hopko of blessed memory once wrote that Orthodox tradition does not limit the Sacraments to the seven listed above. Rather, “The more ancient and traditional practice of the Orthodox Church is to consider everything which is in and of the Church as sacramental or mystical. The Church may be defined as the new life in Christ. It is man’s life lived by the Holy Spirit in union with God. All aspects of the new life of the Church participate in the mystery of salvation. In Christ and the Holy Spirit everything which is sinful and dead becomes holy and alive by the power of God the Father. And so in Christ and the Holy Spirit everything in the Church becomes a Sacrament, an element of the mystery of the Kingdom of God as it is already being experienced in the life of this world.” (3)

So, whether we use the word “Sacrament” or “Mystery,” and whether we count seven of them or more, our Orthodox Christian life should be pushing us towards increased holiness! May we be mindful of that reality, and press on to become ever more holy, by the grace of God. As we do so, we will encourage and enable others to help us, and to join us.

Sources:

  1. Hopko, Fr. Thomas (2011, October 5). The Sacraments. Retrieved from http://ww1.antiochian.org/sacraments.
  2. Various editors. (2008). The Orthodox Study Bible. USA: St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology. (available here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/osb-hardcover)
  3. Various editors. (2005). The Way the Truth the Life. Yonkers, NY: Orthodox Christian Education Commission. (available here: https://store.antiochianvillage.org/The-Way-The-Truth-and-the-Life-Student-s-Edition.html)

Here are some links and ideas of ways to help our Sunday Church School students to learn more about the Sacraments:

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Find illustrations of the sacraments on these puzzle blocks. http://store.ancientfaith.com/orthodox-block-puzzle-the-holy-sacraments-of-the-orthodox-church/ Teachers of young students may find that solving the puzzles with students is one way to introduce the idea of the sacraments to their class.

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This picture book offers an overview of the sacraments, as well as an explanation of each. Teachers of younger Sunday Church School students may find it helpful in introducing a series of lessons about the sacraments: https://www.amazon.com/Christina-Learns-Sacraments-Maria-C-Khoury/dp/B007EVO56S

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This “Be the Bee” episode (#119, “What is a Sacrament?”) takes a look at the sacraments and helps its viewers begin to better understand them. https://youtu.be/JN20cpM6zpQ It would be a great way for Sunday Church School teachers to introduce their students to the sacraments and begin to discuss what they are and how they help our Christian life.

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Orthodox ABC offers several lessons (with printables!) about the sacraments. Find them here: http://www.orthodoxabc.com/faith-sacraments/

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Find lessons about each sacrament at every age/grade level, here: http://orthodoxsundayschool.org/epistles-feasts

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This printable image offers a short definition of each sacrament, as well as a scripture verse related to each one. Teachers of middle-years or older students may wish to refer to it as they introduce the sacraments to their students: http://orthodoxsundayschoolresources.tumblr.com/post/35064918375/the-seven-sacraments-of-the-orthodox-church-click

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“Most of the Sacraments use a portion of the material of creation as an outward and visible sign of God’s revelation. Water, oil, bread and wine are but a few of the many elements which the Orthodox Church employs in her Worship. The frequent use of the material of creation reminds us that matter is good and can become a medium of the Spirit. Most importantly, it affirms the central truth of the Orthodox Christian faith: that God became flesh in Jesus Christ and entered into the midst of creation thereby redirecting the cosmos toward its vocation to glorify its Creator.”

 

Share this quote with older Sunday Church School students. Invite them to think of ways in which something material is transformed in each of the sacraments. Challenge them to look for the ways God transforms their life through each sacrament. (the quote comes from this article: https://www.goarch.org/-/the-sacraments)

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