• Text of Baptismal Service
  • Gospel Reading from Baptismal Service
  • Epistle Reading from Baptismal Service
  • In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be! Anytime there’s a Baptism in the Church, the dedication of a life to God, the promise of Christian life and salvation in Christ, a Baptism is always a time for celebration. So I’d like for us to take a few moments this morning to think about what happens when a person is Baptized. The biggest problem in human life, the dilemma that all civilizations have struggled with and that humanity is still trying to overcome, is death. We die because we sin, we choose to separate ourselves from the Giver of Life. The Fathers of the Church tell us that we continue to sin because we fear death. We run from what we fear by constantly gratifying our passions. By doing whatever it is that we want to do, what we think will make us happy, regardless of whether it’s right or wrong. So we’re caught in a seemingly unending cycle of sin and death. Death is the ultimate human tragedy—more than anything else death reveals that man is separated from God. That we’re not what we were created to be. Death is not a judgment of God; it’s not a condemnation of man. Rather death is meant to educate man, to show us that something is wrong, to compel us to search for life’s ultimate meaning. So, for the Christian, death takes on an entirely new dimension. It’s not just something to be feared, not just something to try and outrun, to try and put off for as long as we possibly can. Death becomes something to conquer in Jesus Christ. In the eternal perspective on human life, the coming of Christ abolishes death. Of course, we still physically die. But death has lost her sting, as the Paschal canon sings. Death has become the gate to eternal life with Christ. God is life and the source of all life—so by uniting ourselves to Christ death loses all power over us. What power does death have over the Author of Life? The Christian response to death is not fear and trembling; the Christian response to death is life in Christ. By taking on our humanity, Christ has healed our nature from within. Adam’s sin corrupted human nature; the advent of Christ restores human nature. He offers us the opportunity to choose to live life as we were created to live it. Life with Him. Christ offers us life over which death has no hold. Man now has the possibility to become what he was created to be. To participate in the life of God. We’re created to share in all that God has and is, He wants to give us everything, and Christ opened the gate so that we could receive the gifts of the Father. The first step in this life, the Christian life—the first step in living like Christ, in defeating death and becoming what we were created to be—is Holy Baptism. I begin to participate in the life of Christ, I put on life and annul death, I take off the old man enslaved to sin and death and put on the new man clothed in the light of Christ, in Holy Baptism. As Christ said to Nicodemus—“To have eternal life you must be born of water and of the spirit.” Baptism is our birth into Christian life, our birth into the spiritual life. Christ commanded the Apostles to go out and preach the Gospel, and when people believed they were to be Baptized. And St. Paul explains why new Christians are baptized in the reading from Romans that we heard during the service—“all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death, we were buried with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead we too might walk in the newness of life, for if we have be united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in his resurrection.” Many English translations get this last section wrong—they translate it “if we are united with him in a death like his, we will be united with him in a resurrection like his.” But the verse should read—“we will be united with him in His resurrection.” There is only one Resurrection—the Resurrection into life with Christ. We participate in the death of Christ through our baptism, we bury the old man and arise to life in Christ. We arise to life in Christ. “It is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me,” St. Paul writes. Baptism doesn’t just symbolize the journey we’re preparing to make. The journey from bondage to death into life. Even the baptism of John—Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins, he said—even the baptism of John was not merely symbol but was the beginning of the journey. Baptism is not merely an event that marks the beginning of our Christian life—it is the beginning of our life with Christ. The newly baptized dies to the life of the flesh. And is clothed in the life and resurrection of Christ. The baptized man is fundamentally different from the man who is not baptized—the un-baptized man still suffers with the broken life of Adam. The baptized man is healed in his nature—he is a new creature in Christ. Not only is he freed from slavery to sin in Christ—his life has been joined with the life of our Saviour. In chrismation he is filled with the Holy Spirit. And sent out into the world a new creation. In our baptism we are participants in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. By being united with his life, our lives are healed. We participate in the perfect life of Christ. In baptism we’ve put on a spotless garment, and we’re instructed to keep the garment un-sullied as we prepare to meet our bridegroom. Now this seems like a heavy burden to place on a 40-day old infant. He hasn’t chosen to be here, he hasn’t chosen this life for himself. But rather he’s been brought by his parents into the temple to be dedicated to God. To be joined to Christ. In the exact same way that Jewish boys were circumcised, and on the eighth day brought into the temple and named and dedicated to God, in this same way we bring our children to God. We offer our children to Christ. The eight-day old Jewish male had no choice—he was brought into the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was made a part of the covenant relationship with God. And the Christian Church has always continued in this same understanding. We bring our children to God. We initiate them into the Mysteries of the family, into the Church. We share with them the family’s relationship with her God, with her heavenly bridegroom. But the child is still responsible for the decision to give himself or herself to God. In the same way that the life of all Christians is a life of continual repentance and conversion, the life of Seraphim will have to be a life of repentance and conversion if he’s to accept the promises offered to him by Christ. The Christian Church has always seen the importance of bringing her children to Christ. Of clothing them in the life of Christ, and raising and instructing them in the life of the Christian, so that they might be able to choose Christ on their own when the parents were no longer there to guide them. “Raise a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” But remaining in the family, and participating in the glory of what it means to be a child of God, will rest with Seraphim. What we’ve all been a part of this morning is one of the most exciting moments in the life of a Christian. The very moment when they die to a life of enslavement to sin and passion and death, the very moment when they rise clothed in the light of Christ. So what do we do now? Firstly, we pray for the newly baptized and illumined child of God Seraphim. We pray that he will grow in favor with God, that he will grow in love for God, and that he will choose to live a life entirely dedicated to his Lord and Saviour. There’s a beautiful tradition in the Orthodox Church—if we’re ever present at a baptism, or a wedding, or a funeral, or an ordination—that we pray for those people for the rest of our lives. The second thing we can, and must do, is reflect on our own baptism. Have we kept our baptismal garment clean? In the course of the service the demons were cast out—have we invited them back in? The Christian faith was proclaimed, and a promise was made to instruct this child in the Faith—have we lived our faith? The font is blessed as a fountain of incorruption and the path to salvation—have we strayed from the narrow path which leads to life eternal? The Christian life is one of continual repentance, continual turning and returning to God, continual conversion and dedication of our life to Christ. We fail our God constantly, but Christ always waits with open arms to receive us back into the family. And to facilitate this repentance, Christ offers us the opportunity to confess our sins and receive forgiveness. Many of the Fathers of the Church say that Confession is another Baptism—a chance to start again with a clean slate, to re-dedicate our lives to Christ. When we put on the baptismal garment, when we make the confession of Orthodox Faith, then we’re responsible for the purity of our lives. Confession offers us the opportunity to make an account for our lives. Have we kept our garment clean? Have we lived the Christian Faith? It’s a very powerful image of confession—when we confess our sins we take responsibility for our failures of faith, and we make an account before God for our baptismal garment. We accuse ourselves for our failures, we take responsibility for our actions. And we receive the forgiveness of our sins.

    It’s so wonderful for us to be here today. To welcome another member into the family of Christ. And to be reminded of our own Baptism, and the lives we should be striving to live. Lives that honor Christ, and share His glory with all mankind. Lives that unite us to Christ, and make us shares of His Heavenly blessings. May our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ, by the prayers of our Father among the Saints Seraphim, and all the Saints, preserve the newly illumined infant Seraphim and all of us, and lead us to life in His Heavenly Kingdom. Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

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