This homily was given Saturday night at the end of Great Vespers. Before Vespers, Stefan’s mother was blessed to return to Church, and the infant Stefan was received as a catechumen in preparation for his Baptism on the next day.

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! Every time that we, as Orthodox Christians, participate in the services of Holy Baptism, we should recall in our mind the time of our own Baptisms. Or if not the exact time, if we were Baptized as infants, we should reflect on what happened the day we were Baptized. So this evening I’d like us to remember exactly what happened when Stefan was received as a Catechumen just a few minutes ago. Then tomorrow, we can spend a few moments reflecting on the actual Baptism and Chrismation. Every moment of the service has significance; meaning that we should always remember and have near to our hearts. At the beginning of the service for the reception of a Catechumen, the one being received comes plainly dressed, head uncovered, and barefoot. This indicates that with all humility we await illumination that only Christ can give. We come naked, so to speak, bringing nothing of our own, to be filled and completed by Christ. Then the priest blesses the child three times with his hand, lays his hand on the child’s head, and breathes on the face of the child three times in the sign of the Cross. The blessing by the priest signifies separation from the society of unbelievers–we bless things to make them holy, and being holy means being set apart for God. The child is blessed because he or she is now being set aside for God alone. The laying on of the priest’s hand signifies entrance under the shelter of Christ’s Holy Body, the Church. Breathing on the Catechumen recalls the breath of life which God gave man when he was first created. Natural life, life as we were created to live it, is in the process of being restored. Next, three prayers of exorcism were prayed. In these prayers, the devil and all impure spirits are commanded to depart, because the one being received is about to leave the kingdom of darkness for the kingdom of light. The person, of the godparent in the case of an infant or child, then formally renounces Satan and proclaims the faith he is accepting by reciting the Creed. The service ends with a final declaration of unity with Christ, and a prayer that the new Catechumen will be given the grace to persevere in the life he has chosen to accept–life as a new creation in Christ Jesus. Who with the Father and the Spirit are worshiped and glorified, always now and ever and unto ages of ages, Amen. Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

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