Posts tagged ‘baptism’

Baptism of the Infant Phillip

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!

I wanted to say just a few words this morning about baptism, since we’ve just witnessed the first Liturgical act of the infant Phillip. The rite, if I can use that term for a moment, the rite of baptism in the Orthodox Church is truly a rite of initiation. At baptism, a man or a woman becomes a Christian. In the Orthodox Church, we don’t use the word “rite” to describe baptism or chrismation or holy Communion – we use the word mystery. The Mysteries of Sacred Baptism and Chrismation have been give to Phillip today. His life has been dedicated, by his parents and godparents, to Christ. An adult makes a conscious decision to follow Christ, and the beginning of his life as a Christian is Holy Baptism. Obviously, Phillip can’t yet make that decision, so his parents have brought and presented him to God. In baptism, he has become part of this community, part of this parish, and part of the family of God. He is part of a covenant community, in a very parallel way as the covenant community of the Old Testament was sealed with circumcision. Some may ask the question – how? Well, actually, that’s not really a question we can answer. The Mysteries are called Mysteries because they go beyond the bounds of human logic and understanding. An adult, being baptized, truly cannot understand what’s happening, and the same is also true with the baptism of a child. What we know is that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ commanded the Apostles to go out into the world, and to preach the Gospel and to Baptized those who believed. Baptism was the sacramental beginning of the life in Christ. St. Paul also writes that, in baptism, the old man of this world dies, and we come out of the waters of the baptismal font a new man, alive in Christ. Again, this is a great mystery. We can’t typically see with our physical eyes this death and resurrection that happens at baptism. But know it happens because it is witnessed to by Christ, the Apostles, and all the Saints. So now Phillip is a new creation in Christ, and the burden now falls on us, especially on his godparents, his parents, and the extended family and community. The burden is to raise this child in a Christ-like manner, to raise him in the Church and to teach him all of those things that the budding Christian needs to grow – the Scriptures, prayer, the virtues, the ascetic life, taking him to Church, participating in the holy mysteries. And as he grows, he’ll have his own decisions to make. He will have to decide: to follow Christ, or to forsake this great gift that he’s been given. But we will nurture him, and our Lord will offer him all of the grace and mercy offered to each one of us, so that he may grow in stature and in favor with both God and man (as is said of the child Jesus). So let us rejoice in this newly enlisted warrior of Christ our God, and may we all contribute to his continuing growth in Christ for all of his life.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Author Matthew Jackson

"Garment of Salvation" – Vespers (6th Sunday after Pentecost)

Isaiah 61:10-62:5 (Vespers, 2nd reading)
10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the earth brings forth its bud, As the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, So the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.
1 For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, And for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, Until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, And her salvation as a lamp that burns.
2 The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, And all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name, Which the mouth of the Lord will name.
3 You shall also be a crown of glory In the hand of the Lord, And a royal diadem In the hand of your God.
4 You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, Nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate; But you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; For the Lord delights in you, And your land shall be married.
5 For as a young man marries a virgin, So shall your sons marry you; And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So shall your God rejoice over you.
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!

In our second Old Testament reading tonight, we hear this beautiful first verse [read]. This is one of the prayers that a priest prays as he’s vesting himself to serve the Holy Liturgy. Specifically, it is the prayer said when putting on the sticharion – the white robe that goes underneath all of the other vestments. This garment represents the baptismal robe – so that is why in this prayer we say that God clothes us with the garment of salvation, covering me with righteousness and adorning me as a bride with jewels. As the priest presents Christ to the people in the Holy Liturgy, he also reminds them of their own lives in Christ, and of their own “working out your salvation in fear and trembling before the Lord.” The first step in our Christian life is our Holy Baptism – this is when our sins are washed away and we are clothed in Christ. And as Fr. Hopko so beautifully says, the remainder of our life in Christ is living out this baptismal garment; Confession is where we make an account for how we’ve worn that precious garment; our lives are the constant working toward living wholly in Christ at all times and in all places. We can take from the reading from Isaiah what some of those fruits of life in Christ might look like: the buds of righteousness, the brilliant radiance of salvation, the crown of the glory of the Lord, being the bride of God, rejoiced over by our God. The life that we’re called to live in Christ is not characterized in the Scriptures as a dark and muddled life of struggle and failure and suffering, but rather a bright and joyful life, lived in the loving presence of our God, wedded to Him and seeking to please Him all the days of our life. Our ascetic struggles are certainly necessary for the conforming of our lives to Christ, but it’s in this bright and radiant joy that we live out those struggles. As Isaiah reminds us, always rejoicing in our God, clothed with the garments of salvation, vested with the vesture of righteousness.

May our Christ grant us the robe of salvation, and may we always live in the joy and the glory of the presence of our God.
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Author Matthew Jackson