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The Place of Clergy in Orthodox Church

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By Fr. Alexander Schmemann

It is this Orthodox understanding of the “laity” that discloses the real meaning and function of clergy. In the Orthodox Church clergy is not above laity or opposed to it. First of all, strangely at it may seem, the basic meaning of term clergy is very close to that of laity. Clergy comes from “clerus” which means the “part of God”. “Clergy” means that part of mankind that belongs to God, has accepted His call, has dedicated itself to God. In this initial meaning the whole Church is described as “clergy”— part or inheritance of God: “O God, save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance”: (kleronomia or clergy — in Greek). The Church because She is the People of God (laity) is His “part”, His “inheritance”.

But gradually the term “clergy” was limited to those who fulfilled a special ministry within the People of God, who were especially set apart to serve on behalf of the whole community. For, from the very beginning, the People of God was not amorphous but was given by Christ Himself a structure, an order, a hierarchical shape:

“And God has set some in the Church, first apostles, secondary prophets, thirdly teachers… Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?… Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular…” (1 Cor. 12:28-29)

Historically the Church was built on the Apostles, whom Christ Himself has elected and appointed. The Apostles again elected and appointed their own helpers and successors, so that throughout the whole uninterrupted development of the Church, there has always been the continuity of this Divine appointment and election.

The “clergy” therefore is needed to make the Church what she has to be: the special People or Part of God. Their special function is to perpetuate within the Church that which does not depend on men: the Grace of God, the Teaching of God, the commandments of God, the saving and healing power of God. We stress this “of God” for the whole meaning of “clergy” lies precisely in their total identification with the objective teaching of the Church. It is not their teaching or their power: they have none, but that which has been kept and perpetuated in the Church from the Apostles down to our own time and which constitutes the essence of the Church. The Priest has the power to teach, but only inasmuch as he teaches the Tradition of the Church, and is completely obedient to it. He has the power to celebrate, but again, only inasmuch as he fulfills the eternal Priesthood of Christ Himself. He is bound — totally and exclusively — by the Truth which he represents and, thus, can never speak or command in his own name.

Our people in their criticism of the clergy fear the excessive “power” of clergy, yet too often they do not realize that the priest represents nothing else than the “Power” of the Church, of which they are members and not any specific “clerical” power. For it is clear to everybody that the Church existed before we were born and has always existed as a body of doctrine, order, liturgy, etc. It does not belong to anyone of us to change the Church or to make it follow our own taste, for the simple reason that we belong to the Church, but the Church does not belong to us. We have been mercifully accepted by God into His household, made worthy of Hid Body and Blood, of His Revelation, of Communion with Him. And the clergy represent this continuity, this identity of the Church in doctrine, life and grace throughout space and time. They teach the same eternal teaching, they bring to us the same eternal Christ, they announce the same and eternal Saving Act of God.

Without this hierarchical structure the Church would become a purely human organization reflecting the various ideas, tastes, choices of men. She would cease to be the Divine Institution, God’s gift to us. But then “laity” could not be “laity”— the People of God — any more, there would be no Amen to be said, for where there is no gift there can be no acceptance… The mystery of Holy Orders in the Church is that which makes the whole Church truly and fully the Laos, the Laity, the very People of God.

 

Note:  Rev.Fr.Alexander Schmemann (13 September 1921 in Tallinn – 13 December 1983 in New York City) was an influential Orthodox Christianpriest, teacher, and writer. From 1946 to 1951 he taught in Paris, and afterwards in New York. In his teachings and writings he sought to establish the close links between Christian theology and Christian liturgy.

 

Baptism in the Holy Bible

orthodox21. As administered by John. 
Matthew 3:5-12 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.John 3:23And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.

Acts 13:24 When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.

Acts 19:4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.

 

2. Sanctioned by Christ’s submission to it. 

Matthew 3:13-15 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.

Luke 3:21 Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,

3. Adopted by Christ.

John 3:22 After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.

John 4:1-2 When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)

4. Appointed an ordinance of the Christian church

Matthew 28:19-20 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

5. To be administered in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

Matthew 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit:

6. Water, the outward and visible sign in. 

Acts 8:36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?

Acts 10:47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?

7. Regeneration, the inward and spiritual grace of.

John 3:3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

John 3:5-6 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

8. Remission of sins, signified by.

Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Acts 22:16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord

9. Unity of the Church effected by. 

1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

Galatians 3:27-28 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

10. Confession of sin necessary to. 

Matthew 3:6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.

11.Repentance necessary to.

Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

12. Faith necessary to.

Acts 8:37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

Acts 18:8 And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.

13. There is but one. 

Ephesians 4:5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,

14. ADMINISTERED TO

  • Individuals.
    Acts 8:38
     And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.

Acts 9:18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.

    • Households. 
      Acts 16:15 And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.

1 Corinthians 1:16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.

15. Emblematic of the influences of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 3:11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and with fire:

Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit;

16. Typified.

1 Corinthians 10:2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;

1 Peter 3:20-21 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

17. Foretold. 

Ezekiel 36:25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.

18. Is through Christ.

Titus 3:6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;

19. Christ administered. 

Matthew 3:11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

John 1:33 And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.

20. Promised to saints. 

Acts 1:5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.

Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Acts 11:16 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.

21. All saints partake of. 

1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

22. Necessity for. 

John 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

Acts 19:2-6 He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.

23. Renews and cleanses the soul. 

Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

1 Peter 3:20-21 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

24.The Word of God instrumental to.

Acts 10:44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.

Ephesians 5:26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

25. Typified. 

Acts 2:1-4 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

 

 

 

Is Lent Biblical?

The Discussion between Ann & Pastor is continuing. Today’s discussion is on “Is Lent Biblical?”

(Ann’s home. Pastor rings the bell and Ann opens the door and pastor enters.)

 

Ann: Welcome and take a seat.

 

Pastor:  I am the new senior Pastor here. My assistant pastor and other people in the church told me that you proved that all faith and practices of the  Malankara Orthodox church are as per the Bible and that you have a vegetarian diet. Some naïve members of our church thought your advices are truthful and joined the Malankara Orthodox Church.  I want to talk about this. This is why I came here.  I hope you don’t mind.

 

Ann: No, absolutely no problem.  I am glad we can discuss about this.  It is true that we pray and observe Lents. But  I am not a Biblical scholar as you think.  As far as I am concerned, there is no need for that.  Because I go to a true church, established by the apostles and the church belongs to God and church is the authority.  So I learn what the church teaches and obey its teachings and practices. But I have picked up some knowledge from the Sunday School and from the teachings of the priests. Nothing more than that. Any way what exactly did you want to know?

 

Pastor: See, you cannot say that a person, if he or she eats some meat or fish, that he or she is doing a sin. Can you?  Look at the  parable of lost son which our Lord said. It is written that a fattened calf was slaughtered to celebrate the return of the lost son.

 

Ann: Who said that one can’t eat meat or fish?

 

Pastor: But you said that you are observing lent, without eating meat or fish?

 

Ann: Yes, that is true. Now it is the lent time. So I observe lent. I am just obeying the commands of the Holy Church.

 

Pastor: Has our Lord commanded that way? He has not. He has specifically told us “It is not what enters ones mouth that defiles that person; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one” (Mathew 15:11).  Given this case, isn’t lent a foolish act?

 

Ann: Dear pastor, I know that you talk without studying the faith and practices of the apostolic church. Don’t you think it is a little too much to call the practices of the holy church un-biblical and foolish? After all you know this church existed for 2000 years and every thing we learned is from the apostles, not from some one who claimed he knows how to interpret the Bible. (There by that person claims infallibility too)

 

Pastor: What else can I call about an act that is not biblical ?

 

Ann: We will examine if it is biblical. So anything that goes into the mouth does not defile him nor make him a sinner. Right?

 

Pastor: no, surely not.  That is what the biblical verse says.

 

Ann:  Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree in the middle of Eden. So the fruit went to the belly through the mouth. Isn’t it? Was it a sin?

 

Pastor: (Silence, stares to a distance)

 

Ann: Why you are keeping mum?  Nothing to say? Then don’t.  So the biblical verse is ‘what comes from mouth will defile him and is a sin. Is that right?

 

Pastor: Yes, ” but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.” That is the command of the Lord.

 

Ann: Ok. Prayers and praise to God are also coming from the mouth.  The songs, prayers, and speeches that you do also come from the mouth.  Do you do those vicious sins daily? Does it defile you?

 

Pastor: (Silent. Looks elsewhere)

 

Ann: Why are you not talking any thing. Nothing to say? Here is what our Lord said in those verses. His disciples ate without washing their hands and that broke Jewish tradition. So the Jews criticized it. And our Lord gave this apt reply “It is not what enters ones mouth that defiles that person; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.”  Now you take that verse and  try to prove against lent which our Lord instituted and the apostles practiced. Amazing.  All our Lord meant was that, eating without washing hands, though not hygienically good, does not affect the soul. Specially our Lord said that “For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy.  These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile” (Mathew 15:20)

 

Pastor: Isaiah  58:6 explains what is fasting or Lent. “This, rather is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the things of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed breaking every yoke;”  How is this verse relate to the way you observe Lent?

 

Ann: Read the next verse also.

 

Pastor: “Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your won”

 

Ann: If you read the verse 3,4,5  then you can see that one who observes Lent condemn the one who does not observe the Lent.  So these verses condemn the people who literally observes fasting without bringing themselves to a spiritual submission. It really talks about the bad ways of observing a Lent and advices how to observe a fasting as per God will. It does not talk against lent.  It instructs how to observe it.

 

Pastor: I agree. Our Lord fasted for  40 days, totally taking no food at all.  You observe it by not eating a few things like meat, fish, and egg etc. But you eat a stomach full of other things. Is this the lent as per the Bible? The Christian life is about  repentance, prayer, and  fellowship with the saved ones.  So  by observing lent for a few days what is the use?

 

Ann:

  • our Lord observed Lent for 40days.
  • Moses observed Lent for 40 days and received the commandments from LORD. (Exodus 34:28).
  •  Elisha observed lent for 40 days and taken to heaven. (1 Kings 19:8)..
  •  The people of Nineve observed lent for 3 days and were saved from the wrath of God. ( Jonah  3:6).
  • Esther  describes in chapter 4, that during the time of  Ahasuerus, that all Jews observed lent for 3 days and were saved from the death.
  • Prophet Daniel observed lent by praying and fasting for the Jewish people (Daniel 9:3-21)
  • Ezra received blessing from  God when she observed Lent. (Ezra 8:23)
  • Nehemiah observed lent and received blessing from God  (Nehemiah 1:4)
  • “Proclaim a fast, call an assembly;  Gather the elders, all who dwell in the land , Into the house of the LORD, your God and cry to the LORD.

In all these versus our Patriarch’s and our LORD observed the Lent. Though the number of days varied, in all these cases, God favored and blessed the people who observed the Lent.

 

Pastor: I agree.  But they all observed Lent in complete fasting; not just abstained from fish, meat, and egg.

 

Ann: True.  But you agree that Lent is necessary and is Biblical.  But it should be complete fasting not by abstaining from some foods.  Is this what you are saying?

 

Pastor: Yes. The kind of Lent that you observe now is created by some of your bishops and some synods. It is not Biblical.

 

Ann:   We can discuss this now.  Our Lord, Moses, and Eliajah observed lent for 40days. While others mentioned in the list above observed it for only 3 days. And in 1 Samuel 7:6 it says that the Israelites observed Lent for only one day.  So can you agree that observing Lents for different time frames is biblical?

 

Pastor:  Yes.

Ann: So we can now analyze the food part.  Let us read Daniel 1:8-12 .  These verses describe that Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah  only ate vegetables and water not taking wine and king’s food.

 

Pastor:  But in those days they were not observing lent.

 

Ann: They change their diet.  They did not eat the King’s food.  Instead, they ate only vegetables and drank water.

 

Pastor:  Why is that?  How is this related to Lent?

 

Ann: I will explain. “In those days, I Daniel mourned  three full weeks.  I ate savory food.  I took no meat or wine and I did not anoint myself at all until the end of the three weeks. “ (Daniel  10:2).  Joel also says that “Yes even now says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart with fasting, and weeping and mourning: Rend your hearts not your garments and return to the LORD, your God” (Joel 2:12). He also says “Proclaim a fast …and cry to the LORD”.  Lent was described as a mourning time.  Daniel during his three weeks of Lent, didn’t eat any savory food or wine.  So we can see that everyone observed Lent different in food and days, according to their ability.

 

Pastor:  What is the spiritual benefit of not eating some food, but eating some others?

 

Ann:  The greatest of all, born from a woman, John the Baptist avoided meat and fish. Hananiah and others avoided savory foods and ate only vegetables. Daniel avoided wine and the King’s food.  When some one observes Lent by avoiding certain foods, its benefit is seen in those people who observe it.

 

Pastor: What is  your church’s command on this?

 

Ann:   There are 7 commands from the Holy Church.  Of these three are for Lents.  They are:

1. Observe all the Lents of the Church

2.Observe Wednesday and Friday as Lents. (except a few Wednesdays and  Fridays)

3.During these days, you should not marry.

Regarding how to observe the Lents

  • One should fast (avoiding all food)  during the times of Lent till evening or at least till 3PM
  • If some one is unable to do so, he has to fast till noon.
  • If that is also not possible he has to avoid, meat, fish, milk and eggs and has to spent time in  prayers and prostrating
  • Every one who observe lent has to do more spiritual deeds.
  • Everyone has to confess and partake in Holy Communion.

(There are others also, which I have added at the end.)

 

Pastor: What is the New Testament proofs for all this?

 

Ann:   There are lots of them

1.“She [Anna] never left the temple, but worshipped night and day with fasting and prayer” (Luke 2:37)

2.Matthew 4th chapter describes our Lord’s observance of lent for 40days and His win over Satan.

3.Our Lord commands how to observe Lent in Matthew 6:16 .  “When you fast do not look gloomy like hypocrites……… But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who see what is hidden will repay you”

4.Our  Lord teaches that the church should observe Lent till He come back. “The days will come when the bridegroom is taken from them, and then they will fast” (Matthew 9:15)

5.Acts 13:2 says that the Christians at Antioch has been fasting and worshiping the Lord.

6.“The completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off” (Acts  13:3)

There is more.  But isn’t this enough now?

 

Pastor:  Enough.  But give me the proof that that the apostles and early church observed the Lent.

 

Ann: Yes.  I just quoted Acts  13:2,3.  Besides Paul said “Much time had now passed and sailing had become hazardous because the time of the fast had already gone by..”

So Paul says that the time which church observes the lent has passed.  So from this we can understand that Lent was prevalent in the church and certain days were designated as Lent times.  That is why Paul uses those times to refer to certain period of time. (Like seasons).

 

Pastor: I agree that there are lots of proof in the Bible to show that Lent is biblical.  But with out repentance, many just observe Lent by changing their diet.  Isn’t it against the notion of the Lent?

 

Ann: We observe  Lent, to have repentance and for spiritual cleaning. We have to observe the Lent both externally and spiritually. “Faith with out works is useless” (James 2:20). In our prayer in the Lent, we pray that “without cleaning our mind, observing Lent just by avoiding food is useless”.

 

Pastor:  I agree.

 

Ann: It is sad that you are not observing Lent, though commanded by our Lord, apostles and early church fathers.  Since 3 of the 7 church commands refer to lent, can you imagine the importance of Lent that the church has placed on it.  I request that you observe the lent.  It is biblical. It is pleasant to God. It is what our church fathers did and taught.  It is necessary for the spiritual cleanliness and for winning over earthly pleasures.  It is also necessary for witnessing the Christian love.

In the Jewish church the lent was a common practice. “This shall be an everlasting ordinance for you; …. You shall mortify himself and shall do no work. Since this day of atonement is made for you to make you clean, so that you may be cleansed of all your sins before the LORD, by everlasting  ordinance it shall be most solemn Sabbath for you , on which you must mortify yourselves.” (Leviticus 16:29-31).  On the Lent days one was forbidden to eat or drink or massage oil in hair or take bath or marry.

 

Pastor: I hear that some people observe special Lent for certain needs?

 

Ann: That is true.  Lents are observed for a country, for a community or for general repentance and blessings from God

1.The Isralites observed lent after the internal war with the Benjamin tribe. (Judges  20;26)

2.Some observed Lent as an atonement. Samuel had the Israelites observe the lent as they had prayed to a foreign god.

3.Lent is observed for remission of sins (Nehemiah 9:1). The people of Nineveh received grace of God by their lent.

4.For receiving the revelations from God.  Moses observed Lent and received the commandments from God. Daniel in Babylon observed lent for his and his forefather’s sins and waited for the revelation from God. He received this message by angel: “Daniel, I have now come to give you understanding . When you began your petition, an answer was given which I have come to announce, because you are beloved”.

So it is a truth that when you observe lent, your body weaken, you gain more control over your body and this will increase your  spiritual powers.  Therefore I beg you to observe the Lent.

 

Pastor:  I am very glad, Ann.  I think you have made a Malankara Orthodox Christian. I learned that observing Lent has only benefits.  I am glad I was able to learn this.  Let us pray.

 

Ann:  Let us pray. (prays)

 

Pastor:  I have to go now.  See you later

 

A discussion on "Infant Baptism" in the form of a skit

Dear Friends….This is a discussion on Infant baptism between Ann, a normal House wife (Orthodox faith) and a Pentecostal Pastor, who came to Ann’s house for influencing her to Pentecostalism. Please read and understand the Truth..God bless you all.
[Ann’s house; Pastor enters the house]

Ann: Hi, How are you? Come on in and take a seat. Hope all of you are doing fine.

Pastor: I am fine with the blessing of Christ. Praise the Lord.

Ann: How is your pastoral work going on?

Pastor: Everything is going on fine in God’s grace. I have come to ask you to get baptized and receive the Holy Spirit anointing and be saved.

Ann: I have been baptized and anointed long back.

Pastor: Praise the Lord. That was infant baptism. That is not enough. The sons of God have to believe, baptize, and receive the Anointing. This is the baptism according to the Bible.

Ann: Oh I see. Let me explain. The church instructs that all its members be baptized, and be anointed in the Holy Sprit. We submit to it. That is what we practice.

Pastor: What you have in the church is infant-baptism. This is not according to the Bible. Believers should believe and be baptized, not the other way. Salvation is only for those people. Therefore, you should believe and be baptized and then you will be saved.

Ann: Bible does not say that ‘infants should not be baptized or only mature adult believers only can be baptized’. Then how could you say that infant baptism is not according to the Bible?

Pastor: Yes, I can show. Refer to Mark 16:16 “Who ever believes and is baptized will be saved” This is the word of God. That is why we say that we should do as per these versus. We, sons of God, live according to the word of God and nothing else.

Ann: Dear pastor, this is the only verse that is quoted by people who reject infant baptism. These verses i.e. from Mark 16:9-16 is not in the earliest manuscripts and was added later by some one. This is a universally accepted fact. These verses are added in brackets to understand this fact. Take any Bible and refer. So your case against infant-baptism fails.

Pastor: Yes I see the brackets.

Ann: Yes, in this Bible that fact that these versus have been added in later is added as a note. Probably you may quote Mathew 28:19:20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the holy Spirit teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.“. Here also we can see that the order is to first ‘Baptize and then teach the faith’.

Pastor: So you are saying ‘adult baptism is wrong?’

Ann: No. The Holy church has both infant baptism and adult-baptism. Adult-baptism is for the grown up people who wish to join the church. Infant-baptism is for the infants born to the faithful believers of the church.

Pastor: It is easier said than proven. Show the proof from the Bible.

Ann: You have to understand that faith and practices of the church will not be seen exactly as is, in the Bible. Even the Bible is not written as an authoritive guide for that purpose. This can be inferred from the following verse.“Therefore, brothers stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by oral statement or by a letter of ours” (2Tess 2:15)“keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me” (Philippians 4:9)“Hold the beginning of this reality firm until end.” ( Hebrews 3;14)”What you have heard from me should be taught to the faithful, should be taught to the others too.” ( 2 Timothy 2:2)

Pastor: That is all agreed. But don’t you think that the basis of all our practices should be from the Bible?

Ann: Before we go further, we need to understand a couple of things. We discussed this before. But as a reminder:The church is the body of Christ. ( Colo 1:24)
The church of Living God is the pillar and foundation of truth. ( 2 Timothy 2:2)
“If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.” ( Matthew 18:17)

Pastor: I agree to all those. Praise the Lord. How does all this help the infant baptism practice?

Ann: You believe that fruits of baptism are salvation and eternal life and that one becomes sons of God by baptism. You also believe that infants cannot receive the blessing of God, as they have no wisdom nor faith. Therefore, if infants are to be baptized it is useless and meaningless.

Pastor: There you are. Infants have no knowledge nor have agreed to accept Jesus as savior because they are infants. So in this situation how some meaningless acts can cause salvation on them? At least the people who perform these acts should understand what they are doing. Other wise isn’t it meaning less?

Ann: The infants may not talk, they may not have great wisdom or knowledge or any ability to grasp the faith. But still they can receive the gifts from God. There are evidences of it in the bible. If infants can receive gifts of God, they should also be getting all gifts associated with baptism too.

Pastor: I say that the infants don’t have the ability to receive gifts of God. And therefore, baptizing them will be of no good.

Ann: Let us see what the Gospels say. Jesus Christ blessed the infants. If infants did not have ability to receive the blessings, our Lord would not have done it. Don’t you think so?

Pastor: I am not talking of just blessings. We receive the gifs of the Holy Spirit. And there is no evidence in bible on this.

Ann: Ok. Refer Gala 1:1. “ But when [God], who from my mother’s womb has set me apart and called me through his grace was pleased“. This verse tells us that not from infancy, but from the birth itself, God has blessed. So even from the birth one can receive the blessings from God.

Pastor: Oh you doesn’t understand. I said anointing of the Holy Spirit and subsequent blessing is all that we are talking about.

Ann: I understand. Read Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I [God] formed you in the womb I knew you . “ Here God has blessed Jeremiah even in the womb. Read Isaiah 49:1 “The LORD called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name“. So if a child [Isaiah] has the ability to be blessed and anointed even in the womb, then how is that ability lost when the child is born. It is so clear here, and then how come you have a doubt on it?

Pastor: This is not enough. Prove to me that an infant is able to receive the Holy Spirit?

Ann: Do you think that the Holy Spirit and God are separate? They are one and the same. Any way read Luke 1:15

Pastor: (This is angel talking to Zechariah regarding the birth of John the Baptist) “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb“

Ann: What do you think now? Do you accept that infants can receive the Holy Spirit?

Pastor: (Silent)

Ann: You don’t have to answer immediately. Think it over

Pastor: I don’t understand how one is saved not by his own belief, but with the faith of others?

Ann: It is possible. Here are examples from the Bible.Mark 2:5 “ When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Child, your sins are forgiven’ “.Mathew 8; 5-13. Because of the faith of the Centurion, his servant was healed.Mathew 17:15 –21 . A lunatic boy was healed because of the faith of his father.Acts 2:39 “For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off whomever the Lord our God will.” Children here also includes infants. The Greek word used is ‘techna’ which means children including infants.

Pastor: See, Baptism is not only receiving the gifts of the Lord, but also is a contract or a mutual agreement. By this agreement, we are joined to our Lord’s body. Since the church is His body, it means getting a membership in the church. If a person is infant and cannot understand the contract, how can he/she be a partner in mutual agreement? I don’t understand?

Ann: This is one of the arguments by the people who deny infant baptism. Please read…. “You are now standing before the LORD, your God-your chiefs and judges, your elders and officials, and all of the men of Israel, together with your wives and children and the aliens who live in your camp, down to those who hew hood and draw water for you-that you may enter into the covenant of the LORD, your God” So what do you think? God invites all, including infants to participate in the covenant.

Pastor: (Silent)

Ann: Why do you think circumcision was given to the Israelites?

Pastor: As a symbol of God’s covenant with God.

Ann: Did God command to do circumcision on the 8th day itself?

Pastor: Yes, Praise the Lord.

Ann: Would you read 1 Cori. 10:2 for me?

Pastor: “And all of them were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea”

Ann: Was the bath mentioned in this a symbolic representation of the Christian baptism? And were there infants in that group?

Pastor: Yes. The infants were also baptized. Praise the Lord

Ann: Dear pastor, now I hope you understand that age and knowledge do not matter for entering into a covenant with God. If infants were also given bath in the red sea, we can include infants in baptism also? Did you get this?

Pastor: yes, yes, I agree. But how do I believe that there was infant baptism in the early church? Any proof?

Ann: Was the epistles written to the church members or to the gentiles?

Pastor: Apostles have written the epistles to the church members not to the gentiles.

Ann: Ok, In that case,Colo 3:18-22- these versus have been addressed to Husbands, wives, and children.1 John 2:12-14- Address to servants and infants and writes to them.Ephesians 6:1-3 “ Children obey your parents [in the Lord], for this is right “ – Addressed to the children.John 21:15 – here he asks Peter to tend his male, female and infant flocks.All these versus prove that infants were church members. That is why they are addressed to while writing the epistles. Isn’t it so?

Pastor: Yes.

Ann: Since you agreed that infants were church members, they should be baptized too.
Pastor: Hum.. No That is not enough! This is logic. I need better evidence.

Ann: Why you are refuting it? Being intelligent and the ability to think is not bad. You agreed that the epistles were written to the church members. Epistles were addressed to the infants also. So we can infer that infants were also baptized. Because only those who are baptized become church members. Look at folloing versus,In 1 Cori 1:2 – Paul describees the church of Corinthians as ‘sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy’In Ephesian 1;1 Paul calls the faithful in that church as ‘holy ones’.The same way believers are called holy-one in Philip: 1:1; Colo 1:1; 2 Cori 2:1. The salutation ‘holy ones’ is only for the people who are baptized. Keeping this in mind, read 1 Cori 7:14 “For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through the husband. Otherwise you children would be unclean, where as in fact they are holy. “ In other words since the parents are baptized and have be sanctified, their infants are also baptized and sanctified. This is a bible verse, not logic.

Pastor: I wish to see a little more clear biblical verse.

Ann: There are certain practices that the church follows which are not written in Bible verbatim. But these are practices, which the church followed from the apostolic times, and there are evidences for these practices in the Bible. One of the evidence for infant baptism is that, the epistles written to the church members were also addressed to the infants.

Ann: What do like to have? Tea? Coffee, coke?

Pastor: Coke. (Ann gives the drinks)

Pastor: Any more evidence that infants were baptized?

Ann: Bible mentions many families who were baptized.Jailer and his family were baptized. Acts (16:33, 34)Lydia and here household has been baptized Acts: (16:14,15)Stephanas and his household were baptized (I Cori: 1;16)
Crispus along with his entire household were baptized. Acts : Acts 18:8
“Greet those belong to the family of Aristobulus (Romans 16:10.)
Greet the church of their [Prisca and Aquila] [1]home .Since it is said that the whole family had been baptized, it is fair to think that even infants were also baptized. Actually, the Greek word used to represent family is used to describe a family that includes infants also.

Pastor: We cannot for sure say that those families had kids. They may not have kids.

Ann: True. If Acculos and Priscilla are father and mother, the church of their home should be referring to their kids.

Pastor: If a family has husband and wife alone and no one else, they are still called a family.

Ann: Why would you want to believe that none of the family above had any kids? When you say family, we should think the family has infants also.

Pastor: If you prove that the Bible defines family as one that contains infants I will agree.

Ann: If I prove from the Bible that family includes infants, would you believe that the families above had infants and that they were all baptized?

Pastor: (Silent)

Ann: As a Christian we should talk, think, and act truthfully. Accepting the truth is the Christian way.

Pastor: If you show me from the Bible that the word family includes infants, I will agree. Praise the Lord

Ann: I will read Genesis 45:18,19 Pharaoh told Joseph to go to Canaan and “There get your father and your families, and then come back here to me; Take wagons from the land of Egypt for your children and your wives and to transport your father on you way back here.”

Again Genesis 45:10-11 Joseph said to his brothers “you will be near me-you and your children and grandchildren your flocks and herds…. I will provide for you there, so that you and your family…. “

Pastor: So you think that adult-baptism is wrong?

Ann: Why did Jesus say that we must all must be baptized?

Pastor: Unless you are born of water and Spirit, no one will enter the Kingdom of God.

Ann: That means?

Pastor: If you are not baptized in water and Spirit, no one will enter into the Kingdom of God. That is certain.

Ann: Let me ask you something off the subject. How is your family?

Pastor: They are all fine with the blessings from God.

Ann: How old is your youngest child?

Pastor: He is 15

Ann: Good. Has he been baptized yet?

Pastor: No, not yet. He is learning the Lord’s words. He will probably be baptized within the next two or three years. Praise the Lord.

Ann: Pastor, if your loving son dies today, will he enter the kingdom of God?

Pastor: Yes. Because salvation is a gift of God.

Ann: But you just told me that unless one is baptized in water and Spirit you would not be saved. Now you are saying salvation is a gift of God. You are contradicting yourself. You are also contradicting what Jesus said.

Pastor: This is not fair. You are too cunning. We, Sons of God will not answer these kinds of cunning questions.

Ann: Cunning? Me? You say two conflicting things. First you said baptism in water and Spirit is required for salvation. Then you said it is not required for salvation. Mark 10:14 “Let children come to me; do not prevent them, for kingdom of God belongs to such as these”. ”Amen, I say to you, who ever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it”. Jesus said this. Two things are obvious:
1) Jesus says – let children come to me, do not prevent them. You say ‘ we will not let children come to Jesus. We will prevent them’
2) Jesus says ‘You have to accept the kingdom of God like a child, otherwise you will not enter the Kingdom of God’. But you say. “Children do not accept the kingdom of God and so we will not accept the kingdom like a child.”

You preach exactly opposite of what Jesus taught. I am asking you again. You tell me. As per the Bible will your son be saved?

Pastor: Silent

Ann: I did not want to put you on the spot. I want your son to be saved. Actually I want your whole family to be saved. There were infants in the church at all the time. They are in the church now and they were also in the early church. If there are no infants in the church then the church is incomplete.

Pastor: Silent

Ann: The birth of infants, does it occur with their knowledge or because they agree to it?

Pastor: Of course not.

Ann: Because they are born without their agreement and knowledge we baptize them without their agreement or knowledge. To do so and to bring them up as members of the church is, as parents, our duty and responsibility. Even if your son dies today, don’t you wish that he should go to heaven? Can anyone be saved without baptism? “This pre-figured baptism saves you” (1 Peter 3:21). Therefore, we have to make our kids eligible for the Kingdom of God by baptizing them. For the gentiles who accepts Jesus as savoir and wishes to join the church, we have to give adult baptism. That is what God commanded. That is why we have to obey the church canon, as it was made by people who heard from the apostles or learned from what the apostles practiced.

Pastor: Praise the Lord. I have to get going. Thank you. See you later.

Courtesy: This is an English translation of the book “Annammayum Pastarum” originally written in Malayalam, by Late Fr Geevarghese Anchal.

 

In what way the Orthodox Churches different from the Roman Catholic Church?

The main differences are the following:-

  1. The Orthodox Churches do not accept the supremacy of the Pope. They believe that reach regional Church should be administratively autocephalous (having its own head) and the highest authority in each Church is its own Synod of Metropolitans rather than anyone outside. They regard the Roman papacy as a denial of the Apostolic constitution of the Church.

 

  1. The Orthodox Church believes that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, while Roman Catholic Church state that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.

 

 

  1. The Orthodox Churchdo not accept the Infallibility of the Roman Pope.

 

  1. They do not accept as dogma the Roman Catholic teaching on the bodily assumption into heaven of the Virgin Mary after her death.

 

 

  1. Orthodox Church rejects the immaculate conception of St Mary, a new dogma introduced by Roman Pope in the eighteenth century.

 

  1. While the Roman Catholic Church accepts more than 25 Councils, theOriental Orthodox Churches accept only three Councils as Ecumenical, namely Nicea (325), Constantinople (381) and Ephesus (431).

 

 

  1. Orthodox Churches don not believe in Purgatory.

Understanding the Holy Baptism of Orthodox Church

 

 

1375234_464289703684590_467908422_nThere can be no doubt that Baptism and Eucharist are the two premier events in the Church’s sacramental life. Baptism is the door and way the Eucharist begins, and the Eucharist is the way Baptism is sustained in the life of the Church. This means that, far from being totally separate events, Baptism and the Eucharist work in the closest tandem. Their content is identical: Christ dying and rising still among the members of his Church, only the idiom of its realization differs. In one case the idiom involves bathing, while in the other the idiom involves dining together.

 

Baptism is a Holy Sacrament by which we are born again by being immersed in water three times in the name of the Holy Trinity; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, receiving the grace of justification, and hence becoming a child of God, a brother of Jesus, and an heir (inheritor) of the kingdom of God..

 

The Sacrament of Baptism has the first rank among theimportant Seven Holy Sacraments of the Orthodox Church, as it is the door by which the believer enters the church and has the right to partake in the rest of the Sacraments.

The Holy Baptism holds the first place among the sacraments, because it is the door of the spiritual life by which we are made members of Christ and incorporated with the Church. And since through the first man death entered into the world, unless we are born again of water and the Holy Spirit, we can not enter into the kingdom of Heaven, as Truth Himself has told us. The matter of this sacrament is true and natural water;  mixture of hot and cold. The form is: I baptize thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We do not, however, deny that the words: Let this servant of Christ be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit;  constitute true baptism; because since the principal cause from which baptism has its efficacy is the Holy Trinity, and the instrumental cause is the minister who confers the sacrament exteriorly, then if the act exercised by the minister be expressed, together with the invocation of the Holy Trinity, the sacrament is perfected. The minister of this sacrament is the priest, to whom belongs baptism, by reason of his office, In case of necessity, however, not only a priest but even a deacon can baptize, provided he observes the form used by the Church, and intends to perform what the Church performs. The effect of this sacrament is the remission of all sin, original and actual; likewise of all punishment which is due for sin. As a consequence, no satisfaction for past sins is enjoined upon those who are baptized; and if they die before they commit any sin, they attain immediately to the kingdom of heaven and the vision of God.

ETYMOLOGY

(1) The means of the word Baptism
The word Baptism is derived from the Greek word, βαπτο, or βαπτιζο, to wash or to immerse. The Syriac/Aramaic word is ܥܡܕܐ which means immerse, wash, plunge, sink, dip in. It signifies, therefore, that washing is of the essential idea of the sacrament. Scripture uses the term baptize both literally and figuratively. It is employed in a metaphorical sense in Acts 1:5, where the abundance of the grace of the Holy Spirit is signified, and also in Luke 12:50, where the term is referred to the sufferings of Christ in His Passion. Otherwise in the New Testament, the root word from which baptism is derived is used to designate the laving with water, and it is employed, when speaking of Jewish lustrations, and of the baptism of John, as well as of the Christian Sacrament of Baptism (Hebrews 6:2; Mark 7:4). In ecclesiastical usage, however, when the terms BaptizeBaptism are employed without a qualifying word, they are intended to signify the sacramental washing by which the soul is cleansed from sin at the same time that the body immersed in the water.

 

(2) The names of the Baptism
Many other names and terms of Baptism have been used by our Syrian fathers. They derived these names from the works of this Sacrament, and the spiritual gifts it bestows upon the baptized.  The descriptive synonyms for baptism both in the Bible and Christian antiquity, the Fathers of the church called the Sacrament:

  • ‘modo or Ma’moditho Qadishto (the Holy Baptism)
  • Rozo d-simath bnayo (the Sacrament of adoption)
  • Rozo d-haymonutho (the Sacrament of faith)
  • Rozo d-manehronutho (the Sacrament of illumination, enlightenment)
  • Rozo d-tadkhitho (the Sacrament of cleansing)
  • Mawlodo d-men drish (Regeneration, Born again)

The Syrian fathers called the sacrament in these names because:

  • by baptism the believer is immersed completely into water when baptized,
  • by adoption the baptized believer by the grace of God become a son of God, adopted by Christ to be the son of His Father.
  • by faith, the person receiving this Sacrament must believer in Christ first “He who believes and is baptized is saved” (Mark 16:16),
  • by illumination or enlightenment the person being baptized becomes enlightened with the light of faith, “but recall the former days when after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle” (Hebrews 10:32),
  • by purification or cleansing the baptized believer is purified of his original sin.
  • by Regeneration or Born again the baptized believer is born again of water and Holy Spirit.

and so on… In English, the term christen is familiarly used for baptize. As, however, the former word signifies only the effect of baptism, that is, to make one a Christian, but not the manner and the act, moralists hold that “I christen” could probably not be substituted validly for “I baptize” in conferring the sacrament.

DEFINITION

The Fathers of the church define baptism thus: Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration by water. Baptism is the external ablution of the body, performed with the prescribed form of words. Later theologians generally distinguish formally between the physical and the metaphysical defining of this sacrament. By the former they understand the formula expressing the action of ablution and the utterance of the invocation of the Trinity; by the latter, the definition: “Sacrament of regeneration” or that institution of Christ by which we are reborn to spiritual life. The term “regeneration” distinguishes baptism from every other sacrament, for although penance revivifies men spiritually, yet this is rather a resuscitation, a bringing back from the dead, than a rebirth. Penance does not make us Christians; on the contrary, it presupposes that we have already been born of water and the Holy Spirit to the life of grace, while baptism on the other hand was instituted to confer upon men the very beginnings of the spiritual life, to transfer them from the state of enemies of God to the state of adoption, as sons of God. The definition of the church combines the physical and metaphysical definitions of baptism. “The sacrament of regeneration” is the metaphysical essence of the sacrament, while the physical essence is expressed by the second part of the definition, i.e. the washing with water (matter), accompanied by the invocation of the Holy Trinity (form). Baptism is, therefore, the sacrament by which we are born again of water and the Holy Spirit, that is, by which we receive in a new and spiritual life, the dignity of adoption as sons of God and heirs of God’s kingdom.

 

  1. TYPES

Having considered the Christian meaning of the term “baptism”, we now turn our attention to the various types which were found in the writings of some Fathers and theologians of the church. Some theologians considered only two Baptisms:

  1. a) of John the Baptist, b) of the water and Holy Spirit (NT).

The baptism of St. John the Baptist. John baptized with water (Mark 1) and it was a baptism of penance for the remission of sins (Luke 3). While, then, the symbolism of the sacrament instituted by Christ was not new, the efficacy which He joined to the rite is that which differentiates it from all its types. John’s baptism did not produce grace, as he himself testifies (Matt. 3) when he declares that he is not the Messiah whose baptism is to confer the Holy Spirit. Moreover, it was not John’s baptism that remitted sin, but the penance that accompanied it; and a remission of sins in hope. The baptism of John was not a sacrament of itself, but a certain sacramental as it were, preparing the way for the baptism of Christ, and those who had previously received John’s baptism had to receive later the Christian baptism (Acts 19).

And others like Gregorios Theologos, Mushe Bar Kifo, John Bishop of Dara, Bar Hebraeus, and Bar Salibi… considered some types of this sacrament are to be found among the Jews and in the Old Testament, such as:

  1. a) Baptism of the Flood which cleansed the sin of the earth according to St. Peter the apostle in: “when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us–baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” (1 Peter 3:21), types of the purification to be found in Christian baptism.
  2. b) Baptism of the Red Sea and Clouds; St. Paul stated in his epistle: “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,” (I Cor. 10:1, 2). Thus St. Paul adduces the passage of Israel through the Red Sea and cloud.
  3. c) Other forerunners of baptism were the numerous purifications prescribed in the Mosaic dispensation for legal uncleanness (Exodus 29: 4; 30:18). The symbolism of an outward washing to cleanse an invisible blemish was made very familiar to the Jews by their sacred ceremonies. But in addition to these more direct types, both the New Testament writers and the Fathers of the Church find many mysterious foreshadowing of baptism.
  4. d) Baptism of St. John the Baptist (mentioned above).
  5. e) Circumcision; its place in the sacramental system of the Old Law was taken by circumcision, which is called by some of the Fathers “the washing of blood” to distinguish it from “the washing of water”. By the rite of circumcision, the recipient was incorporated into the people of God and made a partaker in the Messianic promises; a name was bestowed upon him and he was reckoned among the children of Abraham, the father of all believers.
  6. f) Baptism of Blood; during the days of persecution, many pagans believed in Christ from simply being touched by witnessing the strong faith of the Christians who were martyred for Christ. As a result, these pagans welcomed martyrdom for Christ, even though they had not been baptized previously. In this situation, the blood they shed is recognized, and considered a “Baptism of Blood”. hence, they receive the crown of martyrdom and eternal life. In essence, Baptism is dying with Christ, and these martyrs shed their blood honorably for and with Christ.

Many saints spoke about the “Baptism of Blood”. St Cyril of Jerusalem said, “Whoever does not accept Baptism has no salvation, except the martyrs, who without the Baptism of water are granted salvation by the Baptism of Blood”.  When our Savior was crucified on the Cross, He was wounded by a spear in His side, and water and blood came forth. Likewise, during times of peace, baptism is carried out through water, and during times of persecution, by blood. The Savior Himself called martyrdom by blood and Baptism by saying: “Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” (Matthew 20:22).

Other foreshadowing of the sacrament are found by the Fathers in the bathing of Naaman in the Jordan river, in the brooding of the Spirit of God over the waters, in the rivers of Paradise, in the blood of the Paschal Lamb, during Old Testament times, and in the pool of Bethsaida, and in the healing of the dumb and blind in the New Testament,

 

  1. INSTITUTION OF THE SACRAMENT

7050_485253924921501_1212331126_nThe Lord Jesus Christ instituted the Sacrament of Baptism by being baptized by John the Baptist in the River Jordan, when the Holy Spirit came upon Him as a dove, anointed Him, then He assured it after the resurrection when He said to His disciples:  “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew: 28:19),  “He who is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).  Baptism is a redemptive Sacrament, necessary for redemption and entry to eternal life according to the Lord’s saying: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of Water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God”(John 3). 

That Christ instituted the Sacrament of Baptism is unquestionable. Christ not only commands His Disciples (Matthew 28:19) to baptize and gives them the form to be used, but He also declares explicitly the absolute necessity of baptism (John 3): “Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he can not enter into the Kingdom of God.” Moreover, from the general doctrine of the Church on the sacraments, we know that the efficacy attached to them is derivable only from the institution of the Redeemer.

Various occasions have been pointed out as the probable time of institution, as when Christ was Himself baptized in the River Jordan, when He declared the necessity of the rebirth to Nicodemus, and when He sent His Apostles and Disciples to preach and baptize. The first opinion was quite favorable to many Fathers, and they are fond of referring to the sanctification of the baptismal water by contact with the flesh of the God-man.

The more probable opinion seems to be that baptism, as a sacrament, had its origin when Christ commissioned His Apostles to baptize, as narrated in John, 3 and 4. There is nothing directly in the text as to the institution, but as the Disciples acted evidently under the instruction of Christ, He must have taught them from very outset the matter and form of the sacrament which they were to dispense. It is true that St. John Chrysostom (Hom., xxviii in Joan.), and Tertullian (De Bapt., c. ii) declare that Baptism given by the Disciples of Christ as narrated in these chapters of St. John was a baptism of water only and not of the Holy Spirit; but their reason is that the Holy Spirit was not given until after the Resurrection. As theologians have pointed out, this is a confusion between the visible and the invisible manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

All things considered, we can safely state, therefore, that Christ most probably instituted baptism before His Passion. For in the first place, as is evident from John 3 and 4, Christ certainly conferred baptism, at least by the hands of His Disciples, before His passion. That this was an essentially different rite from John the Precursor’s baptism seems plain, because the baptism of Christ is always preferred to that of John, and the latter himself states the reason: “I baptize with water . . . [Christ] baptizes with the Holy Spirit” (John 1). In the baptism given by the Disciples as narrated in these chapters we seem to have all the requisites of a sacrament of the New Law:

  • the external rite,
  • the institution of Christ, for they baptized by His command and mission, and
  • the conferring of grace, for they bestowed the Holy Spirit (John 1).

In the second place, the Apostles received other sacraments from Christ, before His Passion, as the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, and Holy Ordination. Now as baptism has always been held as the door of the Church and the necessary condition for the reception of any other sacrament.

 

  1. MATTER AND FORM OF THE SACRAMENT

(1) Matter

In all sacraments we treat of the matter and the form. It is also usual to distinguish the kind of matter and the type matter. In the case of baptism, the remote matter is natural and true water. We shall consider this aspect of the question first.

 

(a) Kind of matter

It is of faith that true and natural water is the kind of the matter of baptism. We may mention that the early Fathers, accepting water as the ordinary matter of this sacrament, and recognize water as the necessary matter of the sacrament. Scripture is so positive in its statements as to the use of true and natural water for baptism that it is difficult to see why it should ever be called in question. Not only have we the explicit words of Christ (John 3:5) “Unless a man be born again of water”, etc., but also in the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of St. Paul there are passages that preclude any metaphorical interpretation. Thus (Acts 10: 47) St. Peter says “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized?” In the eighth chapter of the Acts is narrated the episode of Philip and the eunuch of Ethiopia, and in verse 36 we read: “They came to a certain water; and the eunuch said: See, here is water: what doth hinder me from being baptized?” Equally positive is the testimony of Christian tradition.

 

(b) Type of matter

The type of the matter of baptism is the ablution performed with water. The very word “baptize”, as we have seen, means a washing.  The most ancient form usually employed was unquestionably immersion. This is not only evident from the writings of the Fathers and the early rituals of both the Oriental and Latin Churches, but it can also be gathered from the Epistles of St. Paul, who speaks of baptism as a bath (Eph. 5: 26; Rom. 6: 4; Tit. 3: 5). In the Latin Church, immersion seems to have prevailed until the twelfth century. After that time it is found in some places even as late as the sixteenth century. Infusion and aspersion, however, were growing common in the thirteenth century and gradually prevailed in the Western Church. The Oriental Churches have retained immersion, though not always in the sense of plunging the candidate’s entire body below the water.

 

Although, as we have said, immersion was the form of baptism that generally prevailed in the early ages, but in the case of the sick or dying, immersion was impossible and the sacrament was then conferred by Infusion in most cases. This was so well recognized in the early ages, that infusion received the name of the baptism of the sick. St. Cyprian (Ep. lxxvi) declares this form to be valid. So such persons, however, were not to be rebaptized is an evidence that the Church held their baptism to be valid. It is also pointed out that the circumstances under which St. Paul (Acts, xvi) baptized his jailer and all his household seem to preclude the use of immersion. Moreover, the acts of the early martyrs frequently refer to baptizing in prisons where infusion or aspersion was certainly employed. It is to be noted that The threefold immersion is unquestionably very ancient in the Church and apparently of Apostolic origin.

 

(2) Form

The requisite and sole valid form of baptism is: “(name of the baptized) or this servant of Christ is baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This was the form given by Christ to His Disciples in the twenty-eighth chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel, as far, at least, as there is question of the invocation of the separate Persons of the Trinity and the expression of the nature of the action performed.

 

The  Orthodox Church has never rebaptize other Byzebtine or Catholic baptized person.

In administering this sacrament it is absolutely necessary to use the word “baptize” St. Paul (Colos. 3) exhorts us to do all things in the name of God, and consequently an ablution could be performed in the name of the Trinity to obtain restoration of health. Therefore it is that in the form of this sacrament, the act of baptism must be expressed, and the matter and form be united to leave no doubt of the meaning of the ceremony. In addition to the necessary word “baptize”, or its equivalent, it is also obligatory to mention the separate Persons of the Holy Trinity. This is the command of Christ to His Disciples, and as the sacrament has its efficacy from Him Who instituted it, we can not omit anything that He has prescribed. Nothing is more certain than that this has been the general understanding and practice of the Church. St. Justin Martyr (Apol., I) testifies to the practice in his time. Fathers of the church declare that: “Unless a person has been baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, he can not obtain the remission of his sins,” The same is declared by many other primitive writers of the church, as St. Jerome (IV, in Matt.), Origen (De Princ., i, ii), St. Athanasius (Or. iv, Contr. Ar.), St. Augustine (De Bapt., vi, 25).

 

The singular form “In the name”, not “names”, is also to be employed, as it expresses the unity of the Divine nature.

 

The mind of the Church as to the necessity of serving the Trinitarian formula in this sacrament has been clearly shown by her treatment of baptism conferred by heretics. Any ceremony that did not observe this form has been declared invalid. The Montanists baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and Montanus and Priscilla (St. Basil, Ep. i, Ad Amphil.). As a consequence, the Council of Laodicea ordered their rebaptism. The Arians at the time of the Council of Nicæa do not seem to have tampered with the baptismal formula, for that Council does not order their rebaptism. When, then, St. Athanasius (Or. ii, Contr. Ar.) and St. Jerome (Contra Lucif.) declare the Arians to have baptized in the name of the Creator and creatures, they must either refer to their doctrine or to a later changing of the sacramental form. It is well known that the latter was the case with the Spanish Arians and that consequently converts from the sect were rebaptized. The Anomæans, a branch of the Arians, baptized with the formula: “In the name of the uncreated God and in the name of the created Son, and in the name of the Sanctifying Spirit, procreated by the created Son” (Epiphanius, Hær., Ixxvii).

 

Other Arian sects, such as the Eunomians and Aetians, baptized “in the death of Christ”. Converts from Sabellianism were ordered by the First Council of Constantinople (can. vii) to be rebaptized because the doctrine of Sabellius that there was but one person in the Trinity had infected their baptismal form. The two sects sprung from Paul of Samosata, who denied Christ’s Divinity, likewise conferred invalid baptism. They were the Paulianists and Photinians.  The Council of Nicæa (can. xix) ordered the rebaptism of Paulianists.

 

There has been a theological controversy over the question as to whether baptism in the name of Christ only was ever held valid. Certain texts in the New Testament have given rise to this difficulty. Thus St. Paul (Acts, xix) commands some disciples at Ephesus to be baptized in Christ’s name: “They were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” In Acts 10, we read that St. Peter ordered others to be baptized “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ”. Those who were converted by Philip. (Acts, viii) “were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ”, and above all we have the explicit command of the Prince of the Apostles: “Be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins (Acts, ii).

 

Owing to these texts some theologians have held that the Apostles baptized in the name of Christ that the Apostles so acted by special dispensation. The most probable opinion, however, seems to be that the terms “in the name of Jesus”, “in the name of Christ”, either refer to baptism in the faith taught by Christ, or are employed to distinguish Christian baptism from that of John the Baptist. It seems altogether unlikely that immediately after Christ had solemnly promulgated the Trinitarian formula of baptism, the Apostles themselves would have substituted another. In fact, the words of St. Paul (Acts, xix) imply quite plainly that they did not. For, when some Christians at Ephesus declared that they had never heard of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle asks: “In whom then were you baptized?” This text certainly seems to declare that St. Paul took it for granted that the Ephesians must have heard the name of the Holy Spirit when the sacramental formula of baptism was pronounced over them.

 

 INSTRUCTIONS OF BAPTISM

733902_472866059493621_62470887_nThese are some canons and instructions from Hudoyo and other ecclesiastical canons written in the Book of the Sacrament of Holy Baptism:

  1. Holy Baptism is a Sacrament, being the door through which the human being enters into the Christian faith. Therefore, it should be performed with utmost reverence and awareness by the priests, and received with true faith by the believers.
  2. The Sacrament of Baptism shall be performed at the baptistery in the church, except in cases of necessity resulting from extreme sickness or forcible circumstances; then baptism shall be performed in the homes of the believers by permission of the bishop. Inthis case, a wide and deep basin should be made ready in which water is to be sanctified. This basin is to be used exclusively for baptism. This procedure shall also be followed in countries where we have no church or house of prayer.
  3. The bishop as well as the priest shall perform the Sacrament of Baptism fully dressed in his vestments. Incense shall be offered as is required by the rituals of the Church.
  4. Baptism shall be performed in the morning after the Divine Liturgy, unless an emergency may require its performance before or at any other time.
  5. For every male child there must be an Orthodox godfather, and for every female child an Orthodox godmother.
  6. Two kinds of oils shall be used in the administration of baptism. The oil of ointment (mesh’ho), which is consecrated by the bishop, shall be administered before immersion. The holy chrism (myron), which is consecrated by the patriarch, confirms the baptized and shall be administered after baptism.
  7. The godparents, before participating in the baptismal ceremony, shall, with due respect and purification, confess and receive Holy Communion. They should also instruct the baptized male or female in the Christian doctrine and religion.
  8. The priest shall register the name of the baptized in the church baptismal registry. It is proper and commendable that the baptized be given a Christian name.
  9. When the priest baptizes male and female children at the same time, he is not permitted to immerse them simultaneously in the same water. He should immerse the male children first, and after changing the water, the female children. In cases of multiple baptisms, the priest shall immerse the children in descending order with the oldest being first.
  10. If a child is near death, the priest shall baptize him without immersion but infusing, by pouring water upon his (her) forehead and the rest of his (her) body if possible.
  11. The Sacrament of Baptism should be fulfilled two weeks after birth, unless an emergency requires postponement. In such a case, baptism may be performed after one month but not later than two months.
  12. A priest shall baptize his own child only in cases of emergency or when another priest is not available.
  13. If a child is near death, a full deacon (or Archdeacon) can baptize him or her, in the absence of a priest. Later on, if the baptized lives the priest shall confirm the child by anointing him (her) with holy chrism.
  14. In an emergency, the priest can baptize even after having had his meal. In an emergency of death, the priest shall use the shortened Service of Baptism of Mar Severus (+538), Patriarch of Antioch.
  15. When a maiden or a mature woman is to be baptized, the priest shall pour the oil of ointment as well as the holy chrism in water in a large vessel and draw a curtain between him and the baptized. Then he shall confirm the baptized with the holy chrism by anointing the forehead. After placing his right hand on the head of the baptized and baptizing her in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the baptized shall immerse herself three times in the water while wearing a white robe. In former times, deaconesses and nuns used to anoint baptized women. At the present time, it would be preferable for the priest’s wife to assist the celebrant in anointing the baptized. In the same manner, if a man is to be baptized the priest shall follow the above instructions, and perform the ceremony alone. After the ceremony, the white robes should be kept in the church. As to the holy water, it should be poured in the baptismal font or in a clean place, such as a field or a garden.
  16. If the baptism of a person is doubtful or cannot be substantiated by a certificate, the priest shall baptize him (her) saying: N… , if you are not baptized, I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and, the Holy Spirit.
  17. The Church accepts the baptism of the (Apostolic Churches) Chalcedonians, i.e. the Byzantine Orthodox Churches and the Roman Catholics. If one of the faithful is baptized in one of the Protestant Churches, he or she must be confirmed by being anointed with holy Myron inasmuch as the said Churches do not employ holy chrism.

 

REBAPTISM

The point in the ancient Church is that; in Africa and Asia Minor the custom had been introduced in the early part of the third century of re-baptizing all converts from heresy. As far as can be now ascertained, the practice of rebaptism arose in Africa owing to decrees of a Synod of Carthage held probably between 218 and 222; while in Asia Minor it seems to have had its origin at the Synod of Iconium (Konya, Turkey), celebrated between 230 and 235.

After these Synods, the Fathers of the church see that forbidding the rebaptism of converts, are in accordance with antiquity and ecclesiastical tradition, and are consecrated as an ancient, memorable, and solemn observance of all the saints and of all the faithful. St. Severus of Antioch believes that the custom of not rebaptizing is an Apostolic tradition, and that the Synod of Carthage introduced rebaptism against the Divine Law against the rule of the universal Church, and against the customs and institutions of the ancients, and the sacrament was not to be repeated because its first administration had been valid, This has been the law of the Church ever since.

 

  1. NECESSITY OF BAPTISM

Baptism is held to be necessary since it is the door through which the human being enters into the Christian faith. This doctrine is rounded on the words of Christ, in John 3, He declares: “Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he can not enter into the kingdom of God.” Christ makes no exception to this law and it is therefore general in its application, embracing both adults and infants. It is consequently not merely a necessity of precept but also a necessity of means. This is the sense in which it has always been understood by the Church and the Holy Synods. The absolute necessity of this sacrament is often insisted on by the Fathers of the Church, especially when they speak of infant baptism. No one is excepted of baptism for salvation, not the infant, not the one hindered by any necessity. The infants may be saved by an act of desire on the part of their parents.

The necessity in this case is shown by the command of Christ to His Apostles (Matt., xxviii): “Go and teach all nations, baptizing them”, etc. Since the Apostles are commanded to baptize, the nations are commanded to receive baptism.

 

  1. SUBSTITUTES FOR THE SACRAMENT

The Fathers and theologians frequently divide baptism into two kinds: the baptism of water, and the baptism of blood. However, only the first is a real sacrament. The latter is denominated baptism only analogically, inasmuch as it supplies the principal effect of baptism, namely, the grace which remits sins. It is the teaching of the Church that when the baptism of water becomes a physical or moral impossibility, eternal life may be obtained by the baptism of blood.

 

The Baptism of Blood

The baptism of blood is the obtaining of the grace of justification by suffering martyrdom for the faith of Christ. The term “washing of blood” is used by Tertullian (De Bapt., xvi) to distinguish this species of regeneration from the “washing of water”. “We have a second washing”, he says “which is one and the same [with the first], namely the washing of blood.”  When any die for the confession of Christ without having received the washing of regeneration, it avails as much for the remission of their sins as if they had been washed in the sacred font of baptism.” The Church grounds her belief in the efficacy of the baptism of blood on the fact that Christ makes a general statement of the saving power of martyrdom in the tenth chapter of St. Matthew: “Every one therefore that shall confess me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven” (5: 32); and: “He that shall lose his life for me shall find it” (5: 39). It is pointed out that these texts are so broadly worded as to include even infants, especially the latter text. That the former text also applies to them, has been constantly maintained by the Fathers, who declare that if infants can not confess Christ with the mouth, they can by act.

The Fathers of the church speak of the infants slaughtered by Herod as martyrs, and this has been the constant teaching of the Church, and the church commemorates the third day of Christmas to remember their martyrdom.

Baptism of Blood; during the days of persecution, many pagans believed in Christ from simply being touched by witnessing the strong faith of the Christians who were martyred for Christ. As a result, these pagans welcomed martyrdom for Christ, even though they had previously not been baptized. In this situation, the blood which they shed is recognized, and considered a “Baptism of Blood”. Hence, they receive the crown of martyrdom and eternal life. In essence, Baptism is dying with Christ, and these martyrs shed their blood honorably for and with Christ.

Many saints spoke about the “Baptism of Blood”. St Cyril of Jerusalem said, “Whoever does not accept Baptism has no salvation, except the martyrs, who without the Baptism of water are granted salvation by the Baptism of Blood”.  When our Savior was crucified on the Cross, He was wounded by a spear in His side, and water and blood came forth. Likewise, during times of peace, baptism is carried out through water, and during times of persecution, by blood. The Savior Himself called martyrdom by blood and Baptism by saying: “Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” (Matthew 20:22).

 

  1. UNBAPTIZED INFANTS

The fate of infants who die without baptism must be briefly considered here. There is no any clear pronouncement of the Church on the subject, but learn that the Orthodox teaching is uncompromising on this point, that all who depart this life without baptism, be it of water, or blood, are perpetually excluded from the vision of God. This teaching is grounded, as we have seen, on Scripture and tradition, and the decrees of the Church. Moreover, that those who die in original sin, without ever having contracted any actual sin, are deprived of the happiness of heaven. Many Church theologians have declared that infants dying without baptism are excluded from the beatific vision; but as to the exact state of these souls in the next world they are not agreed.

In speaking of souls who have failed to attain salvation, these theologians distinguish the pain of loss, or privation of the beatific vision, and the pain of sense. Though these theologians have thought it certain that unbaptized infants must endure the pain of loss, they have not been similarly certain that they are subject to the pain of sense. St. Gregory Nazianzen (Or. in S. Bapt.) expresses the belief that such infants would suffer only the pain of loss. And some declare that while they are certainly excluded from heaven, yet they are not deprived of natural happiness. Since the twelfth century, the opinion of the majority of theologians has been that unbaptized infants are immune from all pain of sense. This is now the common teaching in the church. The punishment of original sin is the deprivation of the vision of God; of actual sin, the eternal pains of hell, infants, of course, can not be guilty of actual sin.

The vision of God is not something to which human beings have a natural claim. It is a free gift of the Creator who can make what conditions He chooses for imparting it or withholding it. No injustice is involved when an undue privilege is not conferred upon a person. Original sin deprived the human race of an unearned right to heaven. Through the Divine mercy this bar to the enjoyment of God is removed by baptism; but if baptism be not conferred, original sin remains, and the unregenerated soul, having no claim on heaven, is not unjustly excluded from it.

 

 EFFECTS OF BAPTISM

This sacrament is the door of the Church of Christ and the entrance into a new life. We are reborn from the state of slaves of sin into the freedom of the Sons of God. Baptism incorporates us with Christ’s mystical body and makes us partakers of all the privileges flowing from the redemptive act of the Church’s Divine Founder. We shall now outline the principal effects of baptism.

 

(1) The Remission of All Sin, Original and Actual

This is clearly contained in the Bible. Thus we read (Acts 2:38): “Be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins; and you shall receive the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, whomsoever the Lord our God shall call.” We read also in the twenty-second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles (5: 16): “Be baptized, and wash away thy sins.” St. Paul in the fifth chapter of his Epistle to the Ephesians beautifully represents the whole Church as being baptized and purified (v. 25 sq.): “Christ loved the Church, and delivered Himself up for it: that he might sanctify it, cleansing it by the washing of water in the word of life: that he might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” The prophecy of Ezechiel (36: 25) has also been understood of baptism: “I will pour upon you clean water and you shall be cleansed from all your filthiness, where the prophet is unquestionably speaking of moral defilements. This is also the solemn teaching of the Church. The same is taught by the Fathers. St. Justin Martyr (Apol., I, Ixvi) declares that in baptism we are created anew, that is, consequently, free from all stain of sin. Tertullian (De Bapt., vii) writes: “Baptism is a carnal act in as much as we are submerged in the water; but the effect is spiritual, for we are freed from our sins.”  It is needless to multiply testimonies from the early ages of the Church. It is a point on which the Fathers are unanimous, and telling quotations might also be made from St. Cyprian, Clement of Alexandria, St. Ephraim, St. Jacob, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Basil, St. Gregory Nazianzen, and others.

 

(2) Remission of Temporal Punishment

Baptism not only washes away sin, it also remits the punishment of sin. This was the plain teaching of the primitive Church. We read in Clement of Alexandria (Pædagog., i) of baptism: “It is called a washing because we are washed from our sins: it is called grace, because by it the punishments which are due to sin are remitted.”

 

(3) Infusion of Supernatural Grace, Gifts, and Virtues

Another effect of baptism is the infusion of sanctifying grace and supernatural gifts and virtues. It is this sanctifying grace which renders men the adopted sons of God and confers the right to heavenly glory.

 

(4) Conferral of the Right to Special Graces

Theologians likewise teach that baptism gives man the right to those special graces which are necessary for attaining the end for which the sacrament was instituted and for enabling him to fulfill the baptismal promises.

In an infant, of course, this would be impossible, and as a consequence, the infant receives at once all the baptismal grace. It is otherwise in the case of an adult, for in such a one it is necessary that the requisite dispositions of the soul be present.

 

(5) Impression of a Character on the Soul

Finally, baptism, once validly conferred, can never be repeated. The Fathers (St. Chrysostom, and others) so understand the words of St. Paul (Heb. 6: 4), and this has been the constant teaching of the Church both Eastern and Western from the earliest times. On this account, baptism is said to impress an ineffaceable character on the soul, which is spiritual and indelible mark. That baptism (as well as Confirmation and Holy Ordination) really does imprint such a character, calls a “holy and indelible seal”, and “the seal of the Lord”. The baptized is for “holiness, salvation, a blameless life, an for blessed resurrection from among the dead in the hope of life and the forgiveness of sins”. (The book of the Sacrament of the Holy Baptism)

 

MINISTER OF THE SACRAMENT

The Minister of the Sacrament

The ordinary minister of solemn baptism are the bishop and the priest. By delegation, a deacon may confer the sacrament solemnly as an extraordinary minister. Bishops are said to be ordinary ministers because they are the successors of the Apostles who received directly the Divine command: “Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy spirit.” Also the minister of this Sacrament is the priest, to whom it belongs to administer baptism by reason of his office.” As, however, bishops are superior to priests by the Divine law, the solemn administration of this sacrament was at one time reserved to the bishops, and a priest never administered this sacrament in the presence of a bishop unless commanded to do so, How ancient this discipline was, may be seen from Tertullian (De Bapt., xvii): “The right to confer baptism belongs to the chief priest who is the bishop, then to priests and deacons, but not without the authorization of the bishop.” St. Ignatius of Antioch (Ep. ad Smyr., viii): “It is not lawful to baptize or celebrate the agape without the bishop.” St. Jerome (Contra Lucif., ix) witnesses to the same usage in his days: “Without chrism and the command of the bishop, neither priest nor deacon has the right of conferring baptism.” Deacons are only extraordinary ministers of solemn baptism, as by their office they are assistants to the priestly order.

Philip the deacon is mentioned in the Bible (Acts 8) as conferring baptism, presumably by delegation of the Apostles. It is to be noted that though every priest, in virtue of his ordination is the ordinary minister of baptism, yet by ecclesiastical decrees he can not use this power licitly unless he has jurisdiction. Hence it is known through the tradition that: The legitimate minister of baptism is the parish priest, or any other priest delegated by the parish priest or the bishop of the place.

 

 RECIPIENT OF BAPTISM

Every living human being, not yet baptized, is the subject of this sacrament.

(1) Baptism of Adults

With regards to adults there is no difficulty or controversy. Christ’s command excludes no one when He bids the Apostles teach all nations and baptize them.

 

(2) Baptism of Infants

Infant baptism has, however, been the subject of much dispute. The Church, however, maintains absolutely that the law of Christ applies as well to infants as to adults. When the Redeemer declares (John 3) that it is necessary to be born again of water and the Holy Spirit in order to enter the Kingdom of God, His words may be justly understood to mean that He includes all who are capable of having a right to this kingdom.

But some people delayed their Baptism and thus fell in more sin losing the grace of Baptism. Some people refrained from Baptism as they were hooked to worldly pleasures and wanted more, so they kept postponing Baptism.  Therefore, when Sts. Athanasius, Baselius and Gregory realized the dangers of postponing Baptism, for various reasons, they urged Christians to receive this Holy Sacrament at any stage of their life.  At any rate, Apostolic tradition always stressed the necessity of baptizing both children and adults.  The Holy church received this tradition from the Apostles directly who themselves practiced it.  St. Peter declared on the Pentecost “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is to you and to your children” (Acts 2: 37-39).  This is a clear statement that justifies baptizing children.  Furthermore, when the disciples were preaching the Gospel, they accepted whole families into Christianity baptizing children and adults alike.  St. Paul, for instance, baptized the whole household of Steven and there must have been children among them “I did baptize also the house of Stephan’s  …” (I Cor 1:16).  As mentioned earlier, Lydia, the seller of purple and her family were baptized, and the prison keeper and his family too.

The Holy church deemed necessary the Baptism of children for the following reasons:

Since all people, children and adults alike share the original sin, they all need to be purified and justified to inherit the kingdom of God, and thus baptism is necessary for their salvation.

Children have always been venerated.  Both the old and the New Testaments gave them special honor.  In the old Testament, God filled Jeremiah with the Holy Spirit while a baby in his mother’s womb and so did to John the Baptist (Luke 1:15).  Children received special and affectionate treatment by the Lord Jesus who loved children very much and blessed them saying “Let the children come to me, and do not hide them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Mathew 18:3; 91:4).  It follows that baptism is necessary for children due to their special honor and status.

The Holy fathers of the church present us with strong testimonies supporting the Baptism of children. Origence says “The church received the tradition of baptizing children from the Apostles”.

Children are baptized on the faith of their parents, and they must be baptized at a very early age lest they might die without being baptized, and thus be deprived of the Kingdom of Heaven.  The best time for baptizing children is between the 8th and the 40th day after their birth.  There are those who oppose to the baptism of children on the grounds that one has to believe first, and then be baptized.  How can a child believe when he understands nothing? Does not faith come first and then Baptism? Our answer to these questions are:

  1. Yes, faith comes first, and then Baptism, but this is true for adults, not for children, for adults need teaching preaching and persuasion to accept faith.  Children, on the other hand, believe whatever they are told, and so they are baptized on the faith of their parents.
  2. If a baptized child rejects the Christian faith when he reaches adulthood, his Baptism will do him no good any way.  But if he confirms the faith of his parents, he is already baptized, and does have the great advantage of being worthy to enter the Kingdom of God if it happens that he dies in the period before his adulthood, because the other conditions of salvation, namely, faith, repentance, and good works do not apply to him.  But, if an unbaptized child dies, although he has not a sin, he still carries the original sin with which he was born, and those who die with their original sin will not be able to enter the kingdom of God.
  3. There are those who claim that Baptism should be performed at the age of 30.  But what is magic about the age 30? Why can’t one be baptized at 25, or 20? Does he not understand faith less? We have great thinkers at the age of 20’s.

Moreover, St. Paul (Colossians 2) says that baptism in the New Law has taken the place of circumcision in the Old. It was especially to infants that the rite of circumcision was applied by Divine precept. If it be said that there is no example of the baptism of infants to be found in the Bible, we may answer that infants are included in such phrases as: “She was baptized and her household” (Acts 16:15); “Himself was baptized, and all his house immediately” (Acts 16:33); “I baptized the household of Stephanus” (I Corinthians 1:16).

The tradition of Christian antiquity as to the necessity of infant baptism is clear from the very beginning, as you have read above. The Church received from the Apostles the tradition of giving baptism also to infants. Theologians also call attention to the fact that as God sincerely wishes all men to be saved, He does not exclude infants, for whom baptism of either water or blood is the only means possible. The doctrines also of the universality of original sin and of the all-comprehending atonement of Christ are stated so plainly and absolutely in Scripture as to leave no solid reason for denying that infants are included as well as adults.

 

  1. ADJUNCTS OF BAPTISM

(1) Baptistery

According to the canons of the Church, baptism except in case of necessity is to be administered in churches. Inside the churches there is a baptismal font, or where there is a baptistery close to the church. The term “baptistery” is commonly used for the space set aside for the conferring of baptism. As a rule, however, the church itself contains a railed-off space containing the baptismal font. Anciently fonts were attached only to cathedral churches, but at the present day nearly every parish church has a font. However, that if priest see that the great difficulty of bringing an infant to church is a sufficient reason for baptizing in a private house. The font must be of solid material, so that the baptismal water may be safely kept in it.

 

(2) Baptismal Water

1375234_464289703684590_467908422_nIn speaking of the matter of baptism, we stated that true, natural water is all that is required for its validity.

In administering solemn baptism, however the Church prescribes that the water used should be hot and cold water, the priest stands before the baptistery, With his right hand, he holds the vessel which contains the hot water, and with his left hand, the one which contains the cold water. With arms crossed, right above left, he then pours the water slowly into the font, according to the season of the year. Next he pours into the water, first the oil of catechumens and then the sacred chrism, and lastly both holy oils together, pronouncing appropriate prayers.

 

(3) Holy Oils
64260_258688620949312_846354306_nTwo kinds of oils shall be used in the administration of baptism. In baptism, the priest uses the oil consecrated by the bishop on Maundy Thursday, and Chrism (Myron), the latter being consecrated by the patriarch only. The oil of ointment (mesh’ho), which is consecrated by the bishop, shall be administered before immersion. The holy Chrism (Myron), which is consecrated by the patriarch, confirms the baptized and shall be administered after baptism immediately. The anointing in baptism is recorded by ancient Fathers. The baptized person thus receives two sacraments together Baptism and the Holy Myron (Chrism) and is to be applied to the crown of the head, and ended with participation of the baptized to the third sacrament the Holy communion.

 

(4) Sponsors

1374312_464300427016851_1665053202_nWhen infants are solemnly baptized, persons assist at the ceremony to make profession of the faith in the child’s name and receive . This practice comes from antiquity and is witnessed to by Fathers of the Church. Such persons are designated ܫܘܫܒܝܢܐ (Bridegroom’s friend) or ܥܰܪܳܒܐ (sponsor) orܩܪܝܒܐ (approaching, nigh). The English term is godparents, godfather and godmother, or in Anglo-Saxon, gossip. For every male child there must be an Orthodox godfather, and for every female child an Orthodox godmother. That means: the godparent is he/she has stood as the sponsor of the infant by giving the prescribed denunciations of Satan and affirmations of accepting Christ and it is he/she who finally recites the Creed signifying the personal belief of the candidate to Baptism and receives in his/her arms the newly baptized infant. But before that. However, the godparent has assumed the important obligation of seeing together with the parents that the infant is brought up within the Church and in the life of Christ. It is on account of this obligation that the baptismal sponsor is called godparent ‘parent-in-God’.

The godparents, before participating in the baptismal ceremony, shall, with due respect and purification, confess and receive Holy Communion. They should also instruct the baptized male or female in the Christian doctrine and religion.

Since baptizing a child creates for the godparent a spiritual relationship not only between him and his godchild but also with the child’s family, the Orthodox Church by a tradition expressed in the rubrics (baptismal instructions for the priest), accepts only one godparent. There is a dogmatically and canonically entered spiritual relationship between godparent and godchild and, as a result, the Church has by Synodical decision prohibited marriage between the godparent and his/her godchild; also, marriage between the godparent and the biological parent (father or mother) of the godchild is prohibited. The godparent must have been baptized in the Orthodox Church, be in full sacramental communion, and a member in good standing of a local Syriac Orthodox parish.

These sponsors, in default of the child’s parents, are obliged to instruct it concerning faith and morals. The object of these restrictions is the fact that the sponsor contracts a spiritual relationship to the child and his parents which would be an impediment to marriage. Sponsors must themselves be baptized persons having the use of reason and they must have been designated as sponsors by the priest or parents.

Certain persons are prohibited from acting as sponsors. They are: members of religious orders, married persons in respect to each other, or parents to their children, and in general those who are objectionable on such grounds as infidelity, heresy, excommunication, or who are members of condemned secret societies, or public sinners. Sponsors are also used in the solemn baptism of adults. They are never necessary in private baptism.

 

(5) Baptismal Name

From the earliest times names were given in baptism. The priest is directed to see that obscene, fabulous, and ridiculous names, or those of heathen gods or of infidel men be not imposed. On the contrary the priest is to recommend the names of saints. This rubric is not a rigorous precept, but it is an instruction to the priest to do what he can in the matter. If parents are unreasonably obstinate, the priest may add a saint’s name to the one insisted upon. The Sacrament of Baptism should be fulfilled eight days after birth, unless an emergency requires postponement. In such a case, baptism may be performed after one month but not later than two months.

 

(6) Baptismal Crown

Photo0626In the primitive Church, a Crown was worn by the newly baptized for a certain period (at least one week usually) after the ceremony. As solemn baptisms usually took place on Saturday of Lights ܫܒܬܐ ܕܢܘܗܪܐ of the eves of Easter or Pentecost, the white garments became associated with those festivals. Thus, Shabtho d-haworé (ܫܒܬܐ ܕܚܘܪ̈ܐ) received its name from the custom of putting off at that time the baptismal robe which had been worn whole the week after Easter.  It is thought that the English name for Pentecost — Whitsunday or Whitsuntide, also derived its appellation from the white garments of the newly baptized.

 

 BAPTISM IN THE HOLY BIBLE

orthodox2

  • As administered by John. 
    Matthew 3:5-12 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.John 3:23And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.

Acts 13:24 When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.

Acts 19:4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.

  • Sanctioned by Christ’s submission to it. 
    Matthew 3:13-15 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.

Luke 3:21 Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,

  • Adopted by Christ.
    John 3:22 After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.

John 4:1-2 When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)

  • Appointed an ordinance of the Christian church
    Matthew 28:19-20
     Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
  • To be administered in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 
    Matthew 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit:
  • Water, the outward and visible sign in. 
    Acts 8:36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?

Acts 10:47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?

  • Regeneration, the inward and spiritual grace of.
    John 3:3
     Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

John 3:5-6 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

  • Remission of sins, signified by.
    Acts 2:38
     Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Acts 22:16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord

  • Unity of the Church effected by. 
    1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

Galatians 3:27-28 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

  • Confession of sin necessary to. 
    Matthew 3:6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.
  • Repentance necessary to.
    Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
  • Faith necessary to.
    Acts 8:37
     And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

Acts 18:8 And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.

  • There is but one. 
    Ephesians 4:5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
  • ADMINISTERED TO
    • Individuals.
      Acts 8:38
       And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.

Acts 9:18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.

    • Households. 
      Acts 16:15 And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.

1 Corinthians 1:16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.

  • Emblematic of the influences of the Holy Spirit.
    Matthew 3:11
     I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and with fire:

Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit;

  • Typified.
    1 Corinthians 10:2
     And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;

1 Peter 3:20-21 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

  • Foretold. 
    Ezekiel 36:25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.
  • Is through Christ.
    Titus 3:6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;
  • Christ administered. 
    Matthew 3:11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

John 1:33 And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.

  • Promised to saints. 
    Acts 1:5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.

Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Acts 11:16 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.

  • All saints partake of. 
    1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
  • Necessity for. 
    John 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

Acts 19:2-6 He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.

  • Renews and cleanses the soul. 
    Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

1 Peter 3:20-21 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

  • The Word of God instrumental to.

Acts 10:44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.

Ephesians 5:26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

  • Typified. 
    Acts 2:1-4 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

 

N.B. Materials for this article collected and edited by Fr.Thomas Philipose

Late Lamented HG Gheevarghese Mar Ivaniose (Kottayam Diocese) talk on Orthodx Spirituality

 

 

 

Greetings and The Easter message of H.H. Pope Tawadros II

 

12

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, One God. Amen.

Ekhristos Anisti, Alithos Anisti. Christ is Risen, Truly He is Risen.

I congratulate you on the glorious Feast of the Resurrection, which is the joy of all our joys, and the feast of all of our feasts. Resurrection in the Christian life is not just a historical event. Neither is it a mere occasion that we honor with a variety of celebrations, nor just an ordinary passing day. Resurrection is the foundation of our path of salvation which our Lord Jesus Christ completed on the wood of the cross. Resurrection is the focus of our faith. It is the realization of the forgiveness of all humanity. Resurrection is the core of spiritual struggle, since spiritual progress without the resurrection is meaningless. Moreover, it is the hope and promise of the coming eternal life. Without resurrection our Christian faith is pointless. Without resurrection, there is no peace for our daily earthly lives. Without resurrection, we have no hope for the future. The light of the resurrection illuminates our lives and brightens the path of every individual through each stage.

One may ask: “Did Jesus really come and die?”

Of course. The event of the resurrection took place more than 20 centuries ago. The resurrection did not occur in secret, but was well witnessed. Not just by one or two witnesses, but many. For example, the centurion who stabbed the side of Christ on the cross, and the guards of the tomb were witnesses to the resurrection of Christ. Pontius Pilate conducted a pompous trial for Christ the Lord. Pilate, in a theatrical pretense washed his hands and said famously; “I am innocent of the blood of this just person.” (Matthew 27:24). Notice the inconsistency of his statement: “Innocent and Just” yet delivered Him to judgment and death. The Jewish priests and head priests were witnesses of what happened at the cross and what happened at the time of resurrection. The women, who went early in the morning at dawn carrying spices they had prepared, are also witnesses for the resurrection of Christ the Lord. Additionally, there were physical signs of the death of Christ on the cross and of His resurrection. Recall the tearing of the curtain in the temple and the earth that trembled during the crucifixion. I remind you also of the huge stone which was placed at the door of the tomb to guard the corpse inside, as if they feared that the dead would escape. I remind you of the linen cloths that the disciples found where the Lord was buried. I remind you of the guards who secured the tomb and of the seal placed on the stone, which was the signature of the ruler. I remind you of the tomb that was new and no one was ever buried in it.

In raising man, God offered him the promise of salvation, which He Has fulfilled. This is the divine plan: Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. Early-on in the service of Christ the Lord, when He went to the wedding at Cana of Galilee, He performed His first miracle where he transformed water into wine. When our Mother, Virgin Mary told Him, “They have no wine.” (John 2:3), She meant “They have no joy.” During the time of the Old Testament, people did not have the joy of salvation, the joy of Resurrection. The word “Wine” in the Holy Bible signifies “Joy.” The Lord Christ’s answer to her was strange. He said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4). This “hour” is the hour of crucifixion, and the hour of resurrection. It is man’s hour of joy. This is why we pray in the Sixth Hour “We give thanks to You, for You have filled all with joy. O Savior, when You came to help the world. Lord, glory be to You.”

How can we Respond to the Resurrection? How can we Benefit from the Resurrection?

I will discuss three fundamental points for this response.

First: There is Required Response.

When Herod heard the news of the birth of Christ, he did not go to see Him. He told the wise men, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me.” (Matthew 2:8). He thought it was excessive and improper for him to go. The Bible instructs us: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8) For this reason, the Marys’ went to the tomb very early in the morning on the Resurrection day to receive this great blessing, the blessing of visiting the Holy Tomb at the dawn of the Resurrection Day. How great was that blessing? In the required response, you are present with all your emotion and inner feelings.

Second: There is Passionate Response.

There are people that when discussing a certain subject, their response is passionate. For instance, in the Old Testament when God asked Ibrahim to offer his son to Him as a burnt offering, it was not noted that he tarried, instead in a passionate response he rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took Isaac his son, the firewood and the knife. Here is one whose relationship with Christ is alive and full of spiritual warmth. For this reason the Bible instructs us “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1) That is when there is spiritual fervor, and a strong will.

Third: There is Constant and Unceasing Response.

Which means man continues to strive in his spiritual life. There is something called “reaction time.” During this time, man interacts with God through prayers, Bible reading, and spiritual growth. Also through fasting, spiritual readings, and spiritual service. All of these create in man a state of continuous and unceasing responsiveness. This responsiveness makes one feel that he is living in the Light of Resurrection. For this reason, our Church makes the commemoration of Resurrection mandatory, active, daily and continuous. You may notice that the First Hour Prayer in the Agpeya commemorates the resurrection of our Lord. Sunday of every week is the day that God has made in remembrance of His resurrection. On the 29th day of every Coptic month we celebrate the Annunciation, Nativity, and Resurrection. Every year we celebrate the Feast of Resurrection not for one day, but for 50 days. We do not consider these fifty days as regular days of the week, but they are all “Sundays”. We can even call it, “a prolong Sunday” which expresses existence in eternity.

Notice that the period of 50 days is exactly seven weeks, which starts on a Sunday and ends on a Sunday. The Resurrection and the Pentecost Feasts are at the beginning and at the end of the 50 days, respectively. This is an expression of the perfect life in the Kingdom of Heaven. The Resurrection Feast is the “greatest joy” in our lives. In Church tradition, the first prayer of the daily Psalmody (Tasbeha) reads: “Arise, O children of the Light.” “Arise” reminds us of Resurrection and when singing one of the beautiful pieces in the midst of Tasbeha, The
Psali Watos, we start with: “O sing unto Him Who was crucified, buried, and resurrected for us and trampled and abolished death.” Resurrection is a sensation and an existence which enables us to say with St Paul the Apostle: “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:10) Through resurrection we can build a strong and personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

I take this opportunity to offer full congratulations to you all and to every church. To the fathers the Bishops, and the fathers the priests. To the deacons, and all the servants, men and women, to the youth boys and girls, to the children, boys and girls. I also offer love to all board members of churches worldwide and to all who work and serve in the spirit of truth. I invite you to live in the joy of resurrection, not only during the Feast of Resurrection, but every day of your lives.

Christ is Risen. Truly He is Risen. I wish you a Blessed Resurrection Feast.

 

His Holiness Tawadros II
Pope of Alexandria & Patriarch of the See of St. Mark.

Why does the Greek Orthodox Church celebrate Easter on a different day than Malankara Orthodox Church?

11024759_10152808464882683_5529990021652349076_nThere are two calendars that are followed in Christianity – the more ancient Julian Calendar (or “old” calendar) is the one used by the Eastern Orthodox Churches (including Greece and Russia) and several Oriental Orthodox Churches including the Coptic. The Gregorian calendar, also called the Western

Calendar is more widely used and was introduced in 1582 as a reform to the Julian calendar. The calendar is named after Pope Gregory XII who commissioned the change with the aid of a Jesuit priest and astronomer. The Syriac Orthodox calendar was at one point entirely on the “old” calendar

Even though the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch Mor Ignatius Ni`matallah was a learned mathematician and astronomer, and a member of Pope Gregory XIII’s commission on the reform of the calendar.

As Greek-Orthodox Christians prepare to celebrate Easter on Sunday,April 12th, we would like to shed some light on the reasons why the Orthodox Christian Church celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ later than the Catholic one. While the issue is somewhat complicated, it may be summarized in the two factors at work that cause this conflict in dates:

  1. The issue of the calendar;
  2. The adherence by the Orthodox to the early practices of the Christian Church.

 

The first factor, the calendar, has to do with the fact that the Christian Orthodox Church continues to follow the Julian calendar when calculating the date of Pascha (Easter). The rest of Christianity uses the Gregorian calendar. There is a thirteen-day difference between the two calendars, the Julian calendar being thirteen (13) days behind the Gregorian.

The other factor at work is that the Orthodox Church continues to adhere to the rule set forth by the First Ecumenical Council, held in Nicea in 325 AD, that requires that Pascha must take place after the Jewish Passover in order to maintain the Biblical sequence of Christ’s Passion. The rest of Christianity ignores this requirement, which means that on occasion Western Easter takes place either before or during the Jewish Passover.

As a consequence of these two factors, the Orthodox Church usually celebrates Pascha later than the Western Churches – anywhere from one to five weeks later. While this year Catholic Easter is today the Orthodox Church will celebrate it next Sunday, April 12. Occasionally we do celebrate Pascha on the same day. The last time that occurred was in 2011.

The two dates coincide when the full moon following the equinox comes so late that it counts as the first full moon after 21 March in the Julian calendar as well as the Gregorian. This is not a regular occurrence, but it has happened more frequently in recent years – in 2010, 2011, 2014 and 2017, but, after that, not again until 2034.

How the Date of Pascha (Easter) is Determined

During the first three centuries of Christianity, there was no universal date for celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Churches in various parts of the world followed different traditions. Some Christians celebrated Pascha on the first Sunday after Jewish Passover and others celebrated the feast at the same time as Passover. In order to come up with one unified date for celebrating Pascha, the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council in 325 AD took up the issue. They devised a uniform formula for calculating the date of Pascha that was in line with the early traditions of the Church and the Biblical sequence of events. The formula is this: Pascha is to be celebrated on the first Sunday, after the first full moon, following the vernal equinox, but always after Jewish Passover. In order to ensure that there was no confusion as to when the vernal equinox occurred the date of the vernal equinox was set to be March 21 (April 3 on the Julian Calendar). This formula was universally accepted by all of Christianity, ensuring that Pascha was celebrated on the same day throughout the world. The Orthodox Church continues to follow this formula exactly as prescribed by the Council of Nicea.

However, in modern times, the Western Church has rejected the part of the Nicene formula that requires that Pascha “always follow the Jewish Passover.” Western theologians (and, unfortunately, a few misguided Orthodox Theologians as well) now claim that this provision was never a part of the council’s intention, saying that it is not necessary for Pascha to follow the Jewish Passover. This is hard to understand since, by rejecting this provision of the council, they ignore that the celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection was celebrated at the same time from 325-1582, as well as the written witness of early Church historians and even earlier canons such as Canon VII of the Apostolic Canons which reads: “If any Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon celebrate the holy day of Pascha before the vernal equinox with the Jews, let him be deposed.”

The Calendar Issue

In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII instituted a reform of the traditional Julian calendar. This new calendar, called the Gregorian calendar, was more astronomically correct and is the calendar used by most of the world today. As mentioned above, there is a difference of 13 days between the Gregorian and the Julian calendars. Eventually, all of the Western Churches adopted this “New” calendar. The Orthodox Church, however, vigorously opposed the use of the Gregorian calendar. This resulted in the West and East celebrating all Church feast days on different dates, the Orthodox celebrations always falling thirteen days behind the Western.

In 1923, an inter-Orthodox congress was held in Constantinople attended by representatives of some, but not all, Orthodox churches. This congress made the very controversial decision to follow a revised calendar that was essentially the same as the Gregorian calendar, for all things except the celebration of Pascha, which continued to be calculated according to the original Julian calendar.

The result being that today we celebrate most feast days, like Christmas, Epiphany and the rest, at the same time as Western Christians and only Pascha and the feast days that are connected with it like Pentecost and the Ascension, are dated according to the Julian calendar and celebrated on different dates. For Orthodox, it is important to maintain the teachings and traditions of the Church intact and pure.

The  Church in Malankara switched entirely to the Gregorian calendar in 1953.With the peace between the Indian and Syriac Orthodox Churches in India during this time, it is assumed that the Indian Orthodox Church also switched to the Gregorian calendar around this time. One motivation for the switch in India was to help the faithful celebrate Holy Week, as Good Friday is a national holiday in India  but was given dated based on the Western or Gregorian calendar.

 

 

Easter message by His Holiness Catholicos of the East: Christ’s resurrection signifies big victory despite problems for mankind

10488382_588707837909442_4331870707905533288_n His Holiness Baselious Marthoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan, has in his Easter message called upon the faithful to face the problems and not be disappointed, since victory is at the end of every phase.His Holiness, who delivered the Easter message at the Muscat Mar Gregorios Orthodox Church, pointed out that despite the numerous problems we face in this world, we need to move forward and not be cowed down by them. Even with the issues, man still overcomes them all and comes forward to happy times in the end which in itself is victory. This victory is an indication and message of resurrection.

For Easter, Christians experience their biggest moment which is not a silly and an ordinary experience in itself. His Holiness said that from Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, we must leave an imprint in our life. The resurrection is also big proof enough that death is not the end of all but we live through a different life and have a right to a happy and  everlasting life.

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His Holiness also reiterates in his message that mankind has to be part of a world beset with problems, neglection, poverty, sadness, and face them. In the same manner, Jesus also expects traits from us just like we fed Him when He was hungry, clothed Him when he was naked, visited Him when he was alone. Similarly we must strive to take part in the pain of others in our ordinary life. Through this message, Jesus who showed that his life of crucifixion and resurrection was not for him but for others, and set a shining example for others to follow them.

“We have passed through the last stages life of Christ, who overcame death and also participated in His suffering, followed by crucifixion and resurrection. Each year we celebrate the resurrection of Christ and once again we have been part of the passion week, going through them all. We need to take something new in our life and imbibe it in our life,” His Holiness said adding that we need to bring solace to others just like Christ who brought peace upon all mankind.

His Holiness ended his message by extending his Easter greetings to all.

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

Wishing all a blessed feast of Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!

 

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