Radiant, joyful, beautiful! One’s baptism day is very special indeed! Today, we had a baby’s baptism during our morning service which has me thinking about this very important sacrament. According to the Orthodox faith, baptism marks the entry of a person into the church and begins their walk toward salvation in Christ. Traditionally, in the earliest days, a child was baptized on or near the 40th day.
Here are a few general observations about baptisms in our church…
First of all, the waters must be prepared. Babies do not appreciate being cold so making sure the baptismal waters are comfortable is of vital importance. Currently, we have a rather large metal tub that we use for the ceremony. However, I’ve seen baptisms take place in copper, concrete and plastic vessels.
As the service begins, the godparents hold the child and prayers are read to renounce the devil. This may sound odd, but it is a good thing! The godparents renounce Satan and literally spit at him while they stand in the narthex. Then, the Creed is read three times.
Now, after this part of the service, the godparents bring the child to the baptismal waters. All gathered witness the prayers of the priest asking for the cleansing and blessing of these holy waters. Children and adults gather closely to observe. Grandparents and cousins are often in the congregation as well. Sometimes the baby is quite content with all the attention. Other times, not so much.
Once the waters are blessed, the child goes in with great joy and excitement from all the people present. Each priest has a different technique in holding the baby and placing him or her gently into the water. One priest may set the child into the water, another may glide the child under. All very young babies are baptized in the buff! Older children and adults wear suitable clothing. Once the baptism takes place, the choir sings and more prayers are read and all are glad at the entrance of a new soul into the church.
Traditionally, the newly baptized will wear a white robe symbolic of a soul, pure and clean. Baptisms are glorious events to witness because they renew in each parishioner his or her commitment to serve and follow Christ. If you ever have an opportunity to witness an Orthodox baptism, you will not regret the experience.