The Holy Baptism of Symeon-Anthony (David) Beck
Photographs of the blessed event placed in context through an outline of the services
Sunday of the Prodigal Son
February 14/27, 2005 (Old or Julian Calendar/New or Gregorian Calendar dates)
Dormition Skete, Buena Vista, Colorado
(But why the Orthodox Church? A short testimony.)
(An Apology against the charge of being an anabaptist.)
At the end of the vigil service (Saturday night, which liturgically is Sunday) held in the Cathedral of the Dormition, a rite was conducted during which I was received officially as a catechumen into the Orthodox Church.
The baptism and associated services took place on Sunday morning in the Chapel of Saint George the Great Martyr.
The person(s) who desire illumination and the sponsors stand at the narthex (entrance) to the church, facing east. This is to show that the one being received is not yet a member of the Church. The purpose of baptism is to bring him into the Church. To enter into the temple of God is to be with Christ, to become a member of His body.
The tall monk on my right is the Right Reverend Archimandrite George, my spiritual director. Just visible over his right shoulder is Reader John Mills, my godfather.
Questioning of those who wish to be illumined, with the renouncing of Satan, reciting the Symbol of Faith (Creed), declaration of uniting oneself to Christ, and bowing down before Him.
The Renunciation of Satan: The candidate and sponsors turn to face the west, the back of the church (west is symbolic of darkness, since the sun sets in the west), and satan is confronted and rejected, along with “all his works, and all his service, and all his pride.”
The Acceptance of Christ: Turning back to face the east, symbolising the Light of Christ, the candidate accepts Jesus “as King and as God.” They seal this acceptance by repeating the words of the Nicene Creed, which outlines the Church’s basic beliefs about God, Church, and salvation.
Censing of the font occurs immediately before the service.
The officiant to my left here is His Eminence, The Most Reverend Archbishop Gregory of Denver and Colorado. The person to my immediate right is my godfather John.
The sponsor anoints the entire body of the catechumen with oil (at least in the Greek tradition; in the Russian tradition the face, breast, upper back, hands, and feet are anointed).
In ancient times olive oil was used as a salve to cover wounds, protecting them so that they could heal faster. From this viewpoint, anointing with the “Oil of Gladness” is a symbol of baptism as an act which heals our broken relationship with God. Ancient Greek wrestlers also anointed their bodies with olive oil to make it difficult for their opponents to maintain a grip on them. By analogy, this annointing also expresses our prayer that with Christ's help we may be able to elude the grip of sin and the devil.
The Triple Immersion: We believe that Christ died for our sins. The immersion in water symbolizes death, since a person cannot live long under water. Through baptism we share mysteriously in Christ’s death. As St. Paul says, “We were buried therefore with him [Christ] by baptism into death so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” The baptized person rises out of the baptismal font a new man, cleansed of every sin and promising, like St. Paul, to surrender his life to Christ, his Saviour: “He died for all that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them.” The triple immersion of the candidate completely under the water symbolizes the three days our Lord spent in the tomb as well as the Holy Trinity since the baptismal formula used in the Orthodox Church is: “The servant of God...is baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The candidate is “born again,” literally “born from above”, into a new life in Christ Jesus.
The Water: Water is used for cleansing. In baptism it expresses the fact that through this mystery, Christ cleanses us from ancestral and personal sin. Describing what occurs at baptism, St. John Chrysostom writes, “When you come to the sacred initiation, the eyes of the flesh see water; the eyes of faith behold the Spirit. Those eyes see the body being baptized; these see the old man being buried. The eyes of the flesh see the flesh being washed; the eyes of the spirit see the soul being cleansed. The eyes of the body see the body emerging from the water; the eyes of faith see the new man come forth brightly shining from that new purification. Our bodily eyes see the priest as, from above, he lays his right hand on the head and touches (him who is being baptized); our spiritual eyes see the great High Priest (Jesus) as He stretches forth His invisible hand to touch his head. For, at that moment, the one who baptizes is not a man but the only-begotten Son of God.”
The baptismal garment is put on during the singing of "Vouchsafe unto me the robe of light..."
The Robe of Radiance: After the baptism, the candidate is wrapped in a white cloth or robe called a “kryzhma”, another symbol of Christ, as well as the purity of the soul that has been washed from sin. It recalls also the light of Christ as He appeared at the Transfiguration. There is now a likeness between the one baptized and the transfigured Lord. Nay, it is more than a likeness. St. Paul calls it a putting on of Christ: “All of those who have been baptised in Christ have been robed in Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27). St. Gregory of Nyssa states that the white robe worn after baptism symbolizes the garment of light which was man’s before the Fall: “Thou hast driven us out of paradise and called us back; Thou has taken away the fig leaves, that garment of our misery, and clothed us once more with the robe of glory.”
"The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit…"
The Orthodox Church maintains the ancient practice of confirming the newly baptised Christian immediately after his/her baptism. It is considered the fulfillment of baptism (but it is also essential that one receives Holy Communion immediately after Baptism). Human nature purified by baptism is made ready to receive the manifold gifts of the Holy Spirit. Just as baptism is a personal “Pascha” (Easter) for each of us, making us partakers in Christ’s resurrection, confirmation is a personal Pentecost, as the Holy Spirit descends upon us, confirming us as full members of the Church. Chrismation is also the ordination of the laity. According to Orthodox belief, every baptized lay person is ordained a priest by this mystery; he receives the gift of the Holy Spirit to become a deputy or an ambassador for Christ in this world.
The act of confirmation is done through an anointing with a special oil called “Chrism,” from the Greek word meaning “gift” as in the gift of the Holy Spirit. In ancient times lamps were fueled with oil. In this anointing the oil symbolizes the fire which lighted upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost. Because the central act of the confirmation rite is the anointing with Holy Chrism, in Eastern Orthodoxy we call confirmation “Chrismation.” The whole body is anointed, sealed, sanctified, dedicated to the new life: ‘the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit,’ says the priest as he anoints the newly baptized ‘on the brow, and on the eyes, and the nostrils, and the lips, and on both ears, and the breast and on the hands, and the feet’…. The whole man is now made the temple of God…”
Anointing of the: brow, eyes, nostrils, lips, ears, chest, hands, feet
The priest leads the newly baptised (newly illumined) and their sponsor(s) 3 times around the font and a small altar upon which rest the Cross and the Gospel Book. These articles typify everything that Jesus did for us (the Cross), and taught us (the Gospel). This procession reminds us that our entire lives as Christians must be a continuous orbit around Jesus’ life and teachings.
Note the Baptismal Candle: One of the terms used in Orthodoxy when referring to baptism is “Holy Illumination,” since it is through baptism that Christ, the Light of the World, enters in our hearts. However dark may be the night that surrounds us, baptism remains the mystery of entrance into light. It opens the eyes of the soul to see Christ, the light of the world (John 1:19). It makes us sons of light (I Thess. 5:5). Candles are given as a symbol of baptism as illumination. It is given to the newly baptized with the scriptural admonition: “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
Epistle (Romans 6:3-11)--All of those who are baptised in Christ share in His death and resurrection.
Holy Gospel (Matthew 28:16-20)--Jesus instructs His disciples to preach the Gospel to all peoples, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
In the Cathedral of the Dormition
Scriptures and Sermon for the day
His Eminence, The Most Reverend Archbishop Gregory of Denver and Colorado (Vladyka)
Reader John Mills (my godfather)
The Right Reverend Archimandrite George (Father)