Baptism and Chrismation
Here you will find information about what you will need to prepare for the baptismal service and what will happen during the service.
the meaning of baptism
We are made members of the Church and the Body of Christ through baptism and chrismation. As we partake in these sacraments we accept and take on a new life in Christ and His Church. This means that we accept the teachings, values and way of life to which Christ calls us. Baptism also grants the remission of sins as we hear in the hymns of the service: "Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered" (Psalm 31).
One can be baptized at any age in the Orthodox Church; however, is most common and our Tradition that infants are baptized. This may seem strange to many of us--shouldn't we understand what we are participating in? However, we affirm that "[b]aptizing infants before they know what is going on is an expression of God's great love for us. It shows that God loves us and accepts us before we can ever know Him or love Him. It shows that we are wanted and loved by God from the very moment of our birth" (Fr. Anthony Coniaris, Sacred Symbols that Speak Vol. 2). God's grace is not dependent on our intellectual understanding.
The basis for baptism is found both in Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition. Although in Scripture we do not hear an explicit account of infant baptism we do hear about whole households being baptized: The Household of Cornelius, Acts 11:13–14; The Household of Lydia, Acts 16:15; The Philippian Jailor’s Household, Acts 16:33; The Household of Crispus, Acts 18:8; The Household of Stephanas, 1 Corinthians 1:16. Baptism is also the only sacrament that is directly mentioned in the Creed: "I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins."
We practice infant and child baptism because as a Church we believe that anyone, at any age has a relationship with and experiences God. Through baptism a child is also further united with their family, and is able to be raised up in the Faith from the beginning of their life. Through baptism one's family also grows as the child receives godparents (Orthodox Christians in good-standing with the Church) who speak on their behalf at the baptism and accept responsibility for raising their new godchild up in the Faith.
Concerning Adult Baptism
When an adult is to be baptized and recieved into the Orthodox Church it is customary to catechize, or instruct them, in the teachings, Faith and spirituality of the Orthodox Church prior to their baptism. Adult baptism has always been preceded by catechism. Historically, the period of Great Lent was often a period devoted to catechism culminating in baptism on Great and Holy Pascha (Easter). Instruction would not have ended with baptism, but continued following their reception into the church.
What is needed For the Service?
If you are planning to baptize a child or are interested in being received into the Orthodox Church through baptism please contact our office for more information.
Practically speaking there are a few items that are needed for the service (click on each to learn more):
- To be eligible to be a godparent one must be in good-standing with the Church.
- As a godparent one has the responsibility of being an example in the faith to their godchild and to take responsibility to raise them in the Faith.
- A candle will be carried by the newly baptized, also called the newly illumined, symbolizing that they have received the light of Christ.
- They will continue to carry this candle with them when they approach to receive communion in the comming weeks.
- Oil has great significance and symbolism in our Faith that dates back to the ancient Church, scripture and practices in the ancient world. Oil, in scripture and our Faith, is often a sign and indicator of God's blessing (Exodus 28:41), as well as healing. As St. James exhorts us in his epistle, "Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much" (James 5:14-16).
- White baptismal outfit for after the candidate for baptism has been baptized.
- The white color of the outfit symbolizes the transformative experience of baptism--the light of Christ; being washed clean. As we hear in Psalm 50, "Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin," and "[p]urge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."
- To dry the candidate for baptism after they have been immersed three times in the font.
- A small cross that is worn by those who attended symbolizing that they have borne witness to the baptism.
What happens during the service?
Learn about what will take place during the service, and why each part of the service is signficant.
The service begins with the parents, godparents, candidate for baptism, and priest at the entry between the narthex (entrance of the church) and the sanctuary (where we gather for worship). Historically, this service would have followed months or even years of catechism and teaching about the Faith.
During the Catechism service the priest offers several prayers for the person who is about to baptized. Then the priest asks the candidate for baptism (or if they are a infant, the godparents on their behalf) to renounce the world, affirm their belief in Christ and that they will follow Christ and His Church's teachings and beliefs. At the conclusion of the catechism, together with the priest the parents, godparents and child proceed to the baptismal font.
The Blessing of the Water
At the font the priest blesses the water and asks the Holy Spirit to descend and sanctify the water. In doing so, the prayers recall Christ's baptism in the Jordan River. "Do you yourself, O Loving King, be present now also through the descent of your Holy Spirit and Hallow this water. And give to it the Grace of Redeption, the Blessing of the Jordan. Make it a fountain of incorruption, a loosing of sins, a healing of sickness..." (An Orthodox Prayer Book).
The Blessing of the Oil
After blessing the water, the priest then asks the godparents to cup their hands, and pours the oil that they have brought into their hands. He then blesses this oil, makes the sign of the cross with oil in the font, and then anoints the candidate for baptism.
The candidate for baptism is then baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Following the Great Commission of Christ to "go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:14).
Afterward the candidate receives Holy Chrisom. Chrisom is a blessed oil that symbolizes a kind of seal. As a seal is pressed into hot wax to make an indelible impression, chrismation also is indicative of the mark of the Holy Spirit. Chrisom is prepared at the Ecumenical Patriachate in Constantinople and distributed to all its churches. In this way, chrisom is also a symbol of our unity as Christ's Church.
Procession around the Font
The priest holding the Gospel then leads the newly baptized, their godparents, and parents around the font three times chanting, "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." With these first steps the newly baptized makes the first steps on their journey following Christ which is symbolized by the Gospel which the priest holds in the procession.
The procession stops before the royal gates and the epistle reading from St. Paul's Letter to the Romans 6:3-11 is then read followed by the gospel reading from the Gospel of Matthew 28:
In the later part of the baptismal service we can see that the structure closely resembles the Divine Liturgy. During the procession around the font we chant the baptismal hymn three times as we chant the Trisagion, we then hear scriptural readings which are then followed by communion. This is not a coincidence! In fact, in the early church, baptism would have happened during the Divine Liturgy with the whole community present, praying for those about to be welcomed into the community. That is why to this day on great feasts in the church we do not sing the Trisagion Hymn, and it is replaced by the hymn "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ."
Following communion the newly baptized is tonsured. The priest cuts a little bit of hair, in the shape of a cross, from top of the head. In this way, we make a first offering to God with what we possess.
The Baptismal Cross
Finally, the priest places a baptismal cross on the newly baptized recalling the words of Christ, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me" (Matthew 16:24). The Cross symbolizes Christ's loving sacrifice and glorious resurrection that we as baptized Orthodox Christians participate in, and the way of life to which we are called.
Following the baptism the godparents will be asked to sign the baptismal form, and a copy will be given to the newly baptized or the parents if an infant or child has been baptized. This baptismal form is an important record, and is required when someone is married in the Orthodox Church or if they are a candidate for ordination.