Newly illumined!

July 6, 2010

The baptism and chrismation on Sunday went exceedingly well. I really could not have asked for Calvin (his Christian name is David – his middle name) to do any better than he did.

The ceremony was very beautiful. We were very honored to have our local family in attendance.

Calvin cried when he was baptized – no surprise there! But he calmed right back down.

Thanks to my brother-in-law, we also have the whole ceremony on video. We published some of it here. I had watched several videos of baptisms but I never was able to find one of a toddler my son’s age. Hopefully this is helpful for someone out there.

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Tomorrow my 22 month old son will be baptized. It’s a very big deal for many reasons, the primary of which is that it initiates the experience of salvation:

Baptism is the way in which a person is actually united to Christ. The experience of salvation is initi­ated in the waters of baptism. The Apostle Paul teaches in Romans 6:1-6 that in baptism we experience Christ’s death and Resurrection. In it our sins are truly forgiven and we are energized by our union with Christ to live, a holy life. Nowadays, some consider baptism to be only an “outward sign” of belief in Christ. This innovation has no historical or biblical precedent. Others reduce it to a mere perfunctory obedience to Christ’s command (cf. Matthew 28:19, 20). Still others, ignoring the Bible completely, reject baptism as a vital factor in salvation. Orthodoxy maintains that these contempo­rary innovations rob sincere people of the important assurance that baptism provides-namely that they have been united to Christ and are part of His Church. source

It will be a triple immersion baptism (same as his mommy!) Orthodox Christians typically immerse although the practice apparently varies somewhat:

The word baptize derives from baptizo, the transliterated form of the Greek word βάπτειν or baptivzw. In a historical context, it means “to dip, plunge, or immerse” something entirely, e.g. into water. source

The Didache gives instruction for an baptism in running water, unless this is not an option (whenever I think of this, I always imagine Christians in the desert):

1 Concerning baptism, baptise thus: Having first rehearsed all these things, “baptise, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” in running water; 2 but if thou hast no running water, baptise in other water, and if thou canst not in cold, then in warm. 3 But if thou hast neither, pour water three times on the head “in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” 4 And before the baptism let the baptiser and him who is to be baptised fast, and any others who are able. And thou shalt bid him who is to be baptised to fast one or two days before. source

After the baptism, we will all be received into the church through chrismation. My husband and I have both been previously baptized in the name of the Trinity, so we will not be re-baptized.

For the past month I’ve been feeling a bit nervous about the baptism and chrismation — primarily the baptism of an unsuspecting toddler. As the day has drawn closer my nerves have begun to calm down. In just ten hours from now, we will officially be Orthodox Christians. Wow. If you had told me this a year ago, I wouldn’t have believed it.

First Confession

June 25, 2010

Our chrismation is scheduled for July 4th. This secular holiday will soon have a very new meaning for us!

Since chrismation is nigh, we’ve begun thinking about and preparing for our first confession. Confession is one of those things that a lot of Protestants really, really don’t like. Yet the Bible is very specific on the topic: Confess your sins to one another (James 5:16). Though it would seem that there’s not a lot of wiggle room in this verse, reception of this command seems to vary. Many blow over it as if it’s a nice idea, but not really for them, except perhaps at a time and place of their own choosing. Others do find it important and set up accountability groups or partners to whom they can both confess and encourage. This is certainly a step in the right direction, though depending on the spiritual maturity of those involved it may be a bit of the blind leading the blind.

For me personally, the idea of confessing in the presence of a priest was not a hurdle to overcome on my journey to Orthodoxy. I did think that it was a curious custom, but initially it was something that I was neither for nor against. As I contemplated the concept, I realized that without confession the priest has no idea what is going on in the lives of most of his parishioners. I thought about some of my Protestant friends and their churches. I may know many of the things that my friends struggle with, but do their pastors have any idea? In every scenario I could think of, I determined that the answer was “no.” How in the world can a person pastor a group of people when they do not really know those people as individuals? What kind of church has no (or very limited) accountability within its body? How can people really grow or mature without the involved guidance of someone who is spiritually more mature? After this line of questioning I began to see the sacrament of confession as a very good thing indeed.

Another reason to confess is to prepare oneself to receive the Eucharist. We know that one must be careful to not partake of the Eucharist in an “unworthy manner;” such a manner may include hidden immorality, disunity, doctrinal heresy, or disorder. We need to examine ourselves, and part of this examination is confession before God in the presence of a priest who visibly represents Christ. Why not just confess to God without the presence of a priest? We know that the “heart is deceitful” and as St. Paul wrote, “if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.” (1Co 11:28) I know that I try to be introspective and aware of what it is that I do, but at the same time I will readily admit that I can easily rationalize my behavior. I imagine this rationalization is not so easy when confessing in the presence of a priest.

My husband and I have both been really looking forward to our first confession. I believe it will be cleansing and edifying. I am looking forward to the direction that it will provide. It may seem strange, but I am very excited to confess my sins.