PLANNING YOUR CHILD S ORTHODOX BAPTISM

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1 PLANNING YOUR CHILD S ORTHODOX BAPTISM Unless one is born of water and the Spirit he (she) cannot enter the Kingdom of God. (John 3:5) Your baby s baptism is a time for joy and celebration! It is also a time for much preparation and planning. The purpose of this packet is to help you prepare for the day of your baby s Baptism and to help you better understand the significance of that in your lives and the eternal life of your child. Baptism is a public sign of your own faith and trust in God. Perhaps, the most essential preparation for your child s Baptism is examining your own faith. When you approach the priest about having your child baptized, he will want to be assured of your recognition of the importance of God in your lives. If one were to think about this carefully, then the reason the Orthodox Church baptizes infants and children will come into clear focus. Infant Baptism is a natural response to the faith of the community. We bring infants and children to Baptism not because they believe but in order that they might believe. Children learn by example. They are nourished and fed by an environment of genuine witness in the family and in the Church. All parents want what is best for their children, God does also. Baptism reveals God s love for and acceptance of us before we can ever know Him or love Him in return By bringing our children to Baptism, we, in effect, show them this very same love. St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church 621 First Colonial Road Virginia Beach VA Phone: (757) Fax: (757)

2 Introduction What is sacrament? A sacrament or mystery is a divine rite instituted by Christ and/or His Apostles, as evidenced in the New Testament scriptures. The mysteries of the Church constitute our life in Christ. As personal encounters with Christ, the sacraments are God s way of continuing His presence with us on Earth. One saint of the Church, St. Leo the Great writes He who was visible as the Redeemer has now passed into the sacraments. The sacraments, therefore, must be approached with a living faith, involving the whole person. The grace of the sacraments is not merely symbolized or promised. For us Orthodox, the grace is actually given. The sacraments do not just go down to the roots of human condition. They transform it! The Sacraments of Initiation A Christian is a follower of Christ. For the Orthodox Christian, it is not enough to just accept the teachings of Christ; one must also personally commit himself to Christ. By committing oneself to Christ, one regulates his life according to the requirements of Christian love the same love that is in Christ. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35) From the earliest period of the Christian era, the Church has celebrated the initiation of converts abd neophytes into the community if the faithful with the Sacraments of Baptism, Christmation (Confirmation) and the Eucharist (Holy Communion). The sacrament of Baptism is fundamental to the life of a Christian because it is precisely at Baptism where one confesses and professes himself to be a follower of Christ. At the same time, however, before confessing the Lord one must deny the archetype of all evil and the embodiment of all wickedness, which is the devil, the prince of this world, as he is called by Christ, Himself. Prayers of exorcism are recited by the priest for the banishment of evil one from the life of the individual. The individual then voluntarily denies the devil and his darkness in order to embrace Christ and His Un-waning Light. In the case of infant Baptism the sponsor speaks on the child s behalf. Furthermore, in Baptism, the believer is buried in water and is raised up to the newness of life. The new life is the beginning of his journey to Christ and His Kingdom. In the words of St John Chrysostom, Baptism is the preparation of life to come. A baptized Christian lives from the gifts of the Spirit, which were sent to the Christians after Jesus descended into heaven (John 16:7-12). The Sacrament of Christmation is the fulfillment of Baptism. Christmation is the newly baptized person s entrance into the life of the Holy Spirit. St. Cyril of Jerusalem describes Christmation as a participation in the anointing of Christ by the Spirit after His Baptism. It is the believer s personal Pentecost.

3 The baptized and chrismated person celebrates full entrance in the Christian community by receiving Holy Eucharist. The Eucharist was foreshadowed by Christ at the Mystical Supper; it was concretely instituted by Him after His Resurrection when He appeared to the Disciples in the Upper Room and administered Holy Communion to them. The Eucharist nourishes the Christian life with love of God and for one another. Through the Eucharist, the identity received at Baptism and Christmation is continuously reaffirmed. By receiving all three mysteries at once, the neophyte becomes a full member of the church.

4 Planning Your Child s Baptism When and Where? A date for the Baptism should be set well in advance in order to insure the date and time desired. The Sacrament of Holy Baptism may be performed any time of the year except during the following periods to maintain intact the devotional character of the High Holy Days: From December 25 through January 6 From Saturday of Lazarus therough Pascha Sunday (If sacrament must be celebrated during the period of Great Lent, it is assumed that the dinner will be Lenten in character.) Pentecost Sunday All feast days of the Lord; and August 15 Parents The parents must be member in good standing of their parish. In cases of interfaith marriages, only the Orthodox spouse can and must be a member in good standing. All marriages must be blessed in the Church. However, if a marriage has not been blessed in the Church, the Baptism will be permitted upon consultation with the priest. Sponsor The sponsor, who must be an Orthodox Christian, speaks for the neophyte and thereby promises to see that he or she is given an Orthodox Christian upbringing. The responsibility of being a sponsor is serious and awesome. That is why parents should choose a sponsor for spiritual qualities and not for the purpose of paying back and obligation or conferring a social favor. The sponsor must be in good standing with his/her local parish and, if married, must have been married in the Orthodox Church. If married in the Orthodox Church, but if divorced, they must have an ecclesiastical divorce. Canonically there should only be one sponsor but never more than two. No one under the age of 12 may sponsor a child. The sponsor must show some verification of current membership at a canonical Orthodox Church, which is a sacramental communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

5 The sponsor provides the following items for sacrament: A letter from their home parish (if not member(s) of St. Nicholas GOC) A white undershirt A white Baptism outfit (including hat, socks, and shoes) A small white hand towel A large white bath towel A small white sheet Bottle of Olive Oil Bar of soap (white) Two white candles A cross necklace for the child Selecting a Name The name that is chosen for the child should be biblical or Christian in origin. Only one name is canonically proper, but under no circumstances should there be more than two. Baptismal Certificate Your child s baptism will be recorded in the parish Baptismal Register and in the Department of Registry of the Archdiocese and Metropolis. In order to complete your child s baptismal certificate with the exact information and have it ready for you at the time of the sacrament, it is important to make an appointment with the Church Main Office at least one month prior to the Baptism. In the years ahead, proof of Baptism may be obtained on the basis of this registration.

6 The Day of the Baptism The following is a brief section of reminders to help make the day of the Baptism run as smoothly as possible. For additional questions or information, please contact the main office and speak with the Church Secretary. 1. The parents should appoint a responsible person to robe and disrobe the child during the sacrament. 2. Be on time! Your party should arrive at the Church 15 minutes prior to the sacrament. 3. Picture taking: Only one person, designated by the parents, may take pictures during the Sacrament. This person should speak with the priest or the secretary prior to the service for instruction. Video: Arrangements for videotaping of a Baptism should be made prior to the Sacrament. 4. Dress Code: All attendants to the Baptism must dress modestly. Proper covering, Please!

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