Theophany and Baptism

About 2 weeks ago, we got baptized and chrismated in the Orthodox Church! It was a beautiful service and a special time. We posted earlier about how we became catechumens of the church. It’s frequently put this way: becoming catechumens is the engagement, and being baptized and chrismated is the wedding.

The first prayer and anointing before the baptism.

Not everyone who enters the church as an adult is required to be baptized. It depends on your personal history. In Orthodoxy, we believe in a full immersion baptism, three times, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. If you have been baptized before, you meet with your priest and discuss your experience, the church you grew up in, and the beliefs surrounding baptism. The priest then confers with the Bishop and together they decide the course of action. If it aligns closely to the Orthodox belief, you do not have to get baptized again, and instead just do the chrismation part of the service. But if the circumstances were different, if you did not do a full immersion, if it was not in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, if the church beliefs are deemed heretical, or if baptism was viewed with a different level of sacredness, then you must get baptized in the proper way. This tradition comes from the early ecumenical councils who had to decide what to do if a Christian had been baptized under a heretical clergy, for example, someone who claimed Christ was not fully man or another heresy surrounding the nature of the Trinity.

Blessing of the waters.

It was decided that both of us would have a full baptism and chrismation service. We were very excited about this as we had wanted to partake communion in the church for awhile, and were unable to due to the fact that we had not been baptized. Orthodoxy has a closed communion, meaning that unless you are baptized into the church, you are not able to partake. This is because they want to make sure that we can actually commune together and that we hold the same beliefs. Not just for their sake, but also so that no condemnation may come upon the person for being unworthy to partake, based on 1 Corinthians 11:27-29.

“Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgement to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.”

Icon of Holy Theophany, painted by our friend Holly!

Baptisms in the Orthodox Church typically occur around two feast days. The first and most common is around Resurrection Sunday, or Pascha as it is called. Baptisms usually take place on the weekend before Pascha, so that the first time newly illumined partake in communion is while celebrating the feast of the resurrection. The other common time is Theophany, or the feast of Jesus’ baptism. This is the one we chose. And how wonderful it is to be baptized while celebrating the baptism of Christ during the same week!

And so the day of baptism finally came! Our friends Buck and Holly, and their son Asher, also were baptized on the same day. Coincidentally, we all had the same sponsors or godparents: our dear friends Chris and Amy Messenger. Another friend in the church sewed our baptismal robes. It was wonderful to see the whole community coming together for a weeknight service. Everyone was so excited and supportive of us! One by one, after prayers and hymns, we were each baptized in the name of our patron saint (more on that coming in a future blogpost).

Afterwards we dressed in white and returned for the chrismation portion of the service. We each received our candles and cross necklaces, and then Father Panayiotis anointed us each with holy oil over the eyes, ears, mouth, hands, and feet, sealing us with the Holy Spirit. Part of the service also involves cutting a small portion of hair as an offering to God. For Emily, there was no problem. For Vladimir on the other hand…well, let’s just say we got our reminder text from Father about an hour after having freshly shaved. Oops. So we had to do the beard instead. There were many other hymns and prayers that completed the ceremony. It was a solemn yet festive occasion. We had so much peace and joy.

The following day, we all returned to Church for our regular Sunday service. We held our candles throughout the entire liturgy, and were the first to take communion. It was a wonderful weekend! How amazing it was to be baptized and then immediately (the next day!) get sent into the mission field! It’s been incredible to see how God has brought us both to the Orthodox Church, and finally back into ministry. They have definitely been connected and it has not been a coincidence. Glory to God!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: