What is Baptism: A few musings. - Printable Version
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What is Baptism: A few musings. - DanielM - 24-05-2010 10:22 PM
And so, tomorrow I celebrate one month since my baptism.
It seems about right that I now write something about it. So, what is Baptism?
If I look back to Bishop Kallistos Ware, whose writing littered my bedroom floor for months as I pondered Orthodoxy I read that Baptism âis for each one of us a personal Pentecostâ explaining how âthe spirit, who descended visibly upon the apostles in tongues of fire, descends upon every one of us invisibly, yet with no less reality and power.â This is surely a keynote definition for we see the Baptism of Christ in this also.
But I canât help but ask myself is this all that Baptism is? Yes, the spirit entering us is certainly a big deal, as is the salvation it brings, but is there more to it... Fortunately on a recent trip to St. George Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Stevenage I found n answer. A little book called âBaptism as thirty celebrations.â Naturally it made me think.
So, what is Baptism, going by this book. Baptism can be one of many things, from a wash, to a birthday, to an exorcism or even a funeral. Morbid right? Not really when you think about the Baptism in itâs context.
There is an age old expression âyou need to die before you die, so that when you die you do not die.â To me this is the essence of the Baptism. In order to gain eternal life through Christ when you die you must be reborn. This is what a Baptism is; a drowning of the old self, followed by a rebirth in Christ.
1 Corinthians 5:7 speaks of this rebirth. âPurge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:â
This was explained by John Chrysostom in his Homilies when he wrote:
âBut if a man asketh me, he shall hear not of Egypt nor of Pharaoh; but of our deliverance from the deceit of demons and the darkness of the devil: not of Moses but of the Son of God; not of a Red Sea but of a Baptism overflowing with ten thousand blessings, where the "old man" is drownedâ
So Baptism is an end and a beginning.
It is a death:
âKnow ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?â Rom 6:3
This is a rebirth:
âAs newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow therebyâ 1 Peter 2:2
It is also the very essence of the faith, and the enthronement of Christ.
âThe water of Baptism is like the Virgins womb: it is impregnated by the same Holy Spirit who overshadowed Mary, so that the sin which was destroyed by jesusâ birth may also be washed away by the water and Spirit of Baptism.â St. Leo the Great.
So a baptism is many things, an eternal gift, a sign of love and a second chance. All of which are given in a tiny bit of water with the Wholeness of God and his Holy Spirit. We are freed from our prior life and become citizens of the Kingdom (as Ephesians 2:19 puts it). St. Diadochos put this change of allegiance as a straight switch, stating that âFrom the moment we are reborn through Baptism, the demon is outside, grace is inside.â He says that we are still open to attack, but now have this holy defence protecting us. Do I feel safer, yes, as I know that I am reborn through Christ.
Before my Baptism I did not know what to expect, there was anxiety, and somewhat of confusion about what will happen. I even had a worrying dream of me getting into the water and time freezing. I soon found out that the only thing that was freezing was the water itself! But next time anyone tells you that Baptism is a symbolic ritual, remind them that they are taking this divine gift for granted. Maybe they do not feel reborn, but they are.
Your Brother in Christ,
- Antony-Paul - 25-05-2010 10:56 AM
How marvellous to hear your thoughts about Baptism.
As one who predates you by a whole month (!) I too have had to consider this amazing and mysterious gift from God. Only the other day I wrote some notes in another place, and though far from as eloquent as your posting it is clear that we have both experienced change, perhaps a little unexpectedly.
As a lifelong Christian I suppose I felt that I 'knew' Christ already, so there was not going to be much for me to learn. And I 'knew' about the theology of Baptism. How wrong can one be. Despite my infant Baptism in the RCC which had brought me into God's family, there is certainly something different about me now that I am Orthodox. However, it is taking me some time to figure it out - always assuming that I will ever do so.
Like you, although I approached total immersion with some trepidation, it was actually a profound experience. My infant Baptism had a profound spiritual effect, of course, but I was effectively unaware of it, or perhaps more accurately I had no idea what life was like without it. Now I have had to make a conscious committment to Jesus in a manner completely new to me. This has allowed me to compare my new situation with my former life. Not being critical of the RCC, which nurtured and cared for me very faithfully for all those years, but still it is not the same now.
Although I am still working things out, two points stand out at present.
First, I have a feeling of joy which I had not experienced before. Yes, I had been joyful at various times, but not like this, and not so constantly. This sense of joy was also evident in the sisters and brothers we met at Stevenage, and seems to be a characteristic of Orthodoxy. This has caught me by surprise, because my stereotype of the Orthodox was a stern, rigorous institution run by black clad clerics who seldom smiled, let alone laughed! It is wonderful to be part of this uncomplicated joy expressed by all the people .
Second, I have a new prayer life. Not only is the emphasis of the prayer different and in keeping with my acknowledgment of my personal sinfulness, but it has a new intensity which has brought an interesting consequence. I find my prayers are always being interrupted or distracted, and clearly Satan is getting worried! I comfort myself with the thought that if that is the case I must be doing something right! And every time it happens, Jesus bolsters me up as I reject Satan and tell him to be gone.
So, Baptism is all those things you mentioned, and then some more. So much more that I cannot begin to understand it, but I let the Holy Spirit wash over me enveloping me in His inexpressible love. I have a renewed sense of Jesus being close by me all the time, defending me from Satan, despite my best efforts to keep on sinning, and constantly forgiving and healing me. I believe you are right when you imply that we will probably never understand fully what Baptism does for us, but I look forward to many years of exploration, together with you and all my other sisters and brothers Christ.
With much Love to you, my new Brother in Christ,
- vrc - 25-05-2010 09:34 PM
[quote]Second, I have a new prayer life. Not only is the emphasis of the prayer different and in keeping with my acknowledgment of my personal sinfulness, but it has a new intensity which has brought an interesting consequence. I find my prayers are always being interrupted or distracted, and clearly Satan is getting worried!
This is very interesting as I also find recently that every time I sit down to pray, some 'thing', some 'noise' or some disruption/anxiety/event occurs - a horse bolting outside in the field, or someone bashing on the door, sirens on the road, the alarm clock going off - you name it, it happens!!!
I have not yet been baptised, and not yet even accepted as a catechumen (although this is in hand) but have had some profound and beautiful experiences as a result of my introduction to BOC. However, I have been taken aback by the 'co-incidence' of the timing of the distractions on every prayer occasion. I agree that probably, we meet the testing forces of the dark once we are clearly minded to become subsumed into the light of Christ.
I have never read that the path was easy.
The thoughts about Baptism are fascinating and I look forward to my own.
Technical point (I am trying to visualise it) - what were you baptised IN..? A pool? extra-large font? Portsmouth Harbour? :lol:
p.s. please excuse my technical ignorance about the delineation for quotes...hopeless :oops:
- DanielM - 25-05-2010 09:54 PM
vrc Wrote:Quote: I find my prayers are always being interrupted or distracted, and clearly Satan is getting worried!
I was discussing this with Fr. Simon this weekend. Whenever I am saying my prayers there is something more interesting going on, whether I am suddenly fascinated by the fact that a bird whistled 10 minutes before and suddenly wish to hunt for it, or whether someone knocks on my door, there is always something going on. There is no way escape this, endurence in prayer is the only key I think.
To answer the Baptism question, I was baptised at a local baptist church here in Portsmouth, as we do not have the room to do it at the Portsmouth Church. They had a problem heating the pool, so it was a bit chilly.
heres the video of the Baptism. There are a few BOC Baptisms on there now which is good.
<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5ZRwCHUBZg">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5ZRwCHUBZg</a><!-- m -->
- Fr Simon - 26-05-2010 09:33 AM
From a paper I presented on prayer, various quotes from various writers on this difficulty:
But there is another side to prayerâ¦ In the words of Saint Isaac the Syrian: âWhenever you wish to make a beginning in some good work, first prepare yourself for the temptations that will come upon you, and do not doubt the truth. For it is the enemyâs custom, whenever he sees a man beginning a good mode of life with fervent faith, to confront him with diverse and fearful temptations, so that he should be afraid, his good intention should be chilled, and he should lack the fervor to undertake this God-pleasing work.â
âThe demon will suggest to us that reading Holy Scripture is a worthless, boring, time wasting and tiring effort that we could best do without. He will make us yawn, cause our eyelids to become heavy, make us burp, hiccup, sneeze, cough, cause our stomach to rumble, give us itches, pains, restlessness, lack of attention, daydreams, temptationsâ¦ ideas that there are more important things we must think about or do etc., etcâ¦.â
Concerning the difficulties of prayer, Tito Colliander writes: âSome time you must take the first uncertain steps - if you wish at all to draw near to God. Do not be anxious about your clumsy beginning; do not yield to shyness and uncertainty, and the mocking laughter of enemies, who try to persuade you that you are behaving ridiculously and that the whole thing is only a child of fantasy and meaningless... The childâs desire to read increases as he learns to read; the further one gets into a language, the better he speaks it and the more he likes it. Enjoyment increases with proficiency. Proficiency comes with practice. Practice becomes more pleasant as proficiency increases.
âDo not suppose that it is otherwise with prayer. Do not wait for some extraordinary divine inspiration before setting to work...â
âYou should not wait until you are cleansed of wandering thoughts before you desire to pray. If you only begin on prayer when you see that your mind has become perfect and raised above all recollection of the world, then you will never pray.â (Saint Isaac the Syrian)
And back again to Tito Colliander: âA person standing at an open window hears the sounds from outside; it is impossible not to do so. But he can give the voices his attention or not, as he himself wishes. The praying person is continually beset by a stream of inappropriate thoughts, feelings and mental impressions. To stop this tiresome stream is as impracticable as to stop the air from circulating in an open room. But one can notice them or not. This, say the saints, one learns only through practice.â
On this matter of distractions Father David and Presbytera Juliana Cownie similarly write: âKeep in mind that many distractions will occur just as the prayers begin. The phone will ring, salesmen and neighbors will come to the door, dogs will bark, etc. Anything that can be disruptive always seems to come along at prayer time. At such times, persevere! Do not be discouraged or dismayed. âResist the devil, and he will flee from you.â These distractions will become less frequent with the passage of time.â
Though of course they may never go away entirely in this life - as the desert father Abba Agathon taught: âI think there is no labour greater than that of prayer to God. For every time a man wants to pray, his enemies, the demons, want to prevent him, for they know that it is only by turning him from prayer that they can hinder his journey. Whatever good work a man undertakes, if he perseveres in it, he will attain rest. But prayer is warfare to the last breath.â
But donât let that put you off and never (no matter how tempted) give in or give up. âSometimes, completing the reading of prayers in a prayer book becomes toilsome. We must force ourselves (The kingdom of heaven is taken by force) to complete them. This is especially so in the early stages of the development of our daily prayer ruleâ¦â
âWhen praying with a set rule of prayer, the spiritual teachers tell us to put our whole mind and heart into the meaning of the words... They tell us not to allow our mind to wander from the words of the prayers... They also tell...never to go back and repeat prayers done poorly. They tell us rather to put ourselves at the mercy of God, and to try to do better the next time. This method reduces the possibility of thinking that God hears our prayers according to the perfection of our performance and not according to the greatness of His mercy, and safeguards against both pride and despair. It gives humility and hope, and keeps us always forging ahead...
âThus when one finishes his rule of prayer, however well or poorly he has done it, he should say Amen, and go about his business of living in Christ, remembering God and doing His will until the next time comes for the rule of prayer to be done. Then he should do it as well as he can, beginning all over again.â
what is baptism:a few musings - kirk yacoub - 27-05-2010 09:11 AM
One of the hazards of prayer life is the attack of the demons. The stronger we hold fast, the more ferocious these attacks become. The great ascetic Evagrios wrote of Desert Fathers who, despite being bounced around like a ball or thrown up in the air on a blanket by demons, still concentrated totally on prayer. Needless to say, such powers of concentration do not come easily or without God's aid.
One of the favourite attacks of the demonic pests who attack me is to slyly change a word, so that instead of praying "and deliver us from the evil one," I hear myself praying "and deliver us to the evil one"! Also, when reaching that crucial phrase, "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against", my mind becomes completely diverted. The only thing to do here is to repeat the prayer correctly.
The Desert Fathers and the Fathers in the Philokalia urge us to invoke the Holy Name of Jesus, because His Name spreads fear amongst the demons, dispersing them. For this reason I often "season" my prayer with
"Help me, Lord Jesus!"
- vrc - 27-05-2010 09:03 PM
If I am getting this right then, in a peculiar way, it appears that the more such distractions arise, it points to our success, in that the direction of the mind towards God the Father, God the Son and the God the Holy Spirit is freaking out the 'opposition'. If we were being blancmange-like, I suppose that opposition would not be roused, so it's kind of an inverse compliment.
I find the whole topic of being 'unworthy' arising at the moment. I think this is the "opposition's work", too, as I am quite clear that any progress I make is entirely through Grace and not my own puny efforts, in any event. I have often thought that we don't do spiritual growth - 'It' does us, if we invite it and allow. Unworthiness doesn't bar us from Divine assistance, if we ask for it. Yet still...those nagging doubts.
After one highly profound (and recent) experience, I find even more to deal with. Glimpses of the Heavenly state are often just that - short glimpses of sublime beauty. And after ecstasy (as the Zen masters say), the laundry. Worse than the laundry (which is bad enough), I find myself wondering why that glimpse stopped - was I doing or saying something wrong? Have I bished it up? Will it ever happen again? Have I been found wanting...? and so on.
It's all rubbish, product of the feeble human mind (and the 'opposition'?), but it still occurs. Those events are gifts, not a product of deserving. The only tack I know how to take is just to plough on in prayer and more prayer, and just accept that, in the words of Manuel, "I know nothing', and wait for everything to be revealed, in time, by Grace.
Kirk, I am going to do what you suggest, too - and pepper my prayers and moments of doubt with 'Help me, Lord Jesus!". Great idea. Thanks for that.
- Antony-Paul - 28-05-2010 01:21 PM
It certainly sounds as though you have started doing all the right things!
Clearly your experiences are much the same as those of countless Christians over the centuries, and hopefully that will encourage you. You are neither unusual nor strange, but very human. Being human, you are fair game for Satan, as are we all. Trust in Jesus, He will get you to His heavenly kingdom. All you have to do is ask Him. When I find I am being distracted by wandering thoughts or voices when I am at prayer, I ask Jesus to back me up with His grace, and then I denounce Satan and order him to be gone, then return to my prayers. I sincerely hope it upsets the devil(!) but it doesn't stop him coming back for more of the same. He's a very slow learner, but refuses to give up easily. I comfort myself with the knowledge that my team (well, Jesus' team actually) will always prevail.
This trust in Jesus is also relevant to our unworthiness and sinfulness. As long as we keep asking Him, He will forgive us and accept our frailties. He will never let us down, all we need to do is accept that He has everything under control, and we can trust Him implicitly.
I suppose this sounds rather simplistic, and there are those who would seek to complicate things, but in reality Jesus' Way is very simple - even if it is difficult. I subscribe to the concept of keeping it that way.
I hope this helps,