What is Baptism: A few musings.
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,
"The true Christian is a warrior making his way through the regiments of the invisible enemy to his heavenly homeland." - St Herman of Alaska.