Baptism is a mystery (sacrament) of the Orthodox Church. It is not performed lightly, nor do we baptize someone simply out of religious habit. We become Christians through the mystery of baptism and chrismation, and we fulfill this by participating in the mystery of Holy Communion regularly.
Understanding the above, we can see that baptism is an “entry” into the life and the community of the Church, rather than simply a religious ritual. When we are baptized, we are entering into the “new life in Christ” that is described in Holy Scripture:
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3-4)
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.(Galatians 3:27)
We enter into the waters of baptism in faith, having confessed our sins and asked for forgiveness by way of our repentance of our sins, and we emerge as “new creatures” in Christ: we are a new creation.
Because of the importance of these matters, baptism requires spiritual preparation and consideration. Below are the guidelines that we use at St James to prepare for the Mystery of Baptism:
ADULTS, YOUNG ADULTS and OLDER CHILDREN:
•Adult baptism is administered to those adults who have either never been baptized by any Christian group or who may have been baptized, but not in a manner that the Orthodox Church can bless. Your priest will determine how you are received into the Orthodox Church.
•All adults seeking to enter the Orthodox faith are required to attend St James catechism classes and to attend church services regularly. These two factors— a proper catechism and participation in church services— serve to educate the candidates for baptism and prepare them for “holy illumination”. The length of the catechumenate period is determined by the priest according to received practice and local pastoral matters.
•Each candidate must have a “sponsor” (or “Godparent”), who is an Orthodox Christian and who is currently in good standing with the Orthodox Church (regular confession, communion and participation in the life of the Church). The role of Godparent is important in the Orthodox Church and is not simply a social honor. The pastor of the parish must bless the choice of Godparent, and therefore it is important to discuss this with him prior to making invitations or promises.
CHILDREN / INFANTS:
•The parents of the child to be baptized should be regular, active members of the parish prior to scheduling a baptism. A period of catechism is also required of parents and Godparents for the sake of education concerning why we baptize and what it’s spiritual significance is. Such meetings are good opportunities to ask questions and to expand the faith of the parents and the Godparents.
•The child must have a sponsor or “Godparent” who is an Orthodox Christian in good standing with the Orthodox Church (regular participation in the mystery of confession, communion and the life of the Church). As stated above, the role of Godparent is important in the Orthodox Church and is not simply a social honor. The pastor of the parish must bless the choice of Godparent, and therefore it is important to discuss this with him prior to making invitations or promises.
•The Orthodox parent or parents of the child, as well as his god parent/s, must participate in the mystery of confession prior to the baptism. This is very important. The child’s baptism often provides an opportunity for the parents to renew their own baptism through confession.
•It should go without saying, but sadly must be said, that It is expected that the parents and the child baptized will remain active members of the local parish, worshiping regularly and giving of their time, talents, and treasures for the sake of the building up of the Church.
Baptisms are performed on Sunday mornings, prior to the beginning of Divine Liturgy, or on a day where there will be a Divine Liturgy offered. The newly-illumined adult or child then is able to immediately participate in the Divine Mystery of communion.
While the guidelines above are helpful, they are not exhaustive. Those desiring to enter the Orthodox Church or who desire their child’s entrance to the Orthodox Church must take the time to meet with your priest well in advance of the proposed time of baptism. Exceptions may be made, but these are all made according to the discernment of your priest.
If you have any questions regarding the guidelines above, please talk to Fr James.