Introduction | Baptism | Holy Chrism | The Eucharist | Repentance and Confession | Priesthood | Marriage | The Holy Oil
The Lord Jesus Christ Himself instituted Baptism when He sent his disciples after his resurrection to spread abroad the proclamation of salvation, saying 'Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit' (Matthew 28:19), because 'he who believes and is baptized shall be saved' (Mark - 6(16:16a). From that moment, we see in Acts that those who believed the Good News were joined to the Church through Baptism. Peter said to them: 'Repent and be baptized every one of you ... So those who gladly received his word were ba ptized and there were added that day about three thousand souls' (Acts 2:38-41; cf.. Acts 8:12-13, 38; 9:18; 10:47-48; 16:15; 18:8; 19:5; 1 Corinthians 1:14-16).
2.1 Baptism is the door through which we enter life in Jesus Christ. Adam fell and became estranged from true life and existence, that is, from God. Spiritual death with all its consequences insinuated itself into man. We then began to know calamity, corruption, the desire to sin, and the death of the body. Baptism is not the rubbing-outof that original sin which we inherited from Adam. Rather, it is a new birth from above, after man has been born with a corrupted nature, enslaved to death. Therefore, through Baptism man is born a second time, not from flesh and blood, nor through the will of man, but horn God (John 1:12-13; John 3:3-7), and by that new birth we return to our first beauty and our true existence.
2.2 Baptism is participation in the death of Jesus and his resurrection. '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, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his' (Romans 6:3-5). In Baptism man puts on Jesus and takes off the old man. We die to sin and guilt and are renewed in sanctity and righteousness. It is not we ourselves who live, but Christ who lives in us (Galatians 2:20).
2.3 Baptism is the beginning of a spiritual wedding, by which the soul becomes the bride of Christ, adorned with divine beauty and loved by the Groom, who gave Himself for her even unto death, with a perfect and endless love. Baptism is entry upon a new life, by which man is enlisted in Christ's service and commits himself not to be 'entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to satisfy the one who enlisted him' (2 Timothy 2:4). He is also pledged to endeavour to complete the course and to finish the way of his enlightenment and deification and transfiguration in the 'image of his creator' (Co10ssians 3:10).
2.4 In Baptism man joins the Church, the new people of God, and becomes a branch of the Vine (John 15:5), a member of the Body whose Head is the Lord Jesus.
Baptism is performed in the Name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, by washing in water made holy by the prayer of sanctification. 'Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God' (John 3:5).
By accepting Baptism and joining the company of the saints, man becomes worthy to receive the other divine Holy Mysteries and to live in them.
The priest is the one who performs the Holy Mystery of Baptism. Nevertheless, in cases of pressing need, as, for example, when a life is threatened, the deacon is permitted to baptize, or even the father or mother, or any other Orthodox person.
Every person who asks for baptism is baptized, provided they have not previously been baptized in the Name of the Holy Trinity (baptism being a single event which cannot be repeated).
In order to receive the Holy Mystery of Baptism, a mature person must express a desire to be baptized and learn and accept the Christian faith.
8.1 Baptism of infants is one of the holy ecclesial axioms that go back to the Apostolic era. The ancient texts of East and West witness to this truth: Cornelius and his household, Lydia 'and her household', the guard of the prison at Philippi and 'all his relations', Crispus and' all his household', 'the household of Stephanus' -all of them believed and were baptized (Acts 10:47-48; 16:15, 31-33; 18:8; 1 Corinthians 1:16).
'For Christ came to save all-babies at the breast, infants, children, youths and the aged. All of them are reborn in Him and become truly children of God' (Irenaeus, Against the Heretics 2. 22.4).
8.2 Baptism of infants is permitted in the following circumstances:
(a) if there is a firm expectation that the child will be brought up in the Orthodox faith;
(b) if the parents ask for baptism, or even only one of them, or the person who stands in loco parentis;
(c) if a child has been abandoned, and there is no confirmation that the child has been previously baptized;
(d) if the child is of non-Orthodox Christian parents but there is risk of death.
9.1 The requirement that there be a godparent is an ancient church tradition. Everyone who is baptized has one godparent: a male for a male, a female for a female.
9.2 The primary duty of a godparent is to teach the baptized child Christian principles as the child grows up, to surround him or her with care, to help the child to grow in the Orthodox faith and to become, by virtuous behaviour and a Christian way of life, a faithful witness to the Lord.
10.1 In order for someone to perform effectively their duty as a godparent:
(a) they must be of mature age and a member of the Orthodox Church;
(b) they must know the fundamental principles of the faith;
(c) they must behave in a manner worthy of the Christian faith.
10.2 During the celebration of the Holy Mystery, a godparent must witness to the Orthodox faith openly and aloud by saying the text of the Creed and the Lord's Prayer in the Orthodox form.
The godparent must proclaim aloud a renunciation of Satan and an acceptance of Christ.
10.3 If the person to be baptized is adult they may choose their own godparent. But in the case of a child, it is the parents or the guardians who select the godparent, or the priest may do so. It is always preferable that the godparent not be either a monastic or in holy orders.
10.4 In Baptism a relationship is established between the godparent and the baptized similar to that between father and son. In choosing a godparent, therefore, we must bear in mind that the children of a godparent may not be married to the baptized or to their children or relatives, whether they be forebears or progeny.
10.5 It is the parents who are primarily responsible for giving their children a good Christian upbringing and it is recognized that catechesis has a fundamental place in this task.
10.6 A non-Orthodox Christian is permitted, if there is good reason, to be a godparent, and is accepted in an honorary position alongside the Orthodox godparent. The baptized in this instance has one honorary godparent and an Orthodox godparent.
11.1 Baptism is performed by immersing the candidate three times. Immersion is a tangible sign of the significance of Baptism, because by it the baptized is buried with Christ and dies with Him to the old man, then is taken out as a symbol of new life and resurrection (Romans 6). The immersion is performed three times in the Name of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Evidence for this practice is to be found in all the ancient documents of the Church, both East and West. The Apostolic Tradition, for example, which is considered the most ancient source for church law and practice, was written by Hippolytus, Bishop of Rome, in AD 215. This book says of the candidate for Baptism: 'He descended into the water of the font of baptism and the priest laid his hand on his head, saying "Do you believe in God the Father Almighty?" and the one being baptized answered "I believe in Him", and the priest immersed him for the first time. The next time, the priest laid his hand on the candidate's head and asked "Do you believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God?" ... He answered, "I believe in Him". Then the priest immersed him for the second time. So, in the same way, he is asked, "Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?" ... and at the answer "I believe in Him", the candidate is immersed for the third time' (The Apostolic Tradition, section 21)
11.2 Baptism by sprinkling with water is permitted if life is at risk. If water is not available, saying the Name of the Trinity is sufficient. Should the danger pass and the baptized survive, the whole service of Baptism should be completed(2).
Baptism should be conducted according to the rite laid down in the service book and it is required that this rite be performed faithfully.
Parents should have their child baptized shortly after birth.
In principle, Baptism should be celebrated in the parish church and not at home. Exceptions are permitted where there is good reason or if there is no church in the parish. The head of the diocese may permit the celebration of Baptism in a private house. Whatever the circumstances, an atmosphere of dignity and serenity must be maintained throughout the performance of the Holy Mysteries, i.e. during Baptism, Holy Chrism, and Holy Communion.
A baptism is an event for the Church and not just a private occasion.
Baptism is both a grace and a joy for the person baptized and their family, and also a celebration for the whole Church. For this reason it should, in principle, be performed in the assembly of the faithful. Every baptism belongs to all the faithful because by it a new brother or sister in Christ is born to them. This is a true ecclesial aspect of Baptism.
16.1 Baptism is in its essence a Paschal Mystery because it is a second birth by which the baptized is buried with Christ and raised with Him to new life. Pascha is resurrection and victory over death. Even the language of Baptism-' As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ' -includes this sense of resurrection, because the One whom we have put on and with whom we have been buried is the One who is risen, and He raises us with Him.
16.2. The most appropriate day for Baptism in the Church is, in principle, the eve of Pascha, the night of Holy Saturday. It is called 'the Saturday of Light' because on that day we have the illumination which is Baptism. However, the Church allows Baptism on main feastdays and permits it to be celebrated on any day.
A collective baptism is most suitably celebrated in the presence of the whole parish. The parish sets aside a date once a year at which to receive those to be baptized, because new children are being born for her by water and the Spirit.
18.1 A return to the building of separate baptisteries is desirable, at least in cathedrals and big cities. They should be equipped with all that is necessary to perform Baptism in a reverent and dignified manner.
18.2 The water of Baptism is holy and for that reason it should, after the washing of the baptized, be poured somewhere that is not walked upon. It should never be poured down a drain.
It is the duty of the parish priest to prepare parents, the godparent and the person to be baptized (if adult) and to explain to them the meaning of the Holy Mysteries being performed in Baptism, Holy Chrism, and Holy Communion, and also the responsibilities that they assume with regard to them.
20.1 The priest of each parish must take care to complete the registers meticulously. He must enter accurately the names of the baptized, recording the servant of the Holy Mystery, the parents and godparent, the place and date of baptism, and the place and date of birth.
20.2 The parish priest must give a copy of records of recent baptisms to the diocese every six months.
20.3 Should a priest need to perform the Holy Mystery of Baptism outside his own parish, he should previously advise the parish priest concerned and participate with him in the celebration. If the latter is absent, the priest should get the bishop's permission and also record the baptism in the register of the local parish to which the baptized belongs.
20.4 When a person is baptized outside his parish, the baptism must be recorded in the register of the church in which the baptism was performed and also in the register of the parish church to which the baptized ordinarily belongs.
20.5 For evidence of baptism the witness of two persons, or of the priest who performed the Holy Mystery, is sufficient.
The services carried out before Baptism are stages by which a child is introduced into the life of the Church.
The child is blessed on the first day, and given a name on the eighth day. The child is presented in the Temple (i.e. at the church) on the fortieth day.
22.1 Parents and godparent must instruct the baptized in the truths of the Christian faith. It should not be assumed that this is a responsibility that ends at the completion of the service of Baptism.
22.2 Parents and godparent have a duty to come and ask the priest or the relevant spiritual authorities, at the appropriate time, for help in teaching their child and in bringing the child up as a Christian.
22.3 Baptism is not something completed when the priest ends his celebration. Baptism encompasses the whole life of a human being. As we know, the life of the faithful is a continual seeking after renewal: a putting off of the old man and a putting on of Christ. It is an endeavour to complete one's whole life as a child of the light, coming 'to mature manhood; to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ' (Ephesians 4:13).