Tuesday, August 02, 2005

On Baptism

The newly illumined child of God Elizabeth is currently sleeping in her crib (much to her mother's and my relief). Pictures are directly below this, but I've been ruminating the past two days over the significance of what has just occurred, and how it hits this convert where he lives a whole lot more when it's his kid.

First of all, I realized something about myself. The tendency among artsy, theatrical, somewhat-charismatic Protestants like I was was to imagine some sort of otherworldly parallel to a service in which the participants were (always dramatically) enfused with power from on high. Images in our head--fueled oftentimes by Christian authors' descriptions of swirling mist, glowing hearts and various scenes of Jesus' direct bestowing of the Holy Spirit upon us (Frank Peretti comes to mind)--led us to truly believe that life-changing moments in the spiritual realms were always accompanying our meetings. What I noticed about my daughter's baptism was that, first, there were no images in my mind of "what was going on" in that other, unseen plane of existence. This is why, I think, we have sacraments: we couldn't handle the full disclosure of the spiritual reality were we shown it; it would, I don't doubt, consume us. Any mental depiction we attempt of it as it is, then, is a gross injustice thereto.

Our services, however, are a depiction of and a union with that reality which we can handle. Hope truly did put on Christ's death and resurrection in those waters; she truly did acquire the third Person of the Trinity Himself when the chrism was applied; she truly was united to our Lord in all His fullness when her little body was merged with His true Food and her rapidly-circulating blood was mingled with His true Drink. We focus on these rites, these human actions and these physical elements of water, oil, bread and wine, not only as signs pointing to what is truly happening at that moment, but also as the concrete means by which those things truly are accomplished in our lives...they are beautiful not only because of the asthetically pleasing aspects of the prayers and hymns, but because of the realities towards which they point and in which they share.

Secondly, in light of all of this connection to that higher, saving reality...what an amazing act of grace on God's part! That our very nature as humans, fallen and corrupt as it is, could receive the seeds of immortality merely by being immersed in water, anointed with oil and fed with bread and wine--all of which have had a contact with and transformation into the Element of our life Himself--such events which make it possible to even begin our journey into life eternal are so beyond us, yet so simple to partake of. It's like a man stumbling on water as if it were dry land; he didn't get there by himself...

Thirdly, there is the issue, as a friend of mine just commented in a post below, of having a "cradle" Orthodox Christian in my house! She will have experiences I never had and will see them through a lens I've only recently acquired; from reading the Scriptures to worshipping with her Church family and praying on her own, as well as looking at the world and all its various ideologies, she'll have it all from the git-go from an Orthodox point of view. This both excites and troubles me, as I know "cradles" who take their faith quite seriously, and also those who take it quite for granted, so there's a very real responsibility on our part to be models of holiness, so that she has as much as possible, both in church and out, after which to model her own life of faith, which begins now, at her baptism into Christ. Talk about a role to play; fear and trembling definitely going on here.

I'm reminded of a phrase I've heard many times, though I have no idea who first said it. To paraphrase: "There's no such distinction between 'cradle' Orthodox and 'convert' Orthodox, or at least there shouldn't be. All Orthodox Christians, at some point in their lives, need to be 'converts,' need to make this personal, need to own this."

May Christ our God, through the intercessions of the most holy Theotokos, His mother, and of His foster father Joseph, have mercy on us as we all embark together on this quest for union with Him, together with His Father and the All-Holy Spirit.

And, the following:

O God, our heavenly Father, who love mankind, and are most merciful and compassionate, have mercy upon Your handmaiden Hope Elizabeth, for whom I humbly pray and commend to Your gracious care and protection. Be, O God, her guide and guardian in all her endeavors, lead her in the path of Your truth, and draw her nearer to You, that she may lead a godly and righteous life in Your love and fear; doing Your will in all things. Give her grace that she may be temperate, industrious, diligent, devout and charitable. Defend her against the assaults of the enemy, and grant her wisdom and strength to resist all temptation and corruption of this life; and direct her in the way of salvation, through the merits of Your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, and the intercessions of His Holy Mother and Your blessed saints. Amen.


choirfiend said...

Truly, we all need to make that conversion everyday...

Teach her to sing :)

Aristibule said...

I think its a wonderful thing, thinking about our children being raised in the Church.

BTW, Duncan was born July 7th : 10 lbs 1 oz., 21 inches, dark hair - we're going to try his baptism in September, have Donnie come down as the Godfather to Dothan.

Also, any comments on this? http://www.stpetersclassical.org/index.htm I'm excited about it - I'd like to see more Orthodox parochial schools.

David Bryan said...


Won't be a prob, as both of us do!


Hey! Welcome back to the 'sphere! Glad to hear everything went all right...your little one weighed and measured EXACTLY the same as little Hope Elizabeth.

Well, you know I love St. Peter's here in FW; the fact that they're strong enough, not just to survive as a WR parish, but to thrive sufficiently to support a school is great. A couple who just moved here from KY (Audra's psyched) are going to enroll their kid there. Good stuff.

choirfiend said...

Heheh, maybe your two kids are destined to come together some time in the future--similarities are eerie.