(DISCLAIMER: This is long; it started as a mere account of this chrismation and rapidly turned into an explanation of the actual sacrament for those unfamiliar with what it is that we crazy Orthodox folk actually do here. Forgive me if things are out of order...we've boxed up some of my files and I can't find the rite of chrismation booklet I kept from my chrismation, so if anyone can remember better than I can how the service goes, let me know).
Last Saturday we gained a new sister in Christ, the newly illumined Julie Xenia, who was chrismated at St. Antony's Orthodox Church in Tulsa, OK. It's always wonderful to witness new brethren and, um, sistren coming into the true faith, as it reminds all Orthodox Christians exactly what we "signed up for," whether we converted later in life or grew up in the faith.
The first pic is one of Audra and Jules at the back of the church w/Fr. George; his lighthearted manner put everyone at ease. It's easy to get nervous and uptight about important events like this, and he does a good job at reminding us not to take ourselves too seriously while taking our faith very seriously.
The prayers of exorcism followed, where Satan is bound and cast out. The catechumen officially and vocally denounces him and unites him/herself to Christ, and the priest prays over her that she would be freed from her former delusion and walk in the ways of truth.
This new day dawning in her heart is shown by the candle you see there, the flame of which is taken from the Holy Altar at the front of the church. Our God has decended from Heaven and spreads the light which is our Life as we respond to Him in faith; this illumination begins the moment we believe...but we ain't done yet!
Now that we have begun our lives in Christ through faith dawning in our hearts, we are led into the Body of Christ, the Church, through the ministers appointed by Christ and His apostles, where we can be taught the Faith as was the Ethiopian eunuch who knew he could not fully understand the Truth without someone to teach him. The soon-to-be Xenia grabbed ahold of Father's stole (which, no kidding, is called "the thing that goes around the neck" in Greek; don't ask me to spell it), and he leads her to the front of the Church, where she is to have the priest's hands laid on her to receive the Holy Spirit.
Xenia then kneels and confesses the Orthodox Faith as it's been practiced and believed by Christians for nearly two thousand years, after which she stands and venerates (that means "honors" for those unfamiliar with the term) the image of Christ on the cross, as well as the Gospel book on the table in front of her. She is then anointed with the holy oil, which is a continuation of the biblical practice of the laying on of hands to receive the Holy Spirit. (Chrismation was practiced almost immediately in the Church, as the apostles were quite quickly unable to personally receive all converts through the laying on of hands, and so distributed oil to priests/bishops which had been blessed by them to administer the filling of the Holy Spirit in their stead. We believe this is witnessed to in the "unction" and "anointing" mentioned in I John 2:20, 27, as well as the seal of the Holy Spirit which St. Paul refers to in 2 Cor.1:21-22.)
The oil is administered on the forehead, eyes, ears, mouth, chest, hands and feet, both as a sign of and at the same time a very real filling of each of the new believer's body parts and senses -- our thoughts, sight, hearing, words, meditations, actions and destinations in life, respectively -- with the always-abiding presence of the Spirit of our God.
She is then led around the table three times (three times around for the Trinity, obviously, and around the cross and Gospel, recognizing them as the new center of her life), while the hymn from Scripture is chanted, "As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ, alleluia!"
(Most Orthodox in North America admit anyone into the Church who has already been baptized in water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in another Christian confession by chrismation only; this isseen as a way to "fill in that which was lacking" in a non-Orthodox baptism and, thus, make it a true and full baptism, with all the grace God originally intended His creatures to receive upon returning to Him.)
After the initiate finishes the walk around the table, the chrism is washed off, as the priest declares what has already been done -- the newly illumined has been "washed ... sanctified ... justified ... illumined ... by the Spirit of our God."
The rite ends with the priestly blessing and the veneration of the Holy Cross, and is followed by fasting and the Eucharist, which in Xenia's case occurred the following morning at Sunday Divine Liturgy.
We're so thankful that we were blessed to be at this event that had been so long in the making; glory to God for the reception of Julie Xenia into the Church, and may God grant her many years through the prayers of St. Xenia of Petersburg.