Baptism: Blessing Creation

“We can see a concrete example of what Brother Stavros was discussing with Jim, in the rite of baptism, the ‘mystery’ of formal initiation into the Church. All too often, the many layers of meaning in this rite have been reduced to superstition.

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Baptism is not some quaint, legalistic ceremony that magically washes away the stain of original sinfulness. This idea robs it of any real power to challenge and change the tired status quo of the human condition. It also colossally misses the point. Baptism is much more profound than a simple purification ceremony; it vividly symbolizes each person’s death and resurrection by joining them with Christ’s. It is an ancient, dramatic sign of radical change that initiates the baptized into the believing community, a public pledge of a new and deeper life. It is a rite of personal passage, a Passover and entry into this new ‘way’.

The words of the service make this clear. When a priest blesses the baptismal water at the beginning of the service, he affirms the original purpose of the world. Creation is good, and is to be used for the glory of God, which creation proclaims by its very existence. When he breathes on the water, invoking the Spirit of God that hovered over the original waters of creation, the priest draws our attention back to what ‘water’ was in the beginning: grace-filled and blessed by God, to be valued and used by us wisely in order to grow and prosper in body, mind, and spirit.

Water, the primal element of creation, along with the entire physical world, is meant to be the very support, context, and even vehicle of our communion with God. Throughout history, however, many have overlooked this. They have seen creation as an obstacle to God, an impediment, rather than the way to learn about him more deeply. This has resulted not only in a split within us, but also in an estrangement from the external physical environment. Such a view and the way of life that flows from it is a dead end. Wise Christian teaching correctly sees nature as the primary means through which we come to know God, and through which we express our love of God.” (The New Monks of Skete, In the Spirit of Happiness,  pp 184-185)

Sts Cosmas and Damian

Sts Cosmas and Damian are commemorated in the Orthodox Church on November 1.

“Unmercenaries and wonderworkers, they were brothers in the flesh and in the spirt, born somewhere in Asia of a pagan father and a Christian mother. After their father’s death, their mother Theodota devoted all her time and energy to the bringing up of her sons as true Christians. God helped her, and her sons grew as two choice fruits and as two holy lamps. They were skilled in medicine and ministered to the sick without payment, and so fulfilled Christ’s command: ‘Freely you have received; freely give’ (Matt. 10:8).” (Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic, The Prologue from Orchid, p 143)