This last weekend was a little busier than our typical Thanksgiving holidays are. My grandson was baptised on Saturday into the Greek Orthodox faith. It was kind of a big day.
I like to joke that an Orthodox Christian baptism is like a basting and a braising since part of the ceremony involves rubbing the baby (or any age person) with holy oil and then dunking them into blessed water. I guess my affinity for cooking makes those jokes funny to people like me. Other people tend to politely chuckle.In reality, the ceremony is based on ancient traditions filled with symbolism. It’s a celebration rich with history and meaning. It starts just outside the main doors of the church to show that the person being baptised has not yet become an Orthodox Christian. Eventually the person being baptised is “bathed” in holy water, a practice that goes back to the time of St. John the Baptist who baptised Jesus in the River Jordan. The immersion in the water represents the washing away of ones sins.
The person being baptised gets dried off with a white towel and has new clothing put on, all in white to represent purity. Usually, babies do well up until this point. The water in the font is often heated to make a nice little bath, but aren’t too happy when they are taken out before they get a chance to play! They are even less happy about being forced into awkward clothing in a bit of a rush and handed off to someone that isn’t Mom or Dad. It’s one of the few times that a bunch of people will “ooohhh” and “aaahhhh” and “ohhhhh, so cute” over a baby that is screaming hysterically. It really is cute, though.
Typically baptism is done when one is an infant, to allow for that child to be able to partake in Holy Communion throughout their lives. I know that in many Christian denominations baptism or chrismation is put off until the child is older and able to make the conscious choice to be baptised. In the Eastern Orthodox faith, we believe that even if a child is baptised without being able to ask, that person will still be responsible for living their life as an Orthodox Christian. That becomes their choice to continue that path.
If you would like to know more about the details of an Orthodox Christian baptism, I encourage you to check out this article that explains what takes place during each step, and what the symbolic meaning is of each part of the practice. It really is a beautiful ceremony and takes about 30 – 45 minutes to complete. You can also watch a video of one here.