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Baptism Day


Today, water baptism is most readily identified with Christianity, where it symbolizes the cleansing (remission) of sins, and the union of the believer with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection so that he becomes one of Christ's Faithful. Most Christian groups practice some form of literal water-based baptism and agree that it is important, yet strongly disagree with other groups regarding any or all of several aspects of baptism, such as:

* form of the baptism
* recipients of baptism
* meaning/effects of the act of baptism

However, a few Christian groups assert that water-based baptism has been supplanted by the promised baptism of the Holy Spirit, and water baptism was unnecessarily carried over from the early Jewish Christian practice.

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Baptism


Baptism in the early Church, and those churches who continue the Apostolic traditions today, holds far more meaning than just for the remission of sins. This was expressed in many ways, but none so clearly than the baptizing of infants. In the early Christian Church baptizing infants before they know what is going on was a very common practice considered as an expression of God's great love for us. When infants were brought to baptism it was not because they believe but in order that they might believe. Baptism plants the seed of faith in every human soul and then is nourished by Christian training in the family and in the church. This seed of faith, when nourished properly, will grow to produce a mature Christian. Baptism introduces us to the love of God and opens us to the grace of the Holy Spirit with no requirement of understanding the awesome gift and adoption we receive through Baptism.

Saint John Chrysostom (4th Century) writes, "For this reason we baptize children, although they have no sins ... in order to confer upon them sanctification, adoption, inheritance ... that they may be members of Christ and become the abode of the Holy Spirit." In the New Testament the Apostle Peter said, "Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself." (Acts 2:38, 39)

Even the Old Testament symbols of salvation and baptism include infants. For example, Circumcision, the sign of God's covenant between the people of Abraham and Himself, was performed on every male child who was eight days old (Genesis 17:12). Whether or not you believe in infant baptism, as the Apostles and early Christian Church did, we can all find common ground in the many positive meanings of baptism that extend beyond the remission of sins; "birth", "new birth", "clothing", "anointing", "gifts", "washing", "enlightening", "refashioning", "seal", etc.

I'll close with the inspiration words of Saint Gregory of Sinai (late 13th and early 14th centuries) when he was teaching about baptism, "Become what you already are, find Him Who is already yours, listen to Him Who never ceases speaking to you, own Him Who already owns you."

May the peace and love of our Lord, Jesus Christ, be with you now and unto the endless ages. Amen.

About the Author
Priest/Pastor of Saint Katherine of Alexandria Orthodox Church. Saint Katherine's is a Western-Rite Orthodox Church located in Collierville, TN. For more information, you can visit http://www.saintkatherineorthodoxchurch.org


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