Saint Philip Greek Orthodox Church
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,…" (Matthew 28:19).
With these words, the Lord sent his disciples as apostles into the world. They were the last words He spoke before His Ascension, and they define the entire life of the Church from that time. In them we see the centrality to the Christian life of the Sacrament of Baptism.
For all that it is central to our life in Christ, Baptism is perhaps the least understood of the Sacraments. We know that it is necessary, but few of our people could say that they truly understand what it means, and why it is the central rite of initiation in the Orthodox Christian Faith.
To understand this, we must return to Christ's baptism. For in His baptism at the hands of John in the Jordan, He prefigured His Death and Resurrection, and at the same time showed us what those great events meant. By immersing Himself in the water, He signifies the harmony, the union between Creator and Creation which He establishes by His presence in our midst, and which was completed in His death and descent into Hades. By rising again from the water, He prophecies His glorious Resurrection, by which He transforms our life, leading us and all creation from Hades into Paradise, from sorrow into rejoicing, from darkness into glory.
In our baptism, then, there is a reciprocity. As Christ joined Himself to our nature, we too now join ourselves to His nature. By our three-fold immersion beneath the water, we die to what we have been before; by our rising again from the water, the love and grace of God is granted to us, bringing transformation and newness of life; and by the invocation of the Holy Trinity as we are immersed and brought up again, we become partakers of the Divine Nature as we gain the title "Christian," or "Christ-like." In our baptism, we experience our own, personal Pascha, dying and rising again with Christ.
After the Baptism, we are Chrismated, receiving the "Seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit," in our own personal Pentecost, following which we are tonsured, offering the first of our hair to the Lord, and are then clothed in the white garment of righteousness granted to those who are called by Christ's name and baptized into His life. And finally, we receive Holy Communion for the first time, becoming full communicants and participants in the life of the Church.
Items Needed for the Baptism
It is customary for the godparents to provide the following. However, some parents may wish to provide some of these items:
White clothes to be worn by the child after baptism
A new white undergarment (t-shirt or one-piece garment)
A baptismal Cross to be worn by the child (not a crucifix)
A new large white bath towel
A new white single bed sheet or crib sheet
A bar of white soap
A new white hand towel
A bottle of olive oil (at least 8.5 oz.)
One large decorated baptismal candle & two or three small decorated candles
Martyrika or witness pins (optional)
Honorarium (recommended) donation of $50/each to the Chantor and the Sexton (responsible for setup and basic cleanup after the service). This is often the same person, so please confirm with the office how many helpers will be present.
After the Baptism
By custom, three days after the Baptism the child is bathed in a tub. The water from this tub must not go in any drain but poured around the foundations of the home, a planter, or in an area where no one would walk. Care must also be taken with the towels and sheets that were used during the Baptism. These also must be rinsed in a tub before washing conventionally; the rinsing water should be disposed of in the same manner mentioned above.
The child is brought to church for the next three Sundays in its baptismal outfit and candle, by the godparents and/or parents to receive Holy Communion. It is expected that the child be brought to church regularly and frequently.
When Baptisms are not Conducted
Baptisms may not be performed from Christmas Day through the feast of Theophany (December 25 to January 6), during Holy Week, or on any of the Great Feastdays of the Lord. Baptisms may be done during seasons of fasting, such as Great Lent, the Dormition Fast and during the Christmas Advent. However, due to the solemnity and fasting expectations of these days, it is preferred to schedule Baptisms outside these holy seasons. Any questions or concerns may be brought to the priest's attention.