This week we began bleaching the exterior of our cabin. We applied a special mixture of Trisodium Phosphate, Clorox and water to the exterior and then rinsed with the power of a high pressure washer and this process removed all the oil and stains that have weathered and blemished our logs over the last year. Once dried, this process readies the logs for a protective coat to be installed to defend the wood from the rot, wood boring bugs and hopefully hard-headed woodpeckers.
We Christians also use a special mixture to remove our sinful stains and blemishes. We Orthodox use prayer, blessed oil and water and the help of the Holy Spirit. We call this process baptism. Baptism in the Church begins with the rejection of Satan and the acceptance of Christ. Before being baptized, a person, or his sponsors or godparents, officially proclaims the symbol of Christian faith, the Creed. Because the godparent speaks on behalf of the child, sponsors his entrance into the Church and “receives” the child out of the baptismal waters into the Church and cares for his spiritual life, the godparent himself must be an active member of the Church.
In the Christian Church the practice of baptism takes on a new and particular significance. It no longer remains merely a sign of moral change and spiritual rebirth. It becomes very specifically the act of a person’s death and resurrection in and with Jesus. Christian baptism is man’s participation in the event of Pascha. It is a “new birth by water and the Holy Spirit” into the Kingdom of God (Jn 3.5).
On this day we remember the patron saint of godparents and his sacrifice paid for his faith in Christ. St. John the Baptist lured people into the river water and by the power of the Almighty removed their stains and through their repentance their lives were changed.
St. John’s father, Priest Zacharias was murdered in the temple and his mother Elizabeth (daughter of Aaron and cousin of the blessed Theotokos) took the young lad into the desert where he was raised. Later as a young adult, St. John began to preach about the necessity of repentance and self-sacrifice. He denounced the Sadducees and Pharisees and warned the tax collectors and soldiers against extortion and plunder.
St. John baptized thousands of people as a sign of repentance and a preparation for the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus was also baptized by St. John not because he was sinful and needed to repent, but because in allowing himself to be baptized he showed that indeed he was God’s “Beloved Son,” the Saviour and Messiah, the “Lamb of God who takes upon himself the sins of the world” (Mt 3, Mk 1, Lk 3, Jn 1–3).
Our baptismal water is prayed over and blessed as the sign of the goodness of God’s creation. The catechumen to be baptized is also prayed over and blessed with sanctified oil as the sign that his creation by God is holy and good. And then, after the solemn proclamation of “Alleluia” (from Hebrew, meaning “God be praised”), the person is immersed three times in the water in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Through the act of immersion, the baptized person dies to this world and is born again in the resurrection of Christ into eternal life. He is clothed with the “garments of salvation” symbolized by the white baptismal robe which is the “new humanity” of Jesus himself who is the new and heavenly Adam (Jn 3, Rom 5, 1 Cor 15). Thus, the words of the Apostle Paul are chanted as the newly-baptized is led in procession around the baptismal font three times as the symbol of his procession to the Kingdom of God and his entrance into eternal life: “For as many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Alleluia” (Gal 3.27).
I pray that your baptismal waters bleached away all your stains and the protective coating of salvation in Jesus Christ shed away all the sinful rot, fungus and the hard-headed woodpeckers of a world which is lost in the desert and in need of a Savior.
Fr. Gabriel Weller 9-11-2016