Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Born Again

Our little boy was baptized last weekend. He has been born again, only four months after he first saw the light of day.

There has always been feeling of relief which has accompanied the baptisms of my children. The time between a baby's birth and his or her entrance into the Church seems somewhat unsettled in my mind - as though the arrival of this new family member is not quite complete until he is a member of the Body of Christ. Each time I receive Holy Communion between the baby's churching and his baptism, I always feel a little sad that my baby is not yet able to be in communion with the rest of us. He is not yet a Christian. 

The beauty of being born again, and putting off the old man is brought out wonderfully in the prayers of the baptism:

O Lord of Sabaoth, the God of Israel, who healest every malady and every infirmity: Look upon Thy servant; prove him and search him, and root out of him every operation of the Devil. Rebuke the unclean spirits and expel them, and purify the works of Thy hands; and exerting Thy trenchant might, speedily crush down Satan under his feet; give him victory over the same, over his foul spirits; that having obtained mercy from Thee, he may be worthy to partake of Thy heavenly Mysteries...
...deliver also this Thy creature from the bondage of the enemy, receive him into Thy heavenly kingdom....
Expel from him every evil and impure spirit which hideth and maketh its lair in his heart...
And make him a reason-endowed sheep in the holy flock of Thy Christ, an honorable member of Thy Church, a child of the light, and an heir of Thy Kingdom; that having lived in accordance with thy commandments, and preserved inviolate the Seal, and kept his garment undefiled, he may receive the blessedness of the Saints in Thy Kingdom....
Wherefore, O Lord, manifest Thyself in this water, and grant that he who is baptized therein may be transformed; that he may put away from him the old man, which is corrupt through the lusts of the flesh, and that he may be clothed upon with the new man, and renewed after the image of Him who created him; that being buried, after the pattern of thy death, in baptism, he may, in like manner, be a partaker of Thy Resurrection...

I am thankful that we Orthodox practice infant baptism. The mystery which unites us as one body in the Church includes even the smallest members of our community. Each child is considered a real, complete, actual person. Personhood is not limited only to those capable of expressing rational thought through speech, rather personhood is something that each of us is born with. Therefore a baby person can be just as important a part of Christ's body as an adult person. 

A baby does not have to wait until he is older to begin his walk with Christ. He can start now, as soon as his parents and god-parents help him by making him part of the life of the Church. The common bond we all share as we seek the kingdom does not consider age a factor. We are all warriors, aiming for the crown of life. 

He who hath put on thee, O Christ our God, boweth also his head with us, unto thee. Keep him ever a warrior invincible in every attack of those who assail him and us; and make us all victors, even unto the end, through Thy crown incorruptible.

The prayers at the blessing of the waters are full of powerful words. One could easily spend years meditating on these words, line by line:  
...Let all adverse powers be crushed beneath the sign of the image of Thy Cross... 
 Make it the fountain of incorruption, the gift of sanctification, the remission of sins, the remedy of infirmities, the final destruction of demons, unassailable by hostile powers, filled with Angelic might; that those who would ensnare Thy creature will flee far from it. For we have called upon Thy Name, O Lord, and it is wonderful and glorious, and terrible unto adversaries.
 But do Thou, Master of all, show this water to be the water of redemption, the water of sanctification, the purification of flesh and spirit, the loosing of bonds, the remission of sins, the illumination of the soul, the laver of regeneration, the renewal of the spirit, the gift of adoption to sonship, the garment of incorruption, the fountain of life. 

 My favorite part of the service is the sacrament of Chrismation, where the newly baptized Christian receives the Holy Spirit. The priest anoints him with the Holy Chrism, saying,"The Seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit", while the godparents and the people present respond by saying, "Seal!". Even my three year old daughter was able to participate in this confirmation, gladly welcoming the newest member of our church family with the exclamation of delight and joy.

Then comes the new Christian's first communion; his first partaking of the Holy Eucharist, wherein he gives thanks to God by his taking into himself the Body and Blood of Christ. He is now truly a member of our Body.

And now we can settle in, and begin the intricate dance of modeling and imitating that makes up the life of a family. We will have hard times and wonderful times and plain old every-day times. But the life in Christ has begun. May it continue through eternity!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Wednesdays with Words: Les Mis

I'm about two thirds of the way through Les Miserables. Victor Hugo is truly a masterful writer. I am enjoying this mammoth of a book so much that I think I'll be sorry to finish it. 

Here are a some words that especially struck me:
He could say the loftiest things in the simplest language; and as he could speak all dialects, his words penetrated every soul. 

"Man has a body that is both his burden and his temptation. He drags it along and gives in to it. He ought to watch over it and keep it in bounds, repress it, and obey it only as a last resort. It may be wrong to obey it even then, but if so the fault is venial. It is a fall, but a fall onto the knees, which may end in prayer."

....nothing is more dangerous than discontinued labor; it is habit lost. A habit easy to abandon, difficult to resume.