Christ is risen!
Now that Great Lent is over, I have the pleasure of greeting all my readers with “Christ is risen!”
I also have more time to return to normal activity on this site.
Traditionally, in the Orthodox Church, Pascha (Easter) is the time when new converts are received into the Church through baptism and chrismation.
Recently, in my reading, I came across a discussion of baptism from St. Symeon the New Theologian (11th century).
He’s wrestling with the meaning of baptism.
Baptism = Death and Rising
According to scripture and the Orthodox Church, the overarching idea is that in baptism you are buried with Christ into his death (Romans 6:4, Colossians 2:12) and, when you rise out of the waters, you have become a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17) by putting on Christ (Galatians 3:27).
Of course, one of the most famous hymns of Orthodoxy comes from the baptismal service:
“As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Alleluia.”
But, all too often baptism is seen, not as putting on Christ, but as a simple rite of passage – something parents do when their kids are born.
O, how priests’ hearts are broken when parents bring their babies for baptism only for the parents to take their children away and never bring them to church to commune weekly with the living God.
O, how priests’ hearts are broken when new converts fall away from the faith.
St. Symeon also struggled with these thoughts.
He looked at it this way:
“If the baptized have put on Christ, what is it that they have put on? God. He then who has put on God, will he not recognize with his intellect and see what he has clothed himself with? The man who has clothed his naked body feels the garment that he sees, but the man who is naked in soul will not know that he has put on God? If he who is clothed with God does not perceive Him, what has he put on in fact? …nothing at all. For, if He [Christ] were something, those putting Him on would know it. When we put nothing on, we feel nothing, but whenever we are clothed by ourselves or by others, so long as our senses are intact, we are quite aware of it. Only the dead feel nothing when they are clothed…” (Fifth Ethical Discourse).
For those who fall away, he wonders whether the “new illumined” (those who have recently been baptized) have really put on Christ.
Perhaps they’re still walking around naked?
Nonetheless, we have a God of mercy and love. Like the Prodigal Son, we can always return to our Father in Heaven who will not hesitate to bring out his robe and clothe us with it. Amen!
P.S. Clothe Yourself in Christ!
St. Elias the Prophet (419 N. Grandview Ave., Dubuque)
Saturdays: Great Vespers, 4 pm
Sundays: Orthros, 9 am; Divine Liturgy, 10 am
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