The sacraments of Baptism and Charismation are the initial sacraments which bring us entry into the Church. They are as fundamental to entering the Church, as is birth to life. As these precious souls join us through their baptism, they become full and precious member of the Orthodox Church. These are not mere symbolic actions, at least as we tend to interpret symbolism. However, the Greek understanding of the word “Symbolo” would be accurate. The symbolic act includes a merging together, and being completely immersed in and part of the symbol. This is a baptism of power and fire! As John the Baptist says in Luke: “I indeed baptize you in water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loosen. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Christ Himself says: “I came to send fire upon the earth and how I wish it were already kindled.”
These four will be the first in line to receive communion at Divine Liturgy, as feeding on the body and blood of Christ is fundamental to their health and spiritual growth. Their re-birth into the Kingdom of God in baptism, and the grace and nourishment that they will constantly receive from communion, are gifts of Grace from God, and are mysteries far beyond the limiting boundaries of reason and our natural human intellect. Communion is the “medicine of immortality” and draws us from our earthly created realm to the Kingdom of God. We can never be worthy to receive, only ever grateful for Christ’s great love and acceptance of us, in granting us life and salvation!
As we participate in their baptism, let us renew our own commitment to work with the grace given us in our baptism, and pray that we may re-new the beauty and protection of our baptismal garment. Let us not be found to be seated at the great wedding feast with our baptismal robe stained beyond recognition. We know the fate of that one, who was graciously allowed to come into the great wedding feast, yet did not accept the wedding garment offered by the doorkeeper. We heard this lesson of the great wedding feast last week. The King found him among the guests in his soiled clothes, and had him thrown out into the outer darkness. The King was providing the wedding clothes for all who came, why did not the guest graciously accept the new garment?
We all come out of the baptismal waters completely cleansed and clothed in a robe of light which remains with us all. However, living in this sinful and fallen world, it is inevitable that our wonderful robe of light, shining with the glory of Christ Himself, will start to collect some stains as we travel through life. All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. So we all, to varying degrees, have through our carelessness and foolishness and lack of understanding, stained our most precious treasure, the robe of salvation, that we have been clothed in at our baptism. Each of these stains block a little of the ineffable light, radiating from our baptismal robe. If we allow these stains to accumulate, and never stop to have them washed off – through the cleansing action of our tears of repentance and confession, and the grace of God’s forgiveness – it can almost seem as if the gentle glowing illumination of our baptismal gown has been extinguished, by the layers of stains we have allowed to accumulate. I have good news! The robe is still in place, glowing with the indistinguishable light of Christ. But we need to come to Christ, who clothed us at our baptism, and allow Him to wash away the stains. Then once again the wonderful splendour and light from our garment of salvation, will begin to noticeably shine forth. This is an ongoing process of course, as once the larger darker stains begin to be washed away, and we start to be more careful about not adding more of these ugly stains, the light starts to more visibly shine through once again. Once we have better light, we then start to notice smaller, lighter stains that still need to be cleansed. Even these smaller stains which we never really noticed before start to look very bad under brighter illumination. And so it goes, until we come to desire anything interfering with the pure light of our Lord be removed, as far as the east is from the west, and we continually ask for His cleansing. By coming and regularly receiving His body and blood, through prayer, repentance and confession, forgiveness and all of the many ways the Lord has given to us to draw near to Him, we slowly and steadily run the race. It is a great marathon – once around the world – not a sprint!
So, as we join these newly baptised today, and see them shining forth in their brand new robe of light, let us entreat our Saviour and Creator, the most merciful Christ our God, that we too may have our baptismal gowns cleansed and renewed. Let us ask Him to renew in us, our desire to follow Him in all things, and to keep unspotted that precious robe of light we were given, when we first put on Christ at our baptism. Glory to Jesus Christ!