January 6, 2016

Theophany (An Essay of Alexandros Papadiamantis)

By Alexandros Papadiamantis

Today our Church celebrates the great feast, and makes mention of the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan. John the Forerunner and Baptist, as an embryo in the womb knew his Redeemer and leapt for joy, and as a man was the first to believe, pointing towards and declaring Christ. "Behold, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world," he said as he saw Christ walking. "One is coming after me, whose sandal straps I am not worthy to untie," he said to his disciples. Upon which his disciples left him, and followed Jesus, wherefore John remained firm and submitted saying: "He must increase, while I must decrease." Among these disciples of John were Andrew the First-called and brother of Simon Peter, who was the first of the Apostles to confess Christ, saying: "Rabbi, you are the Christ, the Son of God, you are the King of Israel." To this John, who preached and baptized with the baptism of repentance, Christ came as a man and was baptized to give an example.

Because I am speaking of Baptism, I think it would be good to hereby submit practical comments regarding the way Baptism is celebrated among us.

The old practical and formed priests, although called uneducated, knew how to properly perform the three immersions and surfacings, holding the baptized upright while looking towards the east, applying the right hand under the pit of the infant delicately yet securely, and blocking with the left hand its mouth. They took care of the temperature of the water and each immersion was done instantaneous, and the break between each immersion was enough for the infant to breathe.*

In this way nothing ever happened with the baptized in the font. Today's swarm of priests however, who are often uncouth and uncultivated and corrupt policies require to be ordained by the Hierarchy, poorly execute, or rather wrongly omit with another type, must at least respect this foundation of our faith, Holy Baptism.

We write this, because we have reason to believe that many priests, grant to the blind and foolish and overly affectionate ignorant and preventive parents, who think that something will happen to their darling newborn in the sacred font, basically performing sprinkling, not Baptism.

The Western Church is excusable, because they are ignorant of the Greek word βαπτίζω, or baptizo, which means to submerge or immerse or dip into; but Greeks must not be ignorant.

It is time to protect this sacred form, because if the ignorance of the clergy continues, and unbelief and impiety abound, within a generation all of us will only be half baptized, and they will entreat that a general rebaptism be prescribed of all the inhabitants of the Greek Kingdom, males and females. Those who approach our Church from the West to enter within require rebaptism, and the Armenians are only chrismated, because they are properly baptized with three immersions and surfacings, but the former only by sprinkling.

"Let us be preserved, O believers, in grace and by the seal; for, as the Jews escaped of old from destruction by smearing their thresholds with blood, thus shall this divine cleansing be for us the cleansing of rebirth, a way wherein we shall see the never-setting Light of the Trinity" (Ninth Ode of the Fist Canon of the Theophany).

* All of these details, which even the priests do not know well, may seem strange at first glance. But those who have read the biography of Papadiamantis and have followed him since their childhood years, will remember that this son of a priest observed his father step by step in all the liturgies and services, helping him as a chanter and asking about religious details and forms, because his father was an archaic priest, a descendant and student of the Kollyvades of Skiathos, and knew deep within him the old ecclesiastical order, and kept it zealously. Papadiamantis has written other similar special liturgical texts, where he scathingly denounced various irregularities and omissions, such as "Memorials and Purgatory", "Priests of the Cities and Priests of the Villages", etc. His short story "The Songs of God" has its source and inspiration from the simple fact of an ecclesiastical irregularity, which Papadiamantis wanted to criticize. The irregularity was that at the funeral of an infant a special service was not chanted, but rather the common funeral service. Another ecclesiastical irregularity is presented in the short story "The Monk", and there are others scattered in his short stories.

Source: From "Ἐφημερίς", 6 January 1888. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.