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November 19, 2021

Homilies on the Holy Mysteries - The Mystery of Baptism (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

The Mystery of Baptism

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

A necessary condition for becoming a Christian, my beloved brethren, is the mystery of Baptism, which is called by the Holy Fathers an "introductory mystery", because through it we enter the ecclesiastical life and become members of the Body of Christ and at the same time members of the Church.

Holy Baptism is also called "birth", because through it we are spiritually reborn. Man is born twice, once biologically from his mother and the other spiritually from his spiritual mother who is the Church. In both cases there is a womb; in the first it is the womb of the mother, in the second case it is the spiritual womb, which is the sacred Font. There is a third birth that comes from repentance and from the spiritual struggle that takes place with the Grace of God and our conscious and free response to it.

With Holy Baptism we acquire a spiritual family, which differs from our carnal family. The carnal family has restrictions on blood, race, homeland, while the spiritual family does not have such racial restrictions, since members of the Church are those who are Orthodox throughout the earth, regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity. But also members are the saints who have left this world and live in Heaven.

However, we must emphasize that Baptism, as we see in the ancient tradition, is preceded by catechism. And when we say catechism we do not mean only the offering of the teaching of the faith orally, but also the purification from the passions. That is, in the ancient Church there was the catechism class, in which were those who wanted to be baptized and who learned how to purify the heart from passions and to obtain, by the Grace of God, the illumination of the nous. When a person reached such a spiritual state, they accepted Holy Baptism and became a true member of the Church. But when they sinned with Baptism, then they fell back into the ranks of the penitents. Over time infant baptism was introduced, because the Church was confident that Christian families would help their children grow up Christian. Thus they were granted the gift of Holy Baptism as a spiritual vaccine, so that they could face the attacks of the enemy with victory by the Grace and energy of God.

During the catechumen ceremony that precedes Baptism there are three acts, which show the great value of the mystery of Baptism. The first is the renunciation of Satan with all his worship, the second is the acceptance of Christ and the third is the worship of Christ.

With Holy Baptism we are born into a new life, we gain the opportunity to grow spiritually, the image of God within us is purified and we have the opportunity to reach likeness with God. With the Grace of Baptism we can pray and call God "Father" and other people our brethren, we can face the machinations of the devil, we have the ability to commune of the Immaculate Mysteries and, of course, depending on our spiritual condition, we can fulfill our purpose for being created.

Let us praise God for the great gift that we are baptized Orthodox Christians.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.