In the Orthodox Church
today, as in the Church of the early centuries, the three sacraments
of Christian initiation
— Baptism, Confirmation, First Communion — are linked closely together.
An Orthodox who becomes
a member of Christ is admitted at once to the full privileges
of such membership.
Orthodox children are
not only baptized in infancy, but confirmed in infancy, and given
communion in infancy. “Suffer
the little children to come to me, and forbid them not; for of such
is the Kingdom of
There are two essential
elements in the act of Baptism: the invocation of the Name of the
Trinity, and the threefold
immersion in water. The priest says: ‘The servant of God [name] is
baptized into the Name
of the Father, Amen. And of the Son, Amen. And of the Holy Spirit,
Amen.’ As the name of
each person in the Trinity is mentioned, the priest immerses the child in
the font, either
plunging it entirely under the water, or at any rate pouring water over the
of its body. If the
person to be baptized is so ill that immersion would endanger his life, then it
sufficient to pour water
over his forehead; but otherwise immersion must not be omitted.
Orthodox are greatly
distressed by the fact that western Christendom, abandoning the primitive
practice of Baptism by
immersion, is now content merely to pour a little water over the candidate’s
regards immersion as essential (except in emergencies), for if there
is no immersion the
correspondence between outward sign and inward meaning is lost, and the
symbolism of the
sacrament is overthrown. Baptism signifies a mystical burial and resurrection
with Christ (Romans
6:4-5 and Colossians 2:12); and the outward sign of this is the plunging of
the candidate into the
font, followed by his emergence from the water. Sacramental symbolism
therefore requires that
he shall be immersed or ‘buried’ in the waters of Baptism, and then ‘rise’
out of them once more.
Through Baptism we
receive a full forgiveness of all sin, whether original or actual; we ‘put
on Christ,’ becoming
members of His Body the Church. To remind them of their Baptism, Orthodox
Christians usually wear
throughout life a small Cross, hung round the neck on a chain.
Baptism must normally be
performed by a bishop or a priest. In cases of emergency, it can
be performed by a
deacon, or by any man or woman, provided they are Christian. But whereas
theologians hold that if necessary even a non-Christian can administer Baptism.
Orthodoxy holds that
this is not possible. The person who baptizes must himself have been baptized.