August 9, 2023

Homilies on the Symbol of Faith (The Nicene Creed) - Holy Baptism (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

On the Symbol of Faith (The Nicene Creed)
Holy Baptism
By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou
In the tenth article of the Symbol of Faith, the confession about Baptism is given: "I confess one baptism for the remission of sins," that is, we confess that there is one Baptism, by which sins are forgiven.

First of all, it must be clarified what exactly sin is. The Apostle Paul writes: "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23), that is, the sin committed by the First-formed is a deprivation of the glory of God.

This means that before sin, Adam and Eve saw in Paradise the glory of God, the Light of God, that is, they had communion with God. After the sin, they lost the vision of the divine Light, that is, they ceased to have communion with God. And the descendants of Adam lived in this sin, they did not have communion with God, only the Righteous in the Old Testament and the Prophets saw the pre-incarnate Word. But even these, due to the entry of death into their existence, when their soul left the body, went to Hades, that is, to the state of death, from which Christ freed them with His descent into Hades. Therefore, the forgiveness of sins is considered as the return of man to communion with God, to the illumination of the nous and the vision of the glory of God.

Christ with His incarnation assumed human nature and deified it, defeated the devil, sin and death in His Body and offers this gift to those who will be connected with Him. On the day of Pentecost the Disciples became members of the Body of Christ, and with Baptism all can become members of the Body of Christ and return to the natural and supernatural life, that is, to gain unity and communion with Christ "in the light."

Christ began His work by preaching: "Repent; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17). With repentance one returns to the Kingdom of God. Christ Himself said to Nikodemos, who visited Him at night to discuss with Him: "Unless one is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). After His Resurrection, Christ said to His Disciples: "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always even until the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19-20).

This means that the Disciples had to make disciples of the nations in two ways. First, by baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and secondly, by teaching them to observe everything He taught them. And with these conditions He will be with them until the end of the world.

From this it is clearly seen what Baptism is. It is baptism in water, it must be done by immersing the person in water three times, with a confession of the Triune God and a promise that the baptized person will observe all the teaching of Christ that was delivered to the Prophets, the Apostles and the Fathers, as received and taught by the Church, which is the Body of Christ.

The Apostle Paul, with the revelation he received from Christ, teaches that Baptism is participation in the death, burial and Resurrection of Christ. He writes in his letter to the Romans, which we read during the Mystery of Baptism: "As many of us as who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death; therefore we were joined to him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, even so we too should walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:3-4).

Thus, Baptism in the Church has a profound theological meaning, it is not a social ceremony. That is why catechism is preceded by exorcisms. In infant baptism, a confession of faith is given by the sponsor, a certificate of acceptance of all the teachings of Christ, the Apostles, the Fathers and the Ecumenical Synods is given, and a promise is also given that he will keep the commandments of Christ, so that the Grace of God will work for man to enter the Kingdom of God. From this perspective, Baptism is an introductory Mystery, which introduces us to the Church and prepares us for entering the Kingdom of God.

All this shows that there is a close relationship between Christ, faith and baptism, as the Apostle Paul confesses: "One Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Eph. 4:5). Just as Christ is one and His Body is one, and there are not many gods and many bodies, just as the faith that was revealed by Christ and remains in the Church is one, so is baptism, the Orthodox Baptism, one.

This means that those who are outside the Orthodox Church, which is the Body of Christ; those who do not have the same faith as the Church, and do not follow her teaching and life; those who do not believe in an Orthodox manner about the Triune God and both natures of Christ; those who do not observe the canonical form of Baptism, which is baptism in water, and the Mystery is not performed by Orthodox canonical Priests, they are not baptized in an Orthodox manner and their baptism is not valid, it is non-existent.

It is important to write that the Second Ecumenical Synod, which established this article in the Symbol of Faith on Baptism, at the same time defined in its Canons the way in which Baptism will be performed with exactitude, as well as the way in which the Church can accept the baptism of heretics and schismatics by oikonomia. In its seventh Canon, the conditions presupposed are that the confession "be of the same mind as the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of God" and that there be the triple immersion in water.

Finally, the Mystery of Baptism and the Mystery of Chrismation that follows, and the exact way of performing them, is a necessary condition for the forgiveness of sins and the salvation of people, that is, their deification.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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