My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
OUR STATEMENT OF FAITH: THE NICENE CREED ("Symbol of Faith") EXPLAINED (Part V)
Concerning One Baptism for the Remission of Sins
Man becomes a child of the Church through the Mystery (Sacrament) of Holy Baptism. Holy Baptism is the door to Christianity, the beginning of life in God. Baptism restores the image of God in man and bestows the saving power of Christ's redemption feat on him. Through Baptism the Christian receives access to all the Holy Mysteries (Sacraments) and acts of grace of the Church, which lead him to deification (theosis).
Baptism is called the second birth because in it a man dies to his sinful life and is reborn to a new, spiritual, holy life, in which he puts on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:24). Through Baptism men are reconciled with God, cleansed from the impurities of sinful acts by the Divine Spirit, and become fellow citizens with the Saints, and members of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19), and children of God (St. John 1:12).
Just as the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove upon the Lord Jesus Christ during His Baptism in the River Jordan, so in every Christian endowed with Divine Grace in a mystic way during his Baptism. Saint Peter says: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Through the action of God's sanctifying grace in the Mystery (Sacrament) of Baptism all the sins of the person being baptized are forgiven. Man's sinful state is totally eradicated by baptism, and his sins are washed away as if they had never existed. The newly-baptized leaves the font as a new creature.
Our Savior says: "Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God (St. John 3:5). Baptism, therefore, is necessary for every man who enters the Church. Only through Baptism can infants be cleansed of Ancestral ("Original") Sin and enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. They are baptized according to the Lord's words: "Let the children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the Kingdom of Heaven (St. Matthew 19:14); on the basis of Apostolic Tradition, and according to the faith of their parents and godparents.
All the saving actions of Divine Grace are indivisible in the Mystery (Sacrament) of Baptism. Grace, by regenerating man, cleanses him from all sin, justifies and sanctifies him. And, by justifying and sanctifying him before God, Divine Grace makes him a son of God, a member of the Body of Christ the Church and an heir to eternal life.
Water is the substance used in the Mystery (Sacrament) of Baptism. Man has long associated water with the concept of a Life-Giving, Regenerating Power that cleanses and revives nature, a power of vitality necessary for human life. Therefore water in the Mystery (Sacrament) of Baptism is the best symbol of the grace of the Holy Spirit, which cleanses man of sin and regenerates him.
Baptism is administered by triple immersion of the one being baptized, with the intoning of the Holy Name of the Triune God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit Who bestows the power of grace to the Mystery (Sacrament). The Orthodox Church always administers Baptism, as Christ commanded (St. Matthew 28:20), through the invocation of the threefold name. The teaching of the Twelve Apostles, one of the oldest Christian writings (1st-2nd Centuries) says in Chapter 7: "Baptize in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. And, as Saint Athanasius the Great says, "He who takes anything from the Son, or the Father and the Son, without the Spirit receives nothing…for attainment is only in the Trinity.
The Creed ("Symbol of Faith"), just as Saint Paul (Ephesians 4:6), calls us to confess one baptism. This is because regeneration through Grace (is born again St. John 3:3), that man experiences in Baptism, is unique and unrepeatable, just as his natural birth is unique and unrepeatable, and just as Christ's Death and Resurrection are unique.
A Christian should confess his baptism through a life pleasing to God, for Christ Our Savior says: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father Who is in heaven (St. Matthew 5:16). Therefore a man's visible, external life is a reflection of his inner, spiritual life. The Mystery (Sacrament) of Baptism lays the foundation for a new life of grace and the perfection of this life with the help of Divine Grace is the task of every member of the Church. For a Christian the path to the confession of the Grace-bestowing gifts of Baptism lies through living faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 1:15-16), a life according to faith (St. James 2:20), membership in Christ's Church, and a constant sense of prayerful repentance (Hebrews 13:15; Acts 17:30).
Saint Paul tells us: "without faith it is impossible to please [God] (Hebrews 11:6). The basis of the Christian's spiritual life is faith in Jesus Christ, in the Triune God, in the Divine Economy of our salvation, and in the Holy Orthodox Church. Living faith in Christ perfects the Christian, makes him wise and firm, and gives him joy and the life eternal (St. James 1:4-8, 12).
In addition to his heartfelt faith in Christ, the Christian should confess his Baptism through his life in faith. A Christian life is a constant struggle against sinful temptations, a feat assisted by Divine Grace. In translating the Savior's Gospel into life, a Christian is serving the Commandments of goodness and justice on the basis of the pure teaching of the Gospel.
A Christian can attain perfection in his spiritual life through constant prayer in church and at home. Prayer is a means of constant communion and union with God. It preserves a man from spiritual fall and maintains him on the path of spiritual ascension. Prayerful communion with God rewards the person praying with great spiritual consolations: an ineffable joy, peace and an inexplicable feeling of blessedness, which serves as a guarantee of our future total union with God in His Kingdom.
Prayer must be accomplished by a sense of repentance, which is the basis of a spiritual feat. Repentance is necessary to achieve a living faith in Christ and to maintain this faith. Without true repentance a Christian cannot attain a single virtue. A repentant feeling saves a man from many pitfalls on the path to salvation. Penitence is a second baptism and renews the grace of our first baptism; for he who truly repents and promises to turn away from sin is not only forgiven, but his sin is erased by God, as well, and he attains the purity and sanctity given him at Baptism.
The confession of Baptism through a deep, truly Christian spiritual life is only possible if a man is a member of the Church, the Body of Christ. In the Church he is made one with Christ. Christ our Savior not only revealed God to man and drew us closer to Him, but also showed us a perfect model of sanctity, what a man's inner, spiritual essence should be.
Next: CONCERNING THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"-Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God