Monday, August 16, 2010

Baptism: A Community Event- part 2 (by Clint)

Hale Baptism from Fr. James Early on Vimeo.

This is the second part of this discussion. The first part can be read here.

One way in which the desired unity is still practiced is by the taking of a Saint’s name at Baptism. In this way, the new Christian symbolizes his or her unity to the Church, both on earth and in heaven. The personal experience that I have had demonstrated this. I took St. Juvenaly, Proto-martyer, as my Patron. In this way, not only do I have a tangible person to pray to and with, but I am also able to identify with the reality that I am a part of a larger whole – much of which I cannot personally see. Yet that reality is there, nonetheless.

Another tangible way in which the ecclesial nature of Baptism is made manifest is by the connection it has with the Eucharist. St. Paul addressed this issue to the Church in Corinth, dealing with abuses that they were committing (1 Corinthians 11). The logical connection between the two is not difficult to discern. The Revelation of St. John shows us that Christ himself “loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood” at baptism (1:5). In the same way, at the Eucharist, Christians consume the body and blood of Jesus. The cup (of Christ’s blood) represents and renews the covenant made at Baptism. Early Church Fathers demonstrated that the identity and existence Christians obtain at Baptism is demonstrated fully in the Church’s existence as a “Eucharistic community." Just as Baptism serves as the entrance into that community, so the Eucharist serves as the very life of God that comes into the community.

Fr. Schmemman declared that “…Baptism, Chrismation and Eucharist ‘belong together’…in such a way that it is impossible fully to understand the meaning of one in separation and isolation from the other two." It is in the communion of the Mysteries that the climax of the liturgy is reached (of which Baptism is a part). In this way, the Eucharist is the fulfillment of Baptism. Through Baptism, Christians are born anew to partake of the Life of Christ, which is fully manifested in the Eucharist. We read in Leviticus 17:11 that life is in the blood and it is blood that makes atonement for sin, referring specifically to Christ’s sacrifice, His Blood, and the life that comes from it. The Christian comes into contact with that blood for the first time at Baptism and partakes of that blood each time the Eucharist is consumed.

The desired result of the consumption of the body and blood of Christ is to have His body and blood become intermingled with our own. We hope to develop the mind of Christ and to be able to declare with St. Paul, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Since this journey toward Christ-likeness began at Baptism and is furthered by the participation in the Eucharist, the two Sacraments are intimately related. Identity and Unity were conferred at Baptism. It is via the Eucharist that the Christian is continually carried into the Heavenlies, to take on the reality of Christ. He again passes from the old into the new, from the world into the heavens. He received life at Baptism and consumes the Mysteries in order to live. In the body and blood of Christ, God has infused life-giving power.

to be continued...


charlene said...

Thank you for another piece that helps us put together what it means to be Orthodox. In life, we often develop routines, and the routine becomes so common to us that we forget its original meaning. For example, when I sing the Star Spangled Banner, the words guide effortlessly off my tongue. But when was the last time I examined the words in detail and thought deeply about their meaning? The connctions you have made for us here will help us experience the mystery of the Eucharist more fully than we have been. I found the Galatians quote particularly helpful:"I no longer live, but Christ lives in me" as the goal to be aimed for through the Eucharist.

Clint said...

Glad you find the article useful. I really was supposed to write about baptism, but I found the two concepts so intertwined that I had a hard time dividing between them - so I didn't. One without the other seemed pointless.