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Baptism: The Adult and the Child

“Baptism is the door leading to Christ.”

[Part 2 of a series from Raising them Right, a sub-book extracted from The Path to Salvation by St. Theophan the Recluse]

Chapter 2
Baptism: The Adult and the Child

  • Salvation  is not born from trusting in oneself, rather it requires grace.
  • Trusting in oneself quickly reveals the need for grace (i.e. God’s power to overcome sin).
  • It is easy to imagine living a pious Christian life when all is “well” and the soul is undisturbed, but what about when “thought after thought, desire after desire, one worse than the other, begin to disturb the soul… then everyone forgets about himself and involuntarily cries out with the prophet: ‘The waters have come up to my neck!  I sink in deep mire where there is no standing.  I have come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.’ (Psalm 69:1-2). 
  • “Save now, I pray, O Lord; O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity.” (Psalm 118:25)

“All the saints accept the only true path to virtue to be pain and hard work… lightness and ease are a sign of a false path. Anyone who is not struggling, not in podvig, is in prelest” (spiritual delusion).”

-St. Theophan, The Path to Salvation p 209

  • The spirit is indeed willing but the flesh is weak.
    (Matthew 26:41)
  • I see good but do evil (Romans 7:19)
  • We are in captivity. Redeem us, O Lord!

One tactic of the Enemy is to convince us that we do not need extra help, grace or new powers. Therefore if you desire to begin to live in a Christian way, seek grace.”

  • When grace unites to your will, then Christian life is born with new power.
  • Divine grace is acquired through the Mysteries – here we present to God our own worthless nature; and He, by His action, transforms it.
  • How this happens, we do not understand, but the experience of all Christianity testifies that it does not happen otherwise.
  • The Mysteries which primarily refer to the beginning of the Christian life are baptism and repentance.
  • Baptism is the first Mystery (Sacrament) of Christianity; it makes a man worthy to be vouchsafed the gifts of grace through other Mysteries also.
  • Without Baptism one cannot enter into the Christian world and become a member of the Church.
  • Baptism is the door leading to Christ. (p 20)
  • If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • The baptized are children of God… “And if children, then heirs-heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17)
  •  The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to the baptized person…by virtue of his baptism.  He is taken away from the dominion of Satan…entrance into the Church is a safe enclosure.
  • The whole activity of a person by the power of baptism is turned away from oneself and sin and towards God and righteousness.
  • Sin does not have the same power over the baptized person, but it is still in us, it lives and acts, but not as a lord.  The primacy now belongs to the grace of God and to the soul that consciously gives itself over to it.

“Before baptism, sin dwells in the heart and grace acts from outside.  After baptism, grace settles in the heart and sin attracts from outside…that is why there is a constant tempter, a seducer, but no longer a master: he disturbs and alarms, but does not command”.
– St. Diadoch

  • New life is born in baptism.
  • Christian life is put in order in a special way which comes from the relationship of grace to freedom.

About Infant Baptism

The Lord gives grace freely, but he asks that a man seek it and receive it with desire, dedicating himself entirely to God – this is fulfilled in repentance in adults, but what about infants who lack reason and freedom?

“Grace descends upon the soul of an infant and produces in it exactly the same result as if its freedom had participated in this, but only on the condition that in the future, the infant who was not then aware of himself and did not act personally, when he comes to awareness, will himself willingly dedicate himself to God, will receive out of his own desire the grace which has shown its activity in him, will be glad that it exists, will gave thanks that this was done for him, and will confess that if, at the moment of baptism, understanding and freedom had been given to him, he would not have acted otherwise than he did act and would not have wished otherwise.” 
– St. Theophan

  • Sponsors take the grave responsibility of doing everything in their power to aid the infant into making the above dedication to God without fail – yet in the end it is grace that saves through faith – the sponsors can only do so much.
  • When rational and aware, the child or even adult [an indefinite period of time] must by his own free will dedicate himself to God and appropriate to himself the power of grace in himself by receiving it with desire, joy and gratitude.
  • Parents and sponsors now have the fearful duty of providing the baptized child with a Christian upbringing – one that is in accordance with the demands of the grace of baptism and has as its aim the preservation of this grace.
  • As soon as one turns from God though, sin again begins to possess the heart, and through sin the bonds of Satan are laid upon one and the favor of God and the co-inheritance with Christ are taken away.  Grace in an infant weakens and stifles sin, but sin can again come to life and grow if it is given food and freedom.

“…The whole attention of those who have obligation of preserving the Christian child should be directed to not allowing sin in any way to take possession of the child again; crushing sin and making it powerless by every means and arousing and strengthening the child’s orientation towards God.”

What is a Christian upbringing?

  • Frequent Communion of the Holy Mysteries of Christ – as frequent as possible
  • Frequent taking [the child] to Church; kiss the holy Cross, the Gospel the icons
  • Frequent signing [the child] with the sign of the Cross
  • Sprinkling [the child] with holy water
  • Burning incense, receive blessings from the priest
  • Awareness of his Guardian angel for protection
  • A Christian upbringing can be made fruitless by unbelief, carelessness, impiety and bad life of the parents.
  • There is a tie which we cannot understand between the souls of the parents and the soul of the child, and we cannot define the extent of the influence of the former on the latter.

The spirit of faith and piety of the parents should be regarded as the most powerful means for the preservation, upbringing, and strengthening of the life of grace in children. (p 28)

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