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TEACHING ABOUT HOLY BAPTISM
Even though the Mysteries of Holy Baptism and Holy Chrismation take place at the same time, we are devoting separate pages to them, as there is a lot of information to cover for each Mystery. You can choose to teach them both in one lesson, or to devote a separate lesson to each one. Please find our page on Holy Chrismation HERE.
At the end of the lesson, the students should be able to:
- Say the words “Baptism” and “godparent“.
- Mention that Baptism takes place together with Holy Chrismation.
- Explain that, through the Mysteries of Baptism and Chrismation, we become members of the Church.
- Explain that they, too, became members of the Church by being baptized and chrismated when they were babies.
- Name their godparents and how they relate to them (godparents give them their Pascha candles every year, they come with them to church, they talk to them about the Faith, they pray for them).
- Point to our Lord in the icon of Theophany and explain that He, too, is being baptized.
- Act out the immersion of a Baptism using a doll.
- Mention some of the objects used in Baptism: baptismal font, white garments, water.
In addition to the above, the older children should also be able to:
- Explain that the blessing of the Holy Spirit passes to us through the sanctified baptismal water.
- Mention some of the events that occur during a Baptism (acceptance of Christ, Creed, anointing with oil, immersion, Chrismation, procession around the baptismal font, tonsure).
- Mention some of the symbolisms in the rite of the Mystery of Baptism (oil = athlete for Christ, water = cleansing of sin, white robe = purity and enlightenment, tonsure = dedication to Christ).
- Describe the icon of Theophany in more detail.
- Say or chant a phrase from a relative hymn.
Planning the lesson
Using our material and some external resources, a lesson on Holy Baptism could go as follows:
- Introduce the Mystery by showing the immersion of the baptized infant from the Baptism & Chrismation video by the Greek Orthodox Church of America.
- If possible, show photos from the Baptisms of the children (ask the parents in advance to provide you with some), and facilitate a discussion.
- Act out a Baptism using a doll and some simple props (a bowl of water, a white garment, possibly also oil for the anointment).
- Discuss the relevant icon.
- Work on reinforcement activities.
In the printable packet, we are offering the following activities:
- Fact sheet and corresponding worksheet (for the older children)
- Activities on the icon of Theophany – one for younger and one for older children
- Crossword puzzle
- Word puzzles – one for younger and one for older children
- Match the images to the titles – an activity to learn about the rite and symbolisms of Baptism
- Board game
Baptism and Chrismation are considered “rites of initiation” of an Orthodox Christian into the Church. The prayers in the services call upon the Holy Spirit to fulfill the mystical rebirth and illumination of the new Christian.
The word baptism comes from the Greek verb βαπτίζω (vap-TEE-zoh), to immerse something or someone fully in liquid. The physical manifestation of God’s grace in baptism is the water. A person becomes a full member of the Church by his/her full-body immersion in water which has been prayed over and blessed by the Holy Spirit. This way, the old sinful self of the person “dies” inside the holy water, and is rebirthed in Christ. Even though immersion in water has been used for moral renewal by both pagan cultures and the people in the Old Testament, the Church has redefined baptism as our own personal participation in the death and resurrection of Christ.
A person about to be baptized is required to have one or two sponsors, or godparents, Orthodox Christians of good character and proper spiritual standing. The Church has kept the tradition of the godparents since the 2nd century. Godparents are responsible for the instruction of the newly-illumined and act as spiritual parents until s/he reaches a mature stage to live faithfully.
The Baptismal Rite
A very brief summary of the Baptismal Rite is as follows:
- Preparation/catechesis: Prayers for the making of the catechumen, exorcism, renunciation of the devil, acceptance of Christ, recitation of the Symbol of Faith (the Creed), call to baptism.
- Baptism proper: Petitions, consecration of the baptismal water, anointing with oil, three-fold immersion and emersion in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The newly-baptized is dressed in a white garment, symbolizing both rebirth and illumination. The mystery of Chrismation follows, then a procession around the baptismal font and the reading of the Apostle (Romans 6:3-11) and Gospel (Matthew 28:16-20).
- Conclusion: Washing of the neophyte’s forehead, laying of hands, cutting of a few locks of hair in the pattern of the cross, to signify the neophyte’s dedication to Christ.
The blessed water containing the holy oil in the baptismal font is specially drained and disposed of. The towels and baptismal clothing must be first washed in the sea before getting cleaned and put away.
Our baptismal covenant-promise
Priest: “Do you renounce Satan, and all his angels, and all his works, and all his service and all his pride?”
Answer: “I do.”
Priest: “Have you renounced Satan?”
Answer: “I have.”
Priest: “Do you unite yourself to Christ?”
Answer: “I do.”
Priest: “Have you united yourself to Christ?”
Answer; “I have.”
Priest: “Do you believe in Christ?”
Answer: “I believe in Him as King and God. I bow down before the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, One in Essence and Undivided.”
An appropriate icon for teaching about Baptism and Chrismation is the Theophany of our Lord. For a detailed description of this icon, please visit our page Holy Theophany and the Blessing of the Waters.