Wednesday, June 25, 2008

crossing . . .

. . . the Jordan? the Bosporus? or just plain crossing? (We do a lot of that.) Anyway, here are some pics of the main event.

Did I mention the two things I was most looking forward to? Spitting at the Devil (no pic, unfortunately) and going barefoot in church. OK, maybe there were other things I was looking forward to more, but they're both very cool elements of the service. My understanding is that, like Muslims, Christians used to take off their shoes for worship, harking back to Moses at the burning bush. We have some Ethiopians who still do it regularly, but now that the norm has shifted, for most of us this is the one opportunity.
The service starts in the back of the nave (technically, in the narthex, but ours is too small and not positioned right). The point is that you start out on the doorstep, and as the service progresses, you enter into the rest of the body. Godfather Jim is to my right, without his cigar but still looking very much the part. Jenna looks pretty happy, doesn't she? Poor kid has no idea what's coming.
After the questioning and the exorcism (yeah, that's right), we proceed to the middle of the nave where the font awaits. Since I'd already been baptized as a heretic, I was received by chrismation and confession only. Along with Ian and Jenna, there was one other baby baptized on this particular occasion. They have a nice, silver font for babies, but Ian's a little beyond that, so they broke out the cattle trough. Godmother Laura's ready to help out. Jenna still has no clue.
There's a lot of oil spilled in this service. We haven't even got to the chrismations yet, but before the baptisms, both the water and the catechumens are anointed, so that the whole process may be for their healing both physical and spiritual. Remember, this part is about restoring the fallen human back to the life we had in the Garden. Chrismation will carry us beyond to what God always intended for mankind--infusion with the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Ian got a little ahead of the game. They were still trying to get him to kneel, and he was already putting his head in the water. Fr. Gregory made sure the rest of him got wet, as he said the appropriate words.
Now, I think she's beginning to figure it out. Maybe watching Big Brother go through it first helped to drive home the point.
Yep--we immerse babies too. Three times, no less.
As the only adult entering in this service, I wrapped up my confession (given earlier to Fr. Gregory) by receiving absolution.
Jenna seems to have recovered OK by this point. She's always loved playing with the cross around my neck--now she gets one of her own.
As, of course, does Ian. His is very cool and manly looking, with Longinus's lance and a skull at the bottom. (This is Traditional iconography; the Aramaic name for the hill on which Jesus was crucified is Golgoltha--"the skull.") Good call by the Godparents!
Part of the chrismation involves tonsuring. In the ancient Near East, slaves wore a distinctive haircut to show that they belonged to their master. In the Torah, the Israelites were instructed to shave their heads when they fulfilled a vow to the Lord. Most Westerners are probably familiar with the monk's tonsure--this is essentially the same idea, though it's made somewhat symbolic by cutting off so little hair that it can hardly be noticed. Still, the point is that even our physical appearance should reflect that we belong to Christ.
And for the final sacrament of the morning (after baptism, chrismation, and confession), of course we all took communion for the first time. Jenna, of course, is a pro at taking food from a spoon and letting others wipe her face.
With a little practice, Ian didn't do so bad either.
So there you have it. I've already given my reflections on the day's events; now you get a glimpse of what it looked like. Again, feel free to post comments, questions, whatever. I'll respond where necessary, but this is it for new posts. Of course, the doorstep is still there for anyone who wants to come knocking.


magda said...

Many years! Thank you for sharing this beautiful event pictorally, and with such lovely explanations. (I hadn't thought of the haircut relating to slavery.)

Your talk of needing to change the name of your blog reminded me of one of the prayers in preparation for Holy Communion (in my book "10th Prayer, of St. John of Damascus") which starts: "I stand before the doors of Thy temple, and I do not forsake my wicked thoughts." Like marriage, chrismation is only the beginning of a relationship in continuing to become.

orrologion said...

I actually spit at the devil, rather than give an airy patooey at him. My wife thought it funny and a little much (as all things her husband and Orthodox). Such is life.

Glory to God!

Esteban Vázquez said...

Once again, congratulations in your entrance to the saving enclosure of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church--in your being joined to the whole Christ, Head and Body, as St Augustine would say it. Many years!

(P.S. God will surely get you for your evil intent in showing me that dreadful "review" of the OSB. I nearly had a heart attack.)

orrologion said...

Congratulations! My son was baptized only a week ago, in the same Church as I was - though in a smaller font and by a different priest.

BTW, the skull at the bottom of an Orthodox cross is not only to signify Golgotha, it is the skull of Adam. Tradition has it that Christ was crucified over Adam's grave.

Esteban Vázquez said...

I WANT NEW POSTS. Thank you. ;-)

Trevor said...

Give it time . . . :-)