August 29, 2009

"...of water and the Spirit..."

The mystery of Holy Baptism in the Orthodox Church is great and vital for us. To be immersed and emersed three times into and out of water in the name of the Holy Trinity literally wipes out all our sins, from the inherited fallen nature of Adam to voluntary and involuntary sins we have committed. Being submerged into the water signifies the death of the former or old person and the coming up out of the water signifies the resurrection of the new, transformed person. As Saint Paul says in the Epistle to the Romans 6:3-11, "for if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His." The mystery of Holy Baptism is the essential beginning step toward our union with Christ. Thereafter, for the whole course of our life on earth, we are reminded of our own Baptism each time we participate in the sacrament of Confession. I am continually amazed and so very thankful that our loving God has given us FULL and EASY access to the sacramental life by the presence of His Church in our midst--it's only up to us to choose it. Recently, I've had the very great pleasure of spending time with my goddaughter, Irene. She turned one in August, and is going to get up and start walking and running any day now! Irene's patron saint is Saint Irene of Chrysovalantou. She is one of my most favorite saints. I got to know her during a summer during my college years by reading a little Greek book about her life. I admired her purity of heart, her humility in accepting God's will, her bravery against the demons, and especially, her steadfastness in prayer. In a vision before her falling-asleep, she was sent three beautiful and fragrant apples from Paradise with an angel by Saint John the Evangelist. Saint Irene has been involved in my life in small miraculous ways. For example, after reading the book, I finally realized it was actually the woman saint in a silver-plated icon with a an unclear inscription in our house that depicted this very scene. Being the neglectful person that I am, I did not pick up the little book on St. Irene for about 10 years of its residence in my collection of half-read, unread, and forgotten books that has moved with me between apartments throughout school. Last year, when it came time to set up my Ph.D. thesis defense date, it worked out to do it on July 28, which happened to be the Feast Day of Saint Irene Chrysovalantou! I thank her for being with me that day during my defense presentation after celebrating a Liturgy in her honor. At home later that summer, I was preparing to move and in the midst of organizing my books and papers, I found the little Greek book about St. Irene again, as well as two other translations in English! I decided that I was going to re-read her life. Within that same week, my good friend Maria called to ask me to be godmother to her daughter, who was to be named Irene! She and her husband chose St. Irene of Chrysovalantou because they both secretly admired her life just as I had, respectively, and unknowingly. They had been asking her in prayer about a godparent, and decided it was to be me, the neglectful one. I was amazed at the providence of these events and I thank God for giving me the opportunity to help a new little soul come into His Kingdom one day! Irene's Baptism was held on January 17, 2009. Please keep her in your prayers and please pray that I fulfill the role of godparent to aid her in her salvation. The text from the Orthodox Christian Baptism service can be found here.

1 comment:

  1. Very well said. I love your description of your relationship with St. Irene. So many people miss out on this beautiful dimension of living in Christian community!
    May God bless you and your godchild, Irene for many years!
    fr anthony