At our Christmas baptism in 2017, six adults were baptised, chrismated and received into the Holy Orthodox Church. Following that service, a member of the congregation predicted that there would be two more sets of six adults baptised, chrismated and received into Holy Orthodoxy. Turns out that was a good prediction.
At Pascha 2018 six more adults were received into the Orthodox Christian Church. Then in the lead-up to Christmas 2018, we welcomed Toby, Bethany, Evan, Michael, Daniel and James with open arms and a joyous heart into communion with the Antiochian Orthodox Church in Australia.
Baptismal Candidate reading the life
of his patron saint
Each Baptism is a special occasion. This is the climax of considerable instruction and preparation to become Orthodox Christians. We welcome each new communicant, knowing that their life is now hidden with Christ and the Holy Spirit in the Father of us all.
It is a tremendous day of happiness for the parish to see these people who have learned so much and have given so much of themselves to be baptised into the Holy Orthodox Church and to become these beautiful new plants. We’re all dancing and rejoicing at their inclusion into the Body of Christ. It's a tremendous encouragement to the whole community.
Today we recall the Gospel lesson of Christ’s commissioning of his disciples to go into all the world and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe everything that He commanded. This is the mission of the Church when we confess our belief in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Baptismal Candidate reading the life
of her patron saint
When we say we’re apostolic, we don't just mean that we're built upon the foundation stones of the apostles and that we're holding fast to the sacred tradition that they imparted to us. We also mean that we are continuing their mission to the world. We have an outward orientation in the Orthodox Church. We love everyone and wish everyone to come to find salvation in the Church. We want everyone to be washed by Holy Baptism.
We want everyone to become the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit in Chrismation. We want everyone to be deified by their participation in the Holy Eucharist. This is our desire and our little event today—which was such happiness to us—we hope it will continue in this parish.
Hearty congratulations to all of the newly illumined of this parish and hearty congratulations to all their sponsors who opened their hearts and have promised to walk together with them down life’s path until their last breath. Congratulations to all of you who have become so spiritually rich today and congratulations to all the friends and the families of the newly illumined.
To watch those whom you love make such a significant commitment to God, to pledge themselves by sacred oaths to be Jesus’ exclusively—and to serve Him above every other want or desire in their life—it’s breathtaking and beautiful. To see them confess the Creed of the Church almost brought me to tears when they all said so profoundly and so boldly, “I believe in one God.” In this age of confusion and of uncertainty, that solves everything right there.
Baptismal Candidate with his father
These believe in the one God and his Son and this Holy Spirit in the Church in which the Holy Trinity dwells. What a beautiful day. Oh, and while we're rejoicing, while we're dancing on this day, hell is crying its eyes out. Four times, at the beginning of the service, when we were chanting “Lord I have cried,” four of these Stichera started with these words: “Hell is sighing and crying.” — Hell is sighing and crying.
Thank God, that voracious mouth that has swallowed up so many people. That horrible, hideous death—the power of the evil one such a temptation which governs this fallen world and keeps so many people in darkness—keeps so many people away from God, so many people in anxiety, so many people in brokenness, in shattered relationships, in hopelessness, in distance from the good, no longer rules this earth!
St. John the Beloved describes Jesus coming to the earth under this beautiful image. It’s at the end of the Apocalypse that he saw coming from heaven a mighty angel. In his hand was a massive chain. Just visualise the kind of chains that you put across harbours to keep boats out and then increase that ten or even a hundred times. This is the kind of chain that the angel was carrying. Why? Because Christ was going to take it and bind the devil for one thousand years and was going to keep him in that bondage so that he could “deceive the nations no longer.”
Anticipating Baptism by
Triple Immersion and Emersion
This is the same image Jesus used in His teaching to describe what He is doing today. He said His ministry was to bind the strong man (the devil) and to release the strong man’s captives. He is making His truth advance and keeping the evil one bound so that the devil can no longer keep people in darkness.
Today, brothers and sisters, Christ in His Church bound and pulled that chain a little tighter around the devil and took back six beautiful trophies—God’s own images! He took them back. He planted them squarely in His Church as new plants. This is the boast of the Church. This is why we worship Christ—He is our King and He is the King of these six newly illumined. Follow Him, dear newly illumined. Follow him. Be faithful to Him. He’ll fight for you until the end and you’ll inherit a kingdom by being faithful servants.
What a day. Jesus said to His disciples, “As My Father sent Me, so I am sending you, that you might go and bear fruit.” This is my last word to you newly illumined today. The Lord God has called you like He’s called many before you. And now He’s saying to you, “I want you to go. I want you to bear fruit. I want you to be as kind and gracious to others as the Christians who’ve helped you come to baptism today have been kind and gracious to you.”
Be as loving—be as interested—in people as the Church has been interested in you. Reach out to them. You don't have to be a theologian, you don't have to be a priest, you just have to be a sincere, humble believer who can speak about your own experience, about what God has done for you. “I have chosen you that you might go and bear fruit.”
- Six adults baptised, received into the Orthodox Church
- Six more adults received into Holy Orthodoxy
- The Holy Mystery of Baptism
Sermon adapted from Fr. Josiah Trenham. Originally preached at the Parish of St. Andrew Orthodox Christian Church in Riverside, CA, and presented by Patristic Nectar Films as Fishers of Men: Winning Converts to the Orthodox Faith.