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Monday, February 6, 2012

Baptism, Orthodox Style

Yesterday the Raisin Baby got baptized. As Eastern Orthodox Christians, we were pretty excited, since baptism is a Big Huge Deal (read: a sacrament) and also, seeing a fat, naked baby greased in oil get dunked in water? I mean, how often do you get to witness this? I tell you what, it's something worth seeing.

Before we converted we were staunch supporters of infant baptism, so all of our kids have been baptized as infants. But H was the first of our children to be baptized in the Orthodox Church. Orthodox tend to do everything with much fanfare, hooplah, and incense, which makes anything that much more fabulous and intense and, you know, grave. This service has been performed in the same manner for centuries; it's not something you can take lightly.

(Note: If you are unfamiliar with infant baptism in general, I'd suggest reading this for a better understanding of just why we do it in the Orthodox Church. If you're interested in the specifics of the sacrament in our church, go here for the complete service. 25 points to Gryffindor if you can find the exorcism!)

We got to church pretty early, considering that not only was there a baptism, but also our church was worshiping upstairs in the newly renovated sanctuary for the first time in months after a devastating fire. Since the fire last summer we've been a catacomb church, meeting in our dark and smelly basement (which is next on the list for renovation), so we knew there would probably be a crowd present to celebrate the beautiful new house of worship.

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After liturgy (the service) we proceeded straight into the baptism. H's godparents, our friends Mike and Priscilla, stood with him and took care of him for the entire service. Since H isn't old enough to speak for himself, his godparents stood with him and spoke for him. Their relationship to H and his siblings, as they are godparents for all of our children, isn't just symbolic. It's a serious thing to agree to be a godparent.

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Just so you know, The Raisin was completely chill and adorbs. And I believe some credit for this should go to his mother, who made sure he had napped and been fed before he was baptized. You're welcome.

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After some renouncing of satan and other awesome stuff (you know, typical things), H got nekkid and things got real. Our priest blessed the oil and then dabbed it on H in specific spots, like his ears, his mouth, his feet, and other symbolic places.

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Feet, so he can possibly have the athletic prowess his parents never possessed? No, probably not.

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Here we are, standing and witnessing (you stand a lot in our church), with my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew framed nicely in the background.

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Mike then took a bunch of oil and rubbed it allllll over H. This part is simultaneously awesome and hilarious to me. Awesome because, heck yes, blessed oil all over that naked baby! The Holy Spirit is up in here! Hilarious because oh geez, who had this idea originally, because a greased up, naked baby? Getting dipped in a large basin of water by a priest with about six thousand other things going on? Lots of candles? Disaster waiting to happen.

I suppose we just have faith in the preservation of the Lord at this point.

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Aaannnddd...baptized!

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When Father was about the dunk the baby, I happened to glance a little to my left, close to the table, just past the front pew. Tons of people were crowded, craning for a better look, and only one of them was a family member. I glanced around, only to realize that everyone was crowded and craning. Pews were the only things stopping those from the second row back from rushing the front, and nothing was standing in the way of those in the front. I got giddy. Here we were, experiencing this wonderful and beautiful sacrament, experiencing it for our son and for our Savior, and everyone else in that church was just as excited and blessed as we were. Everyone else wanted to kiss that baby, too. (And believe me, they did later. They're all a bunch of Greeks, after all.)

Immediately following the baptism is chrismation, which is essentially confirmation. Whoo, baby, welcome to the Church! Try not to be too excited.



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After Mike and Priscilla hustled him away for a few minutes to get dried and dressed in white, they came back up front for the tonsuring, in which Father cuts a small bit of hair as the infant's first offering. H doesn't have much hair, so this was slightly nerve-wracking. Scissors!

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Then everyone circles the Font three times while Father says some prayers and censes everyone with incense. Priscilla had to carry a slippery baby, a sheet, and a lit candle. I remember doing this when we took part in the baptism of our goddaughter, and I remember that I was terrified at this moment. Priscilla handled it with grace and aplomb and never once wavered in her confidence. Plus H just sunk into her and very quietly watched everything.


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We're almost done! Before Communion, the godparents fasten an Orthodox cross necklace, a gift, onto the baby's neck. Mike's hands were slippery and it took some doing. They are all so cute, no?


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Then his First Communion. He took it like the Christian he is.



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And...that was it. He was baptized, everyone convened to offer congratulations, many hugs were given and received, and all in all, we had a glorious morning.


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Here I am, telling my mother-in-law just how it's done. It being...something, I don't know, I'm always talking.


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In true Orthodox fashion, we celebrated with cake and coffee downstairs, and in true Christine fashion, I failed to get any pictures of it. Or any pictures of our many dear friends and family members who came and bore witness and helped pack out our sanctuary. Thanks to you all, and thanks be to God for this wonderful, precious life and the blessing to be a part of His Church.



(Thanks also to my father-in-law for the pictures.)

2 comments:

Tracy said...

Congratulations and blessings to your family!!

He looks just like you, Christine. Well, I mean, in his face. Not his chubby little self.

Callie Feyen said...

Oh this is so lovely. I am Greek, and your explanation of the others in the congregation craning forward to witness what was happening gave me chills. It also made me miss my family so. I could've been an extra in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. :) Blessing and Congratulation to you and to Baby H.