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Baptism and Chrismation
Baptism is one the Holy Sacraments of the Universal Orthodox Church. Chrismation (also known as Confirmation in the Roman Catholic Church) is also another sacrament of the Church.
In Armenian the words are Mgrdut’iun (մկրտութիւն) and Troshm (դրօշմ). Often time both together are called G’nunk (Կնունք) meaning “sealing”, referring to the sealing with Holy Myron “Holy Oil” or Chrism. The word ‘baptism’ is derived from a Greek word which means ‘submersion.’ The word ‘christening’ means ‘to become or to make someone a Christian.’ ‘Christmation’ means “anointing with Chrism”. Other Christian denominations often time separate the sacraments from each other, however, for the Armenian Baptism, Chrismation and Holy Communion (also another sacrament) are the most important Mysteries or Sacraments for someone to become a member of the Church. The Order of Baptism of the Armenian Church, as that of other Orthodox Churches, combines all three of these mysteries together with certain related Sacraments, which complete the sacred rite of Christian Initiation.
Why do we baptize?
The Lord Jesus himself received Baptism and Christmation in the river Jordan at the hands of St. John the Forerunner and thus showed his solidarity with sinful men. (Matthew 3:16-18; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22). Our Lord expected his followers to be baptized with the Baptism with which he was baptized, (Mark 10:38) and so instructed his disciples to do likewise. (Matthew 28:1-9).The church thus faithfully and diligently observed Christ’s ordinance to baptize all those who wanted to enter into his Kingdom (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:3-4; I Corinthians 1:16-2:13; Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 4:5; Colossians 2:12; I Peter 3:21). Without Baptism, a person cannot obtain salvation (John 3:5). Baptism is performed only once. The church’s Creed declares that there is only one Baptism so long as it has been administered in a manner in which its essential conditions are fulfilled, that is with water and the invocation of the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is not to be repeated and is valid for all Christians who form the one fellowship in Christ.
Why do we Baptize Infants?
An infant is not conscious of what takes place at his Christening. Yet, as in all the other spheres of his growing life, his parents take upon themselves the responsibility of bringing up their child in a way that they believe is best for him. They make a commitment with a view to rearing the child in the faith of their fathers.
Godparent(s) declare the infant’s faith on his behalf and declare to watch over the child, to see that he receives proper Christian training in the Orthodox faith of the Armenian Church, to instruct him and to correct him, and, if necessary, to help and protect him as a father or mother would. And, above all, to pray for him. Thus the child is taken into the company of believers, where what is affected in Baptism and Chrismation gradually unfolds in his soul. He is put on the path leading to Christian perfection. As the child clings during his immaturity to his parents and receives nourishment and care from them, so also he clings, during his formation years, to his Mother Church wherein he is born anew and receives the nourishment of the faith. A child brought to Baptism receives all the three great mysteries necessary for salvation and becomes a full Christian through one continuous sacred act. For the Church will not set age limits for the salvation of man through God’s grace. As the child grows, gradually becoming independent and assuming responsibility for his own life and conduct, spiritually and in all other respects, he becomes free to accept or reject what he has received as an infant. We must keep in mind that the Christian who does not keep the vows of Baptism, i.e. who does not love and worship God but makes himself a slave of vices and sins, is a Christian and child of God only in name. Our Lord warns us of this self-deception and will not accept such individuals on the Day of Judgment (Matthew 7:21-23). St. Paul calls unworthy Christians the enemies of Christ (Philippians 3:18-19).
Why also Holy Communion?
Holy Communion nourishes and sustains the spiritual life of a Christian who is continuously renewed with the power of the Holy Spirit whereby his bond of union with Christ Jesus is maintained. As a Baptized and Chrismated member of the Armenian Church, the child is now entitled to the joy of participation in the Holy Sacraments of which the greatest is the Holy Eucharist, to complete the initial steps of his journey toward the true life of salvation. (John 6:54-55).
Want to Read more…
“The Order of Baptism” by Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan (1964 Evanston, IL)
“A Catechism of Christian Instruction according to the Doctrine of the Armenian Church” by Arch. Khoren Narbey (Calcutta, India 1898 – sixth revision)
“Of Water and the Spirit” by Alexander Schmemann (SVS Press 1974)