Holy Unction

This Sacrament is described in Holy Scripture by St. James the Brother of the Lord: Is any among you sick? Let him, call for the elders of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven (James 5:14-15). From the above text, we can see that this Sacrament has a twofold purpose bodily healing and the forgiveness of sins. The two are joined, for man is a unity of body and soul and there can be no sharp distinction between bodily and spiritual sicknesses. Of course, the Church does not believe that this anointing is automatically followed by recovery of health, for God's will and not man's prevails in all instances. Sometimes the sick person is healed and recovers after receiving the Sacrament, but in other cases he does not recover, but the Sacrament, nonetheless, gives him the spiritual strength to prepare for death.

The Sacrament is formally performed by seven Priests, reflecting an ancient practice of performing in the course of seven days, each day having its own prayers, although, if due to necessity, it can be performed by three or even one Priest. At each of the anointings the following prayer is repeated: Holy Father, Physician of souls and bodies, Who sent Thine Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ Who healed every illness and delivered from death, heal Thy servant from the weakness that holds his/her body, of either body or soul, and enliven him/her by the grace of Thy Christ, by the prayers of the All-holy Lady Theotokos and all the Saints.

Seven Epistle and Gospel readings are said and seven anointings are performed. After the seventh, the open Gospel Book is placed over the head of the one receiving the Sacrament, during which the senior Priest reads the Absolution Prayer containing the following: I do not lay my sinful hands on the head of him who comes…but Thy mighty and powerful hand, which is in the Holy Gospel. This replaces an ancient practice of laying-on of hands.

We must note that this Sacrament is not only for those on their deathbed, but for anyone who is sick. It may also be performed over the healthy as well (as is the custom on Holy Wednesday in many places) and in Greece it is often performed over the healthy before Holy Communion, since the rite also contains elements of repentance, although it should be noted that this does not replace the Sacrament of Penance.

Holy Repentance

Holy Repentance (Penance, Confession).

The Sacrament of Repentance developed early in the Church's history in the time of the persecutions of the 3rd and 4th Centuries, when many people, giving in to the threats of the persecutors, apostasized and fell away from the Church. Apostasy was considered to be a very serious sin; many held the extreme position that such could not be received back into the Church in their lifetime, while others held that those who had lapsed should be re-baptized that is, their sins should be washed away by a second baptism. Moderation, in the course of time, prevailed and a penitential discipline the Sacrament of Repentance developed, taking on the meaning of Second Baptism; for this reason it was eventually numbered among the Sacraments of the Church.

After the end of the persecutions, the Sacrament of Repentance remained, so that in the event of sins committed after Baptism, forgiveness could be obtained and the sinner reconciled to the Church. This Sacrament acts also as a cure for the healing of a soul, since the Priest also confers spiritual advice to the Penitent.

Since all sin is not only against God, but also against one's neighbor, confession and the penitential discipline in the early Church were a community affair and took place publicly before the whole local Christian community. In time, however, Confession has developed into a private action between the Priest and the Penitent, and the Priest is forbidden to reveal to any third party what he has learned in Confession.

In ancient times, before the beginning of Confession, it was appointed to read an entire series of Psalms from which Psalm 51 has been preserved in the present rite, being known as the Penitential Psalm. Then the Priest reads certain prayers, the first of which recalls King David who repented before Nathan the Prophet when he had caused the death of Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba whom David loved. After being rebuked by Nathan, David confessed, I have sinned against the Lord! Upon hearing David's repentance, Nathan proclaimed God's forgiveness, The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die (2 Sam. 12:13).

After this, begins the second part of the Sacrament the Confession itself before which the Priest speaks of himself as being only a witness, Christ standing invisibly before the Penitent. The Confession itself consists of questions put by the Priest to the Penitent regarding his sins, his attitude towards the Faith, fleshly temptations, thoughts and words. Thoughts are considered to be the beginning of sin, according to the words of the Savior, for in speaking of adultery, for example, He says, I say to you, that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matt. 5:28). The Sacrament of Confession here aids in revealing these thoughts and the struggle against them that follows.

After the Confession, the Priest may, if he deems necessary, impose a penance, but this is not an essential part of the Sacrament and is often omitted. After this, the Priest lays his Epitrachelion (stole) on the Penitent's head and says the Prayer of Absolution, which differs in the Russian and Greek practices. In the Greek practice, the Priest says: Whatever you have said to my humble person, and whatever you have failed to say, whether through ignorance or forgetfulness, whatever it may be, may God forgive you in this world and the next…. Have no further anxiety; go in peace. The Slavonic formula of absolution, introduced by Peter Moghila, Metropolitan of Kiev and adopted by the Russian Church in the 18th Century, is as follows: May Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, through the grace and bounties of His love towards mankind, forgive you, my Child [Name] all your transgressions. And I, an unworthy Priest, through the power given me by Him, forgive and absolve you from all yours sins.

In the ancient Church, not all Priests had the right to hear Confessions; special Confessors, often experienced Monks, were entrusted with this responsibility. From the 16th Century, however, it was accepted that every Priest could be a Confessor once he had reached a mature age. In many monasteries an experienced Monk who was not even a Priest was often the Confessor (such is the practice in many places on Mt. Athos), but the Penitent was always sent to a Priest for the Sacramental Absolution. In modern times it is also the custom for a baptized person to begin receiving this Sacrament when he or she reaches the age of moral discernment, usually around the age of six or seven.

Repentance the Road to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Man is weak, and thus sins and falls often, again and again falling into the same pits, driving the soul to utter despair. The urge here is to give in to one's sinful nature and to cease resisting the powerful forces of sin. There is, however, an answer to this. A disciple came to a certain Elder, one day, and said, Father, I have fallen! The Elder answered, Get up! Again and again he came to the Elder and said, I have fallen! and the Elder invariably answered, Get up! Until when must I continue getting up? the disciple asked, and the Elder answered, Until the day when you give up your soul to God! Thus, every time when we feel that we have fallen, the Sacrament of Repentance tells us to get up.

When one wishes to partake of the Sacrament of Repentance, it is good to consider the meaning of sin and repentance, for sin is what separates us from God. Sin plunges the soul into darkness and we often lose peace, joy, and the courage to address ourselves to the Lord God. According to St. John the Evangelist, If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8), for every man sins and falls short before the glory of God.

God, Who reads the heart of man, knows not only our everyday affairs, but also our thoughts and intentions. Everything is open to Him. In response to sin, Our Lord Jesus Christ says, Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand (Matt. 3:2). Thus He expects from us true, heartfelt faith and true, heartfelt repentance. But what does repentance mean and what kind of repentance is agreeable to God and serves for our salvation?

To repent means to be fully aware of our sins and our iniquities and of their consequences of all that is pernicious to man, all that insults God and excludes us from His love, of all that creates discord in family life, in society, and of all that disturbs the soul's peace and tranquility. When we become aware of our sinful state, and consider ourselves at fault before God, then our heart sorrows and is full of contrition. This heartfelt contrition is, according to St. Paul, that godly grief [which] produces a repentance that leads to salvation (2 Cor. 7:10), that is, true repentance. Tears of contrition are the only means of purifying the soul, so that it may rise up, become cleansed, luminous, joyful, capable of good deeds and of attaining perfection.

St. John says that if we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). It is not easy, however, to confess, not easy to mourn over one's iniquities; for each of us has a sense of pride and, sometimes, also a coarse and stony heart that interferes with the sincerity of our repentance before God. Prayer, fasting, and mutual forgiveness, however, soften our hardened hearts and dispose our soul to true repentance. Then, in the Sacrament of Repentance we can, without shame or fear, confess our sins with faith to our Father Confessor, so that nothing vile or unclean should remain in us that could interfere with our lifelong striving to attain with all the Saints to the longed-for Kingdom of Heaven.

The following confession (originally printed in the Athos Paper of 1907, and translated from the Russian) is especially appropriate for all of us to consider before receiving the Sacrament:

A Lament for Sin.

St. Basil the Great says, Weep over your sin: it is a spiritual ailment; it is death to your immortal soul; it deserves ceaseless, unending weeping and crying; let all tears flow for it, and sighing come forth without ceasing from the depths of your heart.

In profound humility I weep for all my sins, voluntary and involuntary, conscious and unconscious, covert and overt, great and little, committed by word and deed, in thought and intention, day and night, at every hour and minute of my life.

I weep over my pride and my ambition, my self-love and my boastfulness;

I weep over my fits of anger, irritation, excessive shouting, swearing, quarreling and cursing;

I weep for having criticized, censured, gossiped, slandered, and defamed, for my wrath, enmity, hatred, envy, jealousy, vengeance and rancor;

I weep over my indulgences in lust, impure thoughts and evil inclinations; covetousness, gluttony, drunkenness, and sloth;

I weep for having talked idly, used foul language, blasphemed, derided, joked, ridiculed, mocked, enjoyed empty gaiety, singing, dancing and every pleasure to excess;

I weep over my self-indulgence, cupidity, love of money and miserliness, unmercifulness and cruelty;

I weep over my laziness, indolence, negligence, love of comfort, weakness, idleness, absent-mindedness, irresponsibility, inattention, love of sleep, for hours spent in idle pursuits, and for my lack of concentration in prayer and in Church, for not observing fasts and not doing charitable works.

I weep over my lack of faith, my doubting, my perplexity, my coldness, my indifference, my weakness and unfeelingness in what concerns the Holy Orthodox Faith, and over all my foul, cunning and reviling thoughts;

I weep over my exaggerated sorrow and grief, depression and despair, and over sins committed willingly.

I weep, but what tears can I find for a worthy and fitting way to weep for all the actions of my ill-fated life; for my immeasurable and profound worthlessness? How can I reveal and expose in all its nakedness each one of my sins, great and small, voluntary and involuntary, conscious and unconscious, overt and covert, every hour and minute of sin? When and where shall I begin my penitential lament that will bear fitting fruit? Perhaps soon I may have to face the last hour of my life; my soul will be painfully sundered from my sinful and vile body; I shall have to stand before terrible demons and radiant angels, who will reveal and torment me with my sins; and I, in fear and trembling, will be unprepared and unable to give them an answer; the sight and sound of wailing demons, their violent and bold desire to drag me into the bottomless pit of Hell will fill my soul with confusion and terror. And then the angels of God will lead my poor soul to stand before God's fearful seat of judgment. How will I answer the Immortal King, or how will I dare, sinner that I am, to look upon My Judge? Woe is me! I have no good answer to make, for I have spent all my life in indolence and sin, all my hours and minutes in vain thoughts, desires and yearnings!

And how many times have I taken the Name of God in vain!

How often, lightly and freely, at times even boldly, insolently and shamelessly have I slandered others in anger; offended, irritated, mocked them!

How often have I been proud and vainglorious and boasted of good qualities that I do not possess and of deeds that I have not done!

How many times have I lied, deceived, been cunning or flattered, or been insincere and deceptive; how often have I been angry, intolerant and mean!

How many times have I ridiculed the sins of my brother, caused him grief overtly and covertly, mocked or gloated over his misdeeds, his faults or his misfortunes; how many times have I been hostile to him, in anger, hatred or envy!

How often have I laughed stupidly, mocked and derided, spoke without weighing my words, ignorantly and senselessly, and uttered a numberless quantity of cutting, poisonous, insolent, frivolous, vulgar, coarse, brazen words!

How often, affected by beauty, have I fed my mind, my imagination and my heart with voluptuous sensations, and unnaturally satisfied the lusts of the flesh in fantasy! How often has my tongue uttered shameful, vulgar and blasphemous things about the desires of the flesh!

How often have I yearned for power and been gluttonous, satiating myself on delicacies, on tasty, varied and diverse foods and wines; because of intemperance and lack of self-control how often have I been filled past the point of satiety, lacked sobriety and been drunken, intemperate in food and drink, and broken the Holy Fasts!

How often, through selfishness, pride or false modesty, have I refused help and attention to those in need, been uncharitable, miserly, unsympathetic, mercenary and grasped at attention!

How often have I entered the House of God without fear and trembling, stood there in prayer, frivolous and absent-minded, and left it in the same spirit and disposition! And in prayer at home I have been just as cold and indifferent, praying little, lazily, and indolently, inattentively and impiously, and even completely omitting the appointed prayers!

And in general, how slothful I have been, weakened by indolence and inaction; how many hours of each day have I spent in sleep, how often have I enjoyed voluptuous thoughts in bed and defiled my flesh! How many hours have I spent in empty and futile pastimes and pleasures, in frivolous talk and speech, jokes and laughter, games and fun, and how much time have I wasted conclusively in chatter, and gossip, in criticizing others and reproaching them; how many hours have I spent in time-wasting and emptiness! What shall I answer to the Lord God for every hour and every minute of lost time? In truth, I have wasted my entire life in laziness.

How many times have I lost heart and despaired of my salvation and of God's mercy or through stupid habit, insensitivity, ignorance, insolence, carelessness, and hardness sinned deliberately, willingly, in my right mind, in full awareness, in all goodwill, in both thought and intention, and in deed, and in this fashion trampled the Blood of God's covenant and crucified anew within myself the Son of God and cursed Him!

O how terrible the punishment that I have drawn upon myself!

How is it that my eyes are not streaming with constant tears? …If only my tears flowed from the cradle to the grave, at every hour and every minute of my tortured life! Who will now cool my head with water and fill the well of my tears and help me weep over my soul that I have cast into perdition?

My God, my God! Why hast Thou forsaken me? Be it unto me according to Thy will, O Lord! If Thou wouldst grant me light, be Thou blessed; if Thou wouldst grant me darkness, be Thou equally blessed. If Thou wouldst destroy me together with my lawlessness, glory to Thy righteous judgment; and if Thou wouldst not destroy me together with my lawlessness, glory to Thy boundless mercy!

Holy Orders

In the Orthodox Church there are to be found three Major Orders-Bishop. Priest and Deacon and two Minor Orders Subdeacon and Reader (although in ancient times there were other Minor Orders which have now fallen into disuse). The Holy Apostles appointed seven men (Church Tradition calls them Deacons) to perform a special serving ministry (Acts 6:2-6) and in his first Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul speaks of various ministries in the Church (1 Cor. 12:28). Likewise, he addresses his Letter to the Philippians, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philip pi, with the bishops and deacons (Phil. 1:1). In his first Letter to Timothy, the Holy Apostle also speaks of the qualifications of Bishops and Deacons (1 Tim. 3:1-13), as well as in his Letter to Titus (1.5-9).

Ordinations to the Major Orders always occur during the course of the Divine Liturgy, whereas those to the Minor Orders usually take place during the Hours preceding the Liturgy. Only the Bishop has the power to ordain (although in cases of necessity an Archimandrite or Archpriest, as representative of the Bishop, may be granted permission to ordain a Reader). Because of the collegial nature of the episcopacy, a college of Bishops (at least two or three) are necessary to consecrate another Bishop. And since any ordination requires the consent of the whole people of God, at a particular point in the Service the assembled congregation proclaims Axios! (He is worthy!), showing their assent.

The rite of consecration to the episcopacy is very solemn and the Bishop is ordained in the Sanctuary, in the midst of the Congregation before the singing of the Trisagion (Holy God]. Thus the reading of the Holy Gospel is done already with his blessing.

The Priest is ordained after the singing of the Cherubic Hymn before the sanctification of the Holy Gifts. The rite of ordination to the Deaconate is less solemn and takes place before the singing of the Lord's Prayer, when the sanctification of the Holy Gifts has already taken place, since the Deacon only assists at the performance of the Sacraments and does not perform them. At the conclusion of the Liturgy the Priest goes out to the people in order to read the Prayer Before the Ambo and the Deacon to say the final litany, these actions being the first external signs of their ministry.

In all cases of ordination to the Major Orders, there is a laying-on of hands on the head of the one being ordained and the grace of the Holy Spirit is invoked. Like ordination to the Major Orders, ordination to the Minor Orders also involves a laying-on of hands, but there is no invocation of the Holy Spirit in these ordinations.

Orthodox Priests and Deacons are divided into two distinct groups the married (white or parochial) clergy and the monastic (or black) clergy. The monastic clergy are by nature unmarried, but one seeking ordination to the ranks of the white clergy may now choose to be celibate (unmarried) or married, but must make the choice prior to ordination since, under Orthodox Canon Law, one may not marry after ordination. A celibate Priest or Deacon may not later marry and a married Priest or Deacon whose wife dies may not remarry. Also, one who has been divorced may not be permitted to be ordained. Bishops are drawn exclusively from the ranks of the monastic clergy, although a celibate or widower may be consecrated Bishop after having taken monastic vows. In ancient times married men were permitted to become Bishops (such was the case of St. Peter himself), but such has not been the case since at least the 6th Century.

Ecclesiastical Titles Patriarch.

This is the title borne by the heads of certain autocephalous (self-heading i.e., independent) Churches. At the present time the heads of the Churches of Constantinople, Alexandria (Pope and Patriarch), Antioch, Jerusalem, Russia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania bear this title. The heads of the other Churches are entitled Archbishop (i.e., Greece, Albania, Cyprus) or Metropolitan (Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), Poland, Czechoslovakia and the Orthodox Church in America, OCA). The head of the autocephalous Church of Georgia is entitled the Katholicos.

Metropolitan, Archbishop.

Originally a Metropolitan (from metropolis) was the Bishop of the capital of a province, while Archbishop was a more general title of honor given to Bishops of special eminence (e.g., Bishops of long tenure) the Church of Russia still generally uses these titles in the original way, but the Greek Churches (except Jerusalem) give the title Metropolitan to every Diocesan Bishop and grant the title Archbishop to those who formerly would have been styled Metropolitans. Thus an Archbishop now ranks above a Metropolitan in the Greek Churches, but in the Slavic Churches the rank of Metropolitan is pre-eminent.


Originally this title was given to a Monk supervising several monasteries or who was the superior of an especially important monastery. Now it is usually given as a title of honor for distinguished Priestmonks.

Abbot (Hegumen or Igumen).

Originally a Priestmonk who was the Superior of a monastery was entitled Abbot (a practice strictly adhered to by the Greek Church), but in the Russian church, this is more often a title of honor given to Priest-monks. In the Russian Church, an Igumen ranks below an Archimandrite.

Archpriest, Protopresbyter.

These are titles of honor given to non-monastic Priests, and are generally equivalent to that of Archimandrite.


A Hieromonk is a Monk who happens to be a Priest.


A Hierodeacon is a monastic Deacon.


This is a title of honor given to monastic Deacons usually those attached to a Bishop.


This is a title of honor given to non-monastic Deacons usually those attached to cathedrals or to Bishops.

Holy Matrimony

In the theology of the Orthodox Church man is made in the Image of the Most-holy Trinity, and, except in certain special cases (such as monasticism, for example), he is not intended by God to live alone, but in a family situation. Just as God blessed the first humans, Adam and Eve, to live as a family, to be fruitful and multiply, so too the Church blesses the union of a man and a woman. Marriage, however, is not a state of nature, but is rather a state of grace, and married life is a special vocation (no less than the special calling of monasticism), requiring a gift or charism from the Holy Spirit this gift being conferred in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.

That Holy Matrimony has divine sanction comes no less from the words of the Lord Himself, Who says: Have you not read that He Who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh' [Gen. 2:24]. So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder (Matt. 19:5-6).

The Holy Apostle Paul sees this mystical union of husband and wife as reflecting the mystical union of Christ with His Church: Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church, His body…. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her…. Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the Church, because we are members of His body…. This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church… (Eph. 5:22-25, 28-30, 32).

The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony consists of two parts: Betrothal and Crowning. The Betrothal is, in some way, the civil act, sanctified by the blessing of the Church. It sanctifies the intention of two persons to enter into the martial union and reflects Old Testament customs, when on those who had expressed their intentions to marry, rings were placed. This exchange of rings in the Office of Betrothal is an outward token that the two partners join in marriage of their own free will and consent, for without free consent on both sides there can be no Sacrament of Christian marriage.

The Office of Crowning also contains an Old Testament element in the crowning itself, which reflects the ancient practice of placing crowns on the heads of the betrothed. This is the outward and visible sign of the Sacrament, signifying the special grace of the Holy Spirit received by the couple. These crowns are crowns of joy and martyrdom joy for the new union and martyrdom since every true marriage involves immeasurable self-sacrifice on both sides.

In the Greek Churches, the crowns are usually made of leaves and flowers, while in the Russian Church they are usually made of silver or gold. Customarily in the Russian Church the crowns are held over the couples' heads by the best man and maid of honor, but in many places (as in Romania, for example) they are actually worn by the bride and groom.

The Gospel for the day contains the account of the Wedding in Cana in Galilee (John 2:1-11). The blessing, given by God to man in Paradise was renewed by Christ in the New Testament, when, at the beginning of His ministry, He performed the miracle of changing water into wine. Thus, at the end of the Marriage Service the newly-married couple drink from the same cup of wine, which recalls this miracle of Our Lord. The common cup here is also a symbol that henceforth they will share a common life with one another.

Divorce and Remarriage.

The Holy Orthodox Church does, however, permit divorce and remarriage, quoting as her authority the words of the Savior: For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: Whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery (Matt. 19:8-9). Here Our Lord allows an exception to the indissolubility of marriage, and so, too, the Church is willing to allow an exception.

While in principle the church regards the marriage bond as lifelong and indissoluble, and condemns the breakdown of marriage as a sin and an evil, she still desires to help the sinners and to allow them a second chance. Thus, when a marriage has ceased to be a reality, the Church does not insist on the preservation of a legal fiction. Divorce, therefore, is seen as an exceptional, but necessary concession to human weakness. Yet, while helping men and women to rise again after a fall, the Church does not view a second or third union as being the same as the first and thus, in the ceremony for a second or third marriage, several joyful ceremonies are omitted and replaced by penitential prayers. Orthodox Canon Law permits a second or third marriage, but more than that is strictly forbidden.

When Weddings are Not to be Celebrated.

There are certain times during the year when the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony may not be celebrated. These are:

1. On the Eves of Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year.

2. On the Eves of Sundays throughout the year.

3. On the Eves of the Twelve Great Feasts, patronal feasts of the parish or monastery, and other great feasts.

4. In all of the Fasts (Great Lent, Apostles' Fast, Dormition Fast and Nativity Fast).

5. From the Nativity of Christ (Dec. 25) through the Synaxis of the Baptist (Jan. 7).

6. During the course of Cheesefare Week (from Sunday of Meatfare through the Sunday of Cheesefare).

7. During the course of Bright Week.

8. On the Day and the Eve of the Beheading of the Baptist (Aug. 29) and the Elevation of the Cross (Sept. 14).

Holy Communion

The central place among the Sacraments of the Orthodox Church is held by the Holy Eucharist the precious Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. In modern times the Holy Eucharist is celebrated in the Orthodox Church at the following Liturgies:

1. The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom the usual Liturgy of Sundays and Weekdays.

2. The Liturgy of St. Basil the Great celebrated on the Sundays of Great Lent and certain Feast Days.

3. The Liturgy of St. James the Brother of the Lord celebrated on October 23 (St. James' Day) in certain places only (e.g., Jerusalem).

4. The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts celebrated on Weekdays of Great Lent and Holy Week. (At this Liturgy there is no consecration of the Holy Gifts, but rather Communion is given from the Gifts consecrated on the previous Sunday hence Pre-sanctified.)

The Savior Himself said, I am the bread of life; he who conies to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst….If any one eats of this bread he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of 'the world is My flesh (John 6:35,51). At the Last Supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and give it to the disciples and said, 'Take, eat; this is My body'. And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, saying, 'Drink of it, all of you; for this is My blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins' (Matt. 26:26-28; cf. Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13; 1 Cor. 11:23-30).

This institution of the Eucharist by our Lord is the means whereby we become united with Christ and with each other as a church, for, as St. Paul says, the goal of every Christian is to grow up in every way into Him Who is the head, into Christ, from Whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is sup plied…makes bodily growth and up builds itself in love (Eph. 4:15-16). This is so since Christ is the head of the Church, His body, and is Himself its Savior (Eph. 5:23). We become part of the Mystical Body of Christ by our communion of the Holy Eucharist. As St. Paul says: The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread (1 Cor. 10:16-17).

Only by belonging to the Church, or in other words, being in communion with the very essence of Christ through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, can one attain salvation unto eternal life, thus we can answer the question, Who can be regarded as a member of the Church of Christ? by saying, All those who have been properly baptized in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the true Son of God come in the flesh (1 John 4:2-3), and are united by the grace of the Sacraments in particular the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist administered by the Priesthood of Apostolic Succession.

The unity of all Christian believers in the Holy Eucharist is strongly stressed by the Fathers of the Church. St. Ignatius of Antioch, in his Letter to the Ephesians reminds them that all of you to the last, without exception, through God's grace are united in common faith and in Jesus Christ…, so obey the Bishop and the Presbyters in complete harmony, breaking one bread, this remedy for immortality. Moreover, the Eucharist is not only a testament to the internal and external unity of the Church, but is also the means for strengthening this unity. Therefore St. Ignatius stresses more frequent Communion: Try to gather more often for the Eucharist and glorification of God. For if you gather together often, the forces of Satan are overthrown, and his destructive deeds are wrecked by your single-hearted faith [To the Ephesians].

The union of believers with Christ in the Eucharist is also stressed by St. Cyprian of Carthage who, speaking of the mixing of water and wine in the cup, gives an extended meaning to this mixing: The people are designated by water, the blood of Christ by wine. Mixing water and wine in the cup shows the people's union with Christ, the believers' union with Him in Whom they believe. Water and wine after mixing in the Lord's Cup are so inseparably and closely united that they cannot be separated one from another. In just this way nothing can separate from Christ the Church, that is, the people that make up the Church, firmly and unshakeably abiding in faith and joined by eternal, indivisible love [Letter to Cacaelius].

This is reaffirmed in the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great when, after the blessing of the Holy Gifts, we pray that the Heavenly Father unite us all, as many as are partakers in the one bread and one cup, one with another in communion with the One Holy Spirit. Thus we can say that whereas entrance into the Church begins with Holy Baptism, its fulfillment lies in the Holy Eucharist.

Orthodox Theology sees the Holy Eucharist as a sacrifice and this is affirmed in the words of the Priest, when he says, during the Eucharistic Canon, Thine own of Thine own we offer unto Thee on behalf of all and for all. The sacrifice offered at the Eucharist is Christ Himself, but He Who brings the sacrifice is also Christ. Christ is, at one and the same time, High Priest and Sacrifice. In the prayer before the Great Entrance, the Priest prays: For Thou art the Offerer and the Offered, the Receiver and the Received, O Christ our God…. This Eucharist is offered to God the Holy Trinity, and so if we ask the threefold question, What is offered? By Whom is it offered? To Whom is it offered? we say in answer, Christ. In addition, the sacrifice is offered on behalf of all and for all, for it is a sacrifice of redemption which is brought for the living and the dead.

According to St. Nicholas Cabasilas, a medieval Orthodox teacher, the Church's understanding of the Eucharist is, as follows: In the first place, the sacrifice is not only an enactment or a symbol, but a real sacrifice. In the second, that which is sacrificed is not bread, but the very Body of Christ. In the third place, the Lamb of God was immolated only once and for all times. The Eucharist sacrifice consists not of the real or blood sacrifice of the Lamb, but in the transformation of bread into the sacrificed Lamb [Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, 32].

According to the Orthodox Church, then, the Eucharist is not just a reminder of Christ's sacrifice or of its enactment, but it is a real sacrifice. On the other hand, however, it is not a new sacrifice, nor a repetition of the Sacrifice of the Cross upon Golgotha. The events of Christ's Sacrifice the Incarnation, the Institution of the Eucharist, the Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven, are not repeated during the Eucharist, yet they become a present reality. As one Orthodox theologian has said, During the Liturgy we are projected in time to that place where eternity and time intersect, and then we become the contemporaries of these events that we are calling to mind [P. N. Evdokimov, L'Orthodoxie, p. 241]. Thus the Eucharist and all the Holy Liturgy is, in structure, a sacrificial service.

How all this takes place is a mystery. As Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow wrote in his Longer Catechism, concerning the changing of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, this none can understand but God; but only this much is signified, that the bread truly, really and substantially becomes the very true Body of the Lord, and the wine the very Blood of the Lord. Furthermore, as St. John of Damascus states, If you enquire how this happens, it is enough for you to learn that it is through the Holy Spirit…. We know nothing more than this, that the Word of God is true, active and omnipotent, but in the manner of operation unsearchable [On the Orthodox Faith, IV, 13).

Concerning the Communion itself, in the Orthodox Church both laity and clergy always receive Communion of both the Body and Blood of Christ. The Communion is given to the laity in a spoon containing a small piece of the Holy Bread together with a portion of the wine, and it is received standing. A strict fast is observed, usually from the night before, and nothing can be eaten or drunk after waking in the morning before Communion. As a theologian of the Church has well put it, You know that those who invite the Emperor to their house, first clean their home. So you, if you want to bring god into your bodily home for the illumination of your life, must first sanctify your body by fasting [Gennadius, Hundred Chapters].

After the final blessing of the Liturgy, the faithful come up to kiss the Hand Cross held by the Priest and those who have not communed receive a small piece of bread, called the Antidoron, which, although blessed, was not consecrated, having been taken from the same bread(s) from which the Lamb was taken in the Proskomedia. This bread is given out as an expression of Christian fellowship and love (agape).

Holy Chrismation

In the Sacrament of Baptism man is called out of spiritual darkness into the light of Christ and is initiated into the economy of salvation by the Son of God. This initiation is effected, however, in the Sacrament of Chrismation. Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Peter preached to the people on Pentecost, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Since that time the Divine Gift of the Holy Spirit is bestowed upon each person who rises from the baptismal font. And everything the Holy Spirit touches receives the seal of an invaluable treasure, a ray of eternal light, the reflection of Divine action.

The Sacrament of Chrismation awakens in the soul that inner, spiritual thirst which does not let one grow satisfied solely with the earthly and material, but always summons us to the Heavenly, to the eternal and the perfect. It makes the baptized person the possessor of the Spirit bearing beauty and a partaker of sanctity, of the Unwaning Light and Divine Life. It is for this reason that in Chrismation the new member of the Church not only receives the Spirit within, but is outwardly encompassed by Him, being robed henceforth as if in special spiritual garments.

The Prayer at Anointing with the Holy Chrism contains an assertion that the one who has been graced to receive the seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit receives aid to remain indomitable, unchanging, unharmed, untouched, unoppressed, safe from the designs of the Evil One, to abide in the Faith and to await the heavenly rewards of life and the eternal promises of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Such a lofty gift of the Holy Spirit, bestowed in Chrismation, obliges the person being anointed to remember constantly the words of St. Paul: Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you (1 Cor. 3:16)?

The prayer to God for the bestowing of the Holy Spirit, which precedes the anointing, and the anointing itself of certain parts of the body crosswise with the Chrism, accompanied by the words, The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit, Amen, have always comprised the basis for the Office of this Sacrament. It concludes the grace-giving process of the new member's joining the Church, making him an equal among the faithful and rendering him worthy, henceforth, to partake of the Body and Blood of Christ.

Originally the Apostles conferred the Holy Spirit on those who gladly received the Word of the Gospel (Acts 2:41) and were baptized through prayer and the laying-on of hands. In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter and John were sent to the Samaritans who had received the word of God and they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit…. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:15, 17). The need to administer the Sacrament of the spirit through the laying-on of hands required the personal participation of the Apostles, but later they blessed the Bishops and Presbyter whom they consecrated to conduct the invocation of the Holy Spirit upon believers through anointing them with the Holy Chrism, and permitted Bishops alone to consecrate the Chrism. As St. Cyril of Jerusalem says, Holy Chrism…is a gift of Christ and of the Holy Spirit, which is validated by the presence of His Divinity…. And when the body is anointed in a visible fashion, the soul is consecrated with the Holy and Life-Giving Spirit.

The Chrism here used consists of olive oil, to which has been added white grape wine and a number of aromatic substances symbolizing the various grace-bestowing gifts of the Holy Spirit conferred through Chrismation. The Holy Chrism, which has been prepared at the beginning of Holy Week, is formally consecrated, usually by the Primate of the Church, on Holy Thursday and then distributed to the Bishops who, in turn, distribute it, as needed, to the Priests, for use in the Sacraments.

In the Office of the Sacrament of Chrismation, the anointing is performed with the recitation of the words, The Seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit, during which the Priest anoints crosswise with the Holy Chrism the forehead, eyes, nostrils, mouth, ears, breast, hands and feet of the Newly-illumined. After the anointing, the Priest then leads the Newly-illumined and sponsor (s) three times around the font to the singing of As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Alleluia! This circular procession is seen as a symbol of joy.

Then follows the reading of the Epistle and Gospel which (along with the preceding hymn) refer to Baptism, since, from antiquity, the two Sacraments have been linked into one rite. After this, the Chrism is washed off and the white baptismal garments removed. [In ancient times this was customarily done on the 8th Day after, i.e., St. Thomas Sunday.] The hair is then cut in a crosswise manner The Tonsure as a sign of humility and readiness for sacrificial service to the Lord an initiation into the Army of Christ.

Holy Baptism

First place among the Sacraments of the Orthodox Church is occupied by Holy Baptism, by which a man, who has come to believe in Christ, by being immersed three times in water in the Name of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), is cleansed through Divine Grace of all sins (Original Sin and personal sins) and is reborn into a new holy, and spiritual life. This Baptism serves as the door through which man enters into the House of Eternal Wisdom the Church for, without it, a man cannot be united completely with the Savior, become a member of His Church, receive the other Sacraments, and be the heir to Eternal Life. As the Lord Himself said, in His discourse with Nicodemus, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God (John 3:5)

This Sacrament of Holy Baptism, however, is not the same as the baptism performed by St. John the Baptist, for although this baptism of John was from heaven (Mark 11:30), it was only a prototype of Christ's Baptism: / baptize you with water; but He Who is mightier than I is coming…; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Luke 3:16). The baptism of John prepared a man for the reception of the Messiah and His Kingdom (Matt. 3:1-2; Luke 1:16; 3:3). John's baptism was, in effect, a baptism of repentance (Mark 1:4; Acts 19:4) and not in the Name of the Holy Trinity. Therefore those baptized by him were not reborn through the grace of the Holy Spirit and had to be rebaptized later (Acts 19:35).

The Sacrament of Holy Baptism was instituted by Our Lord after His resurrection, when He appeared to His disciples and said, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age (Matt. 28:18-20). The necessity of this baptism was further stressed by the Savior when He said to them, He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:16).

On the day of Holy Pentecost, the Holy Apostles were themselves baptized by the Holy Spirit in the form of tongues of fire and began to administer the Sacrament of Baptism themselves to all who believed in Christ, wanted to repent and to change their life in accordance with His teaching. And Peter said to [the people], 'Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit'. So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls (Acts 2:38,41).

According to the Holy Apostle Paul, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17) and thus the regeneration of man's personality begins with the Sacrament of Baptism. As Scripture says, as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Gal. 3:27) and these words show that in Baptism the believer is united with Christ, a member of Christ's Church and through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist becomes a partaker of the Divine Nature in spirit and body. In Baptism a new element a supernatural one which remains hidden and acts secretly is poured in and the newly-illumined receives a new name. Through this essential change in his human nature, he turns into a new creature.

This essential change in man's nature takes place through the free and moral participation of man himself and only on this condition is sin abolished in man in the Sacrament of Baptism. The dominion of sin over the power of the soul loses its strength in Baptism: It is Christ Who now dominates. But the element of sin still remains before the conscience as a seductive principle. That is why it is necessary for man to perfect himself morally even after Baptism; there is still the possibility of his fall. In Baptism man is given the power to struggle with sin and he faces the task of translating into life the Gifts of Grace of the Holy Spirit given to him in this Sacrament.

The Savior commanded His disciples to teach the Faith and to baptize all nations (Matt. 28:19), for as descendants of Adam all are in need of rebirth. This rebirth is accomplished only through Baptism, which is why all men seeking salvation, regardless of sex, nationality, or any other condition, must be baptized. Thus the Orthodox Church holds Baptism to be as necessary for infants as for adults, since they, too, are subject to Original Sin and without Baptism cannot be absolved of this sin.

In the Old Testament, circumcision was the prototype of the Sacrament of Baptism in the New Testament, by which the believer enters into a new covenant with God (Col. 2:11-12). If circumcision was performed in the Old Testament on all males, adult and infant (being prescribed for infants on the 8th Day after birth), so much the more, according to the grace of the new covenant, the Sacrament of Baptism should be administered to infants. Having become a member of the Church through Baptism, infants can receive Holy Communion and from the first days of their life on Earth, they can become vessels of the Holy Spirit. Holy Scripture itself speaks of the baptism of whole families by the Apostles (Acts 16:14-15; 30-39; 1 Cor. 1:16), and there is no reason to consider that there were only adults in these families or to assume that when adults were baptized, the children in these families were not baptized. Christianity, above all, is a new life in Christ Jesus, and this life, according to the belief of the Orthodox Church, is given to all, and of course to children, for as the Lord Himself said, Let the children come to Me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 19:14).

As St. Paul says, we are called upon to confess one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism (Eph. 4:5). The Church teaches one Baptism because rebirth through grace experienced by man in this Sacrament is one and unrepeatable, just as one and unrepeatable is our natural birth, our death and the Resurrection of Christ. Baptism was, however, repeated, and still is, in cases where the first Baptism was administered incorrectly not in the Name of the Holy Trinity and not according to the way instituted by Our Lord.

The Baptism of both adults and children takes place in the presence of sponsors, who act as guarantors for the one being baptized. Only one sponsor is actually necessary, although there are usually two (or more). According to Church tradition, the sponsor for a male is a male and for a female is a female. The sponsor(s) are responsible for following after the spiritual and religious upbringing of the child, for which reason it is absolutely necessary for the sponsor in question to be Orthodox.

In earlier times, Baptism was done, on occasion, on the 8th Day after birth and (in Russian practice, at least) the child was given the name of that Saint whose feast was on the 8th Day, for it was usually the day of spiritual, not physical, birth that was celebrated. In modern practice, the Baptism is usually administered on or after the 40th Day after birth, the day of Churching, although we do note that in ancient times the Baptism and the Churching were administered separately. The custom of Churching is connected with Old Testament rites and, in particular, with the life of Christ when, on the 40th Day, He was brought by His parents to the Temple, fulfilling the terms of the Jewish Law.

The Sacrament of Holy Baptism is preceded by a preparatory rite which, in Antiquity, was not a part of the Sacrament itself. This preparatory rite consists of:

1. The Catechumenate, which takes place through the Priest's breathing on the one to be baptized, accompanied by the Sign of the Cross and the laying-on of hands upon his head, as well as a prayer to expel from him the ancient deception and that he be united to the flock of the Church.

2. The Exorcism, which consists of four prayers, commanding the Devil and the powers of darkness to depart from the one to be baptized, as well as entreating that a Guardian Angel be given to aid him.

3. The Renunciation of the Devil, in which the catechumen, along with his sponsor(s) turns to the west, which personifies the region where in the powers of darkness abide, and renounces Satan and all his works, breathing and spitting on him as a sign of this renunciation. The catechumen then turns back to the east (which symbolizes the region wherein Light resides) and declares himself ready to unite himself to Christ.

4. The Adherence to Christ, in which the catechumen, three times, declares that he unites himself to Christ.

5. The Recitation of the Symbol of Faith, wherein the catechumen bears witness to his readiness to unite himself to Christ, after which he adores the Holy Trinity Father, Son and Holy Spirit in confessing the essence of the Faith.

This preparatory part leads to the Sacrament of Holy Baptism itself, which begins with the same exclamation by the Priest as at the Divine Liturgy: Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit… after which follows:

1. The Great Litany and

2. The Sanctification of the Water, which is an obligatory rite. [The practice of using, for brevity, water blessed on Theophany is strictly forbidden.] After the petitions for the Sanctification of the Water, the Priest signs the water thrice, immersing his hand in it, making the Sign of the Cross, breathing on it and anointing it with oil.

3. The Unction With Oil. The Priest now anoints, according to ancient custom, the body of him to be baptized with the Oil of Gladness, after which there takes place

4. The Triple Immersion in Water. According to the meaning of the ancient practice, absolutely there is required immersion in water and not sprinkling (or even pouring). Immersion in water signifies dying to sin and coming up out of the water signifies a resurrection for a new life in Christ, something that the Baptismal Epistle reading speaks of clearly. The obligatory formula in so doing is the recitation of the Name of the Holy Trinity: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, just as was commanded the Apostles by the Lord Jesus Christ.

5. Psalm 31 is read after the Immersion in Water.

6. The Vesting. The newly-illumined one is now vested in white garments and a cross is given to him.

Holy Baptism is the only Sacrament which, in extreme cases, a layman can also perform (both a man or a woman). The only requirements are that the one baptizing must be an Orthodox Christian and the Baptism must be done by immersion, if possible, according to the following formula: The servant (or handmaid) of God [Name] is baptized in the Name of the Father, Amen, of the Son, Amen, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. If the one being baptized in such a case were dying and later recovered, the Sacrament must be supplemented according the Church Order, i.e., the Priest must read the corresponding prayers of the Sacrament and administer the Sacrament of Holy Chrismation.

Church Mysteries

The Sacraments of the Orthodox Church, like the Church Herself, can be said to possess a double character, for they are at the same time inward and outward, visible and invisible. They combine in themselves both an outward visible sign with an inward spiritual grace. For example, in the Holy Eucharist, we eat the Body and Blood of Christ, although visibly they appear to be bread and wine. Likewise, in Holy Baptism there is an outward washing with water, but simultaneously an inward cleansing of sins. Thus, we often speak of the Sacraments as being mysteries, for, in the sense outlined above, what we see is not what we believe.

In most of the Sacraments, the Holy Church takes things that are material, e.g., bread, wine, water, and oil, and make them vehicles of the Holy Spirit, in imitation of our Lord's Incarnation, when, as the Second Person of the Trinity, He took material flesh and made it a vehicle of the Holy Spirit. We also note here another characteristic of the Sacraments, in that they are personal. That is, the grace of God is given to every Christian individually. Therefore, in most of the Sacraments, the Priest pronounces the Christian name of each person as the Sacrament is administered. Thus, for example, at the Holy Eucharist, when giving Holy Communion, the Priest says, the Servant (or Handmaid) of God [Name] partakes….

Customarily, in the Orthodox Church we speak of Seven Sacraments, although we must note that this was not fixed until about the 17th Century. The Fathers themselves disagreed as to the actual number some said two, some six, some ten, and there were even those who said seven, but differed among themselves as to what constituted that seven. Many other sacramental acts, such as the Blessing of Waters at Theophany, the Monastic Tonsure, the Burial Service, and the Blessing of Any Object, for example, possess the same criteria as the earlier definition of sacrament. In any case, the number seven has no absolute dogmatic significance in our Orthodox theology, but is used only for teaching convenience.

The Sacraments, as they are traditionally numbered, are:

  1. Holy Baptism
  2. Holy Chrismation
  3. The Holy Eucharist
  4. Repentance (Penance, Confession)
  5. Holy Orders
  6. Holy Matrimony
  7. The Anointing of the Sick


Guidance to the Repentant

Bishop Alexander (Mileant)

Translated by Seraphim Larin

Contents : The tragedy of sin . How to prepare for the Sacraments . How to prepare yourself for the Mystery of Repentance . When and how is a Confessional performed . How often to partake of the Sacraments . Private repentance . In what are we penitent?

The Tragedy of Sin

While people complain of their various sorrows, it must be remembered that they are not our main misfortunes. The foremost evil are our Sins! Indeed, while sin destroys a person permanently, sorrows and misfortunes accepted as God's will bring spiritual salvation. Our sins are chains and bonds that enslave and drag us down into the netherworld, and unless we free ourselves from them, we will be unable to inherit life eternal.

Just like physical afflictions, sins are distinguished by the magnitude of their evil and destructiveness.

Mortal sins are gross violations of the Laws that impact upon the soul in the most destructive manner, denying it communion with God. These deathly sins include: Godlessness, engage in occult teachings (Hinduism, Theosophy etc..), deviation from the true Faith, mocking sacred things, blasphemy, sorcery, spiritism, murder, adultery, robbery, debauchery, calumny, perjury. Having committed a mortal sin and fallen away from God, the individual succumbs to the influence of evil spirits, who lead him still further into greater sins. Unless that person realises his sorry plight and turns to God for help, his soul will be damned forever.

Daily sins, similar to ordinary rubbish, are those that are accumulated on the surface of our souls. These include foolish thoughts, feelings and deeds that a person commits, not because of evil intentions but through spiritual weakness and carelessness toward spiritual life. These daily sins are also damaging to the moral state of the person. While in relatively small numbers they do not deprive the soul of God's grace, they nevertheless weaken its love for God and spawn feelings of indifference toward Christian living. This, in turn, inclines a person toward new and sometimes more serious transgressions. Just as a significant number of grains of sand can outweigh a brick, so can an accumulation of "minor" sins become more damaging than a single mortal sin. Especially destructive sins are those committed through habit, eg: swearing, smoking, over-drinking, indulging in mental, erotic fantasies, viewing pornographic films and photographs, self-defilement, judging your relatives, gossip etc..

Christianity in general and preparation for the Sacraments specifically, release us from degradation of sin and assist us to become righteous and blessed children of God. Confession and Holy Communion serve as very effective modes toward achieving this, especially when the person approaches them with the necessary preparation and zealousness. The whole time (consisting of penance at home, prayer, spiritual thoughts, fasting and confession in church) spent before partaking of the Sacraments is called the Preparatory period.


Preparatory Period

Preparation for the partaking of the Sacraments usually covers a number of days and applies both to the physical as well as the spiritual life of the person. In the Mystery of Holy Communion, through the Consecration of the Gifts in the form of bread and wine, a person partakes of the blessed Flesh and Blood of Jesus Christ, and through this Mystery, joins Him as He Himself said: "He that eateth My Flesh, and drinketh My Blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him" (John 6:56) Through this mysterious union, the weak and sinful individual in effect subordinates himself to Divine living and as a consequence, is wholly transfigured and renovated internally.

Throughout this period, which usually takes place during the main fasts (Great, Christmas, Apostles and Dormition Fasts), it is necessary to refrain from eating opulent foods, physical pleasures and any other excesses, instead endeavouring to remain in prayerful communion with God. During fast periods, foods that are derived from animal meat, milk, butter, fat, eggs are excluded from the diet – also fish during strict fasts. Bread, vegetables, grains, cereals and fruit should be consumed in moderation. The mind should not be distracted with idle and sinful thoughts. According to prevailing circumstances, one should attempt to attend church Services as often as possible.

When the preparatory period falls outside any of the Church established Lents, the Christian should at least observe the Fast days – Wednesday and Friday – and once again refrain from any excesses and physical pleasures for a few days. The Christian should augment his prayers, read spiritual books, meditate on God and endeavour to remain in communion with Him. Before Holy Communion, it is imperative to repent your sins by going to Confession to your spiritual father so that your soul would be worthy to receive the great Host – your Lord and Saviour.

On the eve of Holy Communion, apart from reading your evening prayers, it is advisable to read the Canon before Holy Communion. The clergy and the more zealous individuals from the laity, additionally read the canons to the Holy Theotokos and the Guardian Angel. After midnight, you are not allowed to eat, drink & of course, smoke. In the morning of the day of Holy Communion, after concluding the morning prayers, it is advisable to read the Canon before Holy Communion. All these prayers can be found in the Prayerbook.

In the main, rules relating to the preparatory period apply to adult and healthy members of the Church. The infirm, aged and children that cannot fast stringently do not lose God's mercy and can still partake of the Sacraments. Children under seven years of age do not have to fast or go to Confession. The elderly, ill, children under 14 years of age and pregnant women are also released from strict fasts.


How to prepare for the mystery of repentance

This preparation consists in dwelling on the sins you have committed, feeling contrition and a firm determination not to repeat them, at the same time endeavour to make amends through commensurate good deeds.

In the Mystery of Repentance, God's grace forgives the sinful guilt, heals and revitalises the soul and grants the strength to struggle with your weaknesses. Saint Theophan the Recluse advises: "Go into yourself mentally and begin sorting as to what's happening there. The interference of any outside body into this exercise is totally inappropriate….In order to really examine yourself thoroughly, you need to pay attention to three sides of our active life – on deeds, singular actions (thought, word, deed), complete in a specific place under specific circumstances, on your inner disposition and the inclinations of your character, under hidden actions, and on the general essence of your life."

If we wish to receive not only God's forgiveness for the guilt of every single sinful action but also rejuvenation of the soul, we must basically focus our attention on our innermost disposition. Sometimes a person may do a good deed (or abstain from an evil one) not from a pious impulse but rather from false motives, eg. desire to receive praise from others, or from fear of punishment. Consequently, this type of good deed may hide from the person himself the sinful disposition of his heart, making a true confession difficult.

Likewise, an evil deed (or wicked words or thoughts) or abstention from doing a good deed may uncover the true disposition of the heart, making a true confession easier.

A person may be free from any conscious thoughts, condemning any of his specific sins, yet this absence does not necessarily show his revulsion for that sin, but rather his internal Pharisee-like feelings – censoring his conscience so that the sin is not revealed.

In every person, thoughts-feelings and sins are bound among themselves as cause and effect, substance and emergence. Some sinful inclinations – by their very nature – are diametrically opposed to one another (sometimes both are present in a person), such as: laziness toward pleasing God yet being mindlessly zealous, hoarding and proclivity toward lavishness, outward humility and internal pride, etc.. Some sins can attach themselves to good deeds, lust – to love, self-serving – serving others. Other sinful tendencies impede true repentance: these include self-justification, self-evaluation, egoism, false feeling of shame. For a deeper self-understanding, it would be very beneficial to connect these traits to oneself, thereby achieving a more complete atonement.

While we are not guilty of sin by having sinful thoughts, offered to us by the demons (not until we have agreed to them), it is better to refer them to your experienced spiritual father, so as to lighten your struggle with them. Preparing yourself for Confession and the confession itself is a difficult process.

It is very important for every person preparing for Confession to test oneself and experience remorse and shame. While an inattentive and superficial confession will not produce the necessary improvement, an overscrupulous self-examination can lead to fear and despair. Consequently, in the preparatory process, one has to beseech God's help for enlightenment and protection.

During the preparatory period you need to:

In the first instance, remember all the sinful acts and tendencies that your conscience has been gnawing at you.

It would be good to examine your relationships with everyone close to you. In the absence of any existing obvious sins committed by us (arguments, misunderstandings, insults or hurts, anger) there could be sins that have not been recognised or perceived as such: rejoicing at the misfortune of others, envy, indifference, slyness, falsely – covetously amiable, and other hidden dispositions, which structure a distorted picture of our close one. A confession would reveal this.

It is imperative to elucidate your attitude toward the will of God, as expressed in the Gospel's decrees, as well as your feelings toward Christian acts of benevolence in general, eg: a) Directives of the Holy Scripture, which I love, even though I do not fulfil them as I want to; b) Directives, which I cannot understand their essence; c) Directives, which my heart does not accept. The last assertion is the most dangerous as it reflects an attachment to sin.

In order to determine how your sinful inclinations developed, it is desirable to go back to your early childhood days.

It is beneficial to recall the events of the day, of the week, month and past year. This assists your daily mindful confession to God after saying your prayers before retiring. Recollection of your sins is the basis of Repentance upon which Christian ethics revolve.

You can pay particular attention to your normal responses & internal feelings in times of illness, sorrows, temptations, misfortunes, & conversely, during your fortunate periods of your life.

After a repentant analysis of your individual sinful inclinations, you may ponder over the general spirit of your life. Church experience offers a slate of helpful measures in formulating a disciplinary approach to Confession. Primarily, this involves listing on paper all the sins that you have committed since your last confession. For people not used to going to confession systematically (often) and as a consequence, not having a developed sense of "sin recall," this is a very effective way of preparing yourself for Repentance.

Sometimes during a confession, people cite poor memory as the reason for not recollecting their sins. Indeed, we often and quickly forget our sinful acts. However, does this really occur through a weak memory alone? In instances when someone has hurt our pride, or when we are unjustly offended, or on the contrary, when someone flatters us – we remember these things for many years. Everything that produces a strong impression upon us is remembered clearly and for a long time. Therefore, is it not true to say that we forget our sins because we do not accord them serious significance?


When and how is a confession performed?

Usually a confession is performed either in the evening during Vespers or before the beginning of Liturgy, during the reading of the Hours. If there are very many faithful that want to confess, it may be practical to have a general confessional. In this instance, the priest reads the sermon on Repentance, naming all the established sins outlined on a list. Those attending, repent their sins mentally before God. Afterwards, any person that has committed a sin(s) outside those mentioned on the list, or one that is sufficiently grave to require an individual confession, approaches the priest and repents before him.

In reconciling the person with God through the prayer of Absolution, the priest performs this not through his personal authority, but through the command of our Lord, Jesus Christ (Mat. 18:18; John 20:23).

During confession, don't await questions from the priest and outline your sins: after all a confession is a great and self-enforcing deed. Speak concisely, avoiding the use of expressions that try to hide the ugliness of the sin (eg. "sinned against the 7 th Commandment"). During a confession it is very difficult to avoid the temptation of self-justification, or refrain from attempting to explain to the spiritual father of the "mitigating circumstances," or blaming third parties for leading us into sin. All this stems from our egoism and false shame.

A sure indication that God had accepted a repentance, is when that person experiences a feeling of weightlessness and joy after confession.


The spiritual father and obedience to him.

A spiritual father is a priest to whom a person regularly comes for confession and spiritual guidance. Just as a person frequents the same doctor for his illnesses, because being familiar with his ailments and physical background, the treatment would be more successful, so should he stay with the one priest for his spiritual therapy. The relationship with him should be built on sincerity, understanding and trust. Repentance should always be undertaken freely and not under duress.

A spiritual father should not offer uncalled for advice or assume the role of a sagacious "starets." The responsibility of the spiritual father is to help individuals realise their deficiencies, remember their sins and show genuine repentance. If the repentant, with prayer and reliance on God, asks his priest for spiritual advice, God (in recognition of the seeker's faith) would implant into the spiritual father as to what to say to that individual.

Although it is desirable to have the same spiritual father on an ongoing basis, it is certainly not essential condition for the act of repentance. In essence, God cures our spiritual sores, while the priest acts as a "guide" to His grace.


How often to partake of Communion

In Apostolic times, Christians had Holy Communion every Sunday and went to Confession according to their need. In those days, Confession and Holy Communion were not coupled as they are today in the Russian Orthodox Church. But then, Christian living was on a much higher level than it is today.

Some churches have special spiritual fathers that conduct Confessionals outside the church Services. Consequently, a confession should not be regarded as a precursor to partaking of the Sacraments. While during some feast periods it is permissible to have Holy communion for a number of days (after having the initial confession) without going to confession each time, contrary to this ruling, some spiritual fathers insist on a confession each time, alienating the worshipper from the Sacraments during those holy days.

Generally speaking, it is advisable to have Holy Communion as often as possible. It is desirable to partake of the Sacraments 5 times a year: on your namesday and once during the 4 Lents. Some spiritual fathers suggest a greater frequency – on the 12 major feast days, days commemorating great Saints, feast day of the church. Worshippers can have Holy Communion even more often, provided they do so with the guidance and blessing of their spiritual father. In these instances, it is important not to expend our feelings of reverence and fear of God, which we should always have when we approach the Chalice.


Private Repentance

The Mystery of Repentance cleanses and rejuvenates a person. Together with the Mystery of Holy Communion, it joins us tightly with Christ, reconciles us with the Church and God, and reinstates us as worthy sons.

All these gifts are granted to a Christian as a result of his struggles (with God's help and benevolence) against sin. Before retiring for the night and during the evening prayers, it is beneficial to repent your sins so that they do not accumulate in your soul and become a heavy burden. It is necessary to recall your words and deeds during the day that may have left an unpleasant residue on your soul.

During this penitent state, the person should unhurriedly focus on his sins when confessing them to God. One has to plead for help not to transgress. This type of wholehearted repentance between a person and his sins, produces God's grace that strengthens the determination to free oneself from one or another type of sinful habits.

Daily solitary repentances at home (where the only active participants are a person's conscience and God) helps that person to restore within himself the image of God, accustoms him to self-control and timely assists him to delete sinful thoughts and desires. Once a person develops home repentance as a habit, he then knows exactly what to say to his spiritual father-priest during Confession. He is able to open his soul completely to God, even during a general Confession when the priest is not in a position to hear his sins individually. In these circumstances, standing in the middle of the church with the other repentants, he quietly confesses his sins immediately before God Himself, in the firm belief that he will be heard.

As an aid to repentants for their confession, we offer the following.


What to confess

Sins Against God and Church

Renouncing God or falling away from the Orthodox faith.

Scepticism and doubt regarding the veracity of the Bible's and Church's teachings – her canons, legality and correctness of the clergy, the truth of the Church Services and the Mysteries of the Church, and the authority of the holy fathers' writings.

Little faith and doubt are products of a spiritually lacking upbringing, or the assimilation of materialistic, "eastern" or heretical teachings, or simply from being overburdened with life's anxieties. "Empty" doubts are distinct from little faith as they are usually brought about through lack of understanding of one truth or another

Heresy and superstition . Heresy is a false religious teaching that has been rejected by the Church, yet has pretensions to Christian truth. It often springs from ignorance and pride – extravagant dependence on one's personal intellect and experience. More destructive interests that are alien to the Christian teachings are: occultism, eastern mysticism, theosophy, spiritualism, extrasensory, personal perspicacity, ability to heal through incantations and conjurations etc.

Superstition in its various beliefs emanates from paganism and sorcery (magic, witchcraft, fortune-telling, symbols). These include national beliefs, customs and symbols that are associated with Church Feast days, and days commemorating specific Saints, as well as utilising holy church items and even the Sacraments toward blasphemously magic purposes. Superstitions are weeds in a spiritual meadow that smother spiritual offshoots and true faith. Fastening themselves like parasites on a person's soul, they devour its energy, warp the true spiritual path and cloak Christ's Truth. Superstitions foster spiritual illiteracy and blind faith in "ancient" (in reality pagan) traditions.

All these sins and problems of the mind are treated with studies of the Holy Scriptures and reading of spiritual books endorsed by the Church.

Passivity and indifference to Christian Teachings and absence of spiritual interests. This state is the result of a lazy mind and spiritual drowsiness. In a spiritually passive individual, the truth of faith is not rejected but simply ignored, thereby not allowing it to illuminate the mind with Christ's Teachings. Signs of passivity: absence of thoughts on God, lack of love and gratitude to Him, indifference to the participation in the life hereafter.

Passivity engenders lukewarm relationship with God and to the purpose of saving one's soul. Even though a person may pray, this spiritual tepidness emerges because of his inattentiveness and the feeling of being obliged to do it. In relation to Church Services, this feeling is reflected in rare and irregular church attendances, in inattentiveness or conversing during Church Services, unnecessary walking inside the church, distraction of other people through requests and comments and coming late or leaving early during the Service.

The sin of indifference to the Mystery of repentance is usually seen through infrequent confessionals, in preference for general confessions (rather than individual ones) thereby avoiding personal discomfort, in not wanting to deeply understand yourself, in maintaining an unrepentant and proud attitude, in the unwillingness to abandon sinful behaviour, to eradicate sordid leanings and conquer temptations: instead – strive to minimise the gravity of sin, to justify yourself and not reveal the more shameless deeds and thoughts.

It must be remembered that a person that partakes of Sacraments without the necessary preparation and not cleansing his soul through repentance, commits a grave sin and will bring upon himself more harm than good. After Holy Communion, he soon forgets that he has the Holy Gifts within him and quickly returns to his old iniquitous and sinful habits.

Reasons for passivity: attachment to earthly blessings and various pleasures. In its entirety, this sin leads to absence of awareness of God's grace and His nearness to us and as a consequence, that person becomes a Christian in name while being a pagan in his lifestyle.

Stickler of the law – adherence to the letter of the law, extreme and fanatical commitment to the outward facet of church life, oblivious as to its meaning and purpose. Belief in salvation through the strict and accurate though perfunctory carrying out of ritual acts ¾ without realising their inner meaning – is testimony to a flawed conviction and a decrease in the true treasures of faith (Romans 7:6). This type of conviction arises from insufficient immersion into the good News from Christ, Who gave us the ability to be His servants of the New Testament – not to the word, but to the spirit, because ".the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" (2 Cor. 3:6).

A stickler of the law testifies to an inadequate comprehension of the Church's teachings and non-conformity to its majesty, or to an indiscriminate zeal in serving old customs.

Lack of trust in God through the absence of belief in that our life with all its minutest details is in God's hands, Who loves us and is concerned for our salvation. This lack of trust occurs through not having a living relationship with Him and being engulfed in earthly interests.

This sin engenders ungratefulness toward God, despondency, pusillanimity and not being concerned for the future, anxious efforts to insure oneself against suffering and This sin is exhibited to avoid ordeals, and in instances of misfortune – to remonstrate against God. The antithesis to this ¾ placing all your faith in God & having total trust in His fatherly concern for us.

Complaints . This sin is a consequence of not having trusted in God, which in turn may lead to a falling away from Church and total loss of faith.

Ungratefulness to God . Many people turn to God when faced with trials and tribulations, yet during auspicious periods, they forget Him, not realising that all the benefits they receive are from Him. It is essential to compel yourself daily to thank God for his mercy – especially, for sending His Son, who suffered for our sins through the most humiliating death, and Who now constantly thinks about us, directing us toward our salvation.

Absence of fear of God and reverence before him. Careless, inattentive prayers, irreverent behaviour in church before the Holiest of the Holy, disrespect for the clergy. No conscious realisation of death and the expected Final Judgment. This condition ensues from a mindless attitude toward faith, which in turn prompts us to perform many of our obligations perfunctorily, through habit, just as it is written in the Bible: "as this people draw near Me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from Me" (Is. 29:13).

Disobedience toward God's will . This usually takes the form of open disagreement with God's will as expressed in His Commandments, Holy Gospel, directives of the spiritual father, voice of one's own conscience, misinterpret the will of God in one's own favour so that it either justifies his actions or condemns another, placing one's will above that of God's, practicing senselessly ardent acts of asceticism and obliging others to emulate them, not honouring promises given to God during past Confessions.

Frivolous attitude to God and Church. The use of God's name in jokes and idle conversations; flippant conversations and jokes on items of Faith; cursing or swearing with the use of His name.

Mercenary attitude toward Faith: Rushing to church and turning to God in times of need, not from feelings of love for Him or for the sake of saving one's soul, but for the ulterior motive of receiving something instant and earthly. Having achieved success or with a change of the situation, the person reverts to his customary mundane activities.


Sins Against the Neighbour

To judge . Proclivity toward noting faults in others and present them in a reproaching manner. Sometimes, without even realising his judgmental actions toward his neighbour, that person's heart formulates a distorted picture of him. Consequently, this image serves as an inner justification for not loving and ignoring him.

Pride – attributing to yourself exceptional abilities (mental, knowledge, talents, "spirituality") which give rise to feelings of superiority over others, or belief in one's self-righteousness and sufficiency. Pride is expressed in feelings of ill will, or sometimes in highly opinionated and condescending attitudes toward others.

Vanity and conceit – are related to pride. We fall into these sins when we show off our talents, scholarship or when we demonstrate our spiritual knowledge, our attachment to the Church or our piety.

Ask yourself: don't you boast in front of other people about your efforts, charitable acts, helping your neighbours, and expecting their approval or praise? How do you treat members of your family as well as people you come into contact or work with on a regular basis? Do you patiently tolerate their weaknesses or do they irritate you? Are you ever arrogant, testy, impatient to others failings or differing views?

Domineering – desire to be pre-eminent and to dictate to others. Do you love to have people listening to you or serving you? How do you treat people that rely on you both at home and at work? Do you love insisting people carry out your will? Don't you strive to say the last word just for the sake of not agreeing with another person, even if he is right?

Self-isolation – alienation from people, unwillingness to associate or pray with others. Are you attentive to the needs of your family and close ones? Do you withdraw into yourself and your problems, ignoring the sorrow of others? This feeling comes about from the absence of spiritual fire and Christian love.

Neglect of and indifference to your close ones. This sin becomes especially frightful when it is applied against parents, when we do not express our gratitude, do not have concerns for them, are brusque and neglectful toward them. If the parents are dead, we must pray for them, serve Pannihidis (requiems) and lodge commemorative notices during Liturgy.

Pleasing people . On the face of it, this sin is the opposite side of Dominance. We fall into it when we try to get people to like us by currying favour with them. Through this, we close our eyes to their iniquitous acts or even try to mask them. Have you practiced flattery in order to secure their favour? Because of covetous ambitions, have you subordinated yourself to other people's opinions or tastes that differed to yours? Have you been untruthful, dishonest or hypocritical? Have you ever betrayed another for personal gain? Have you ever shifted your blame on others? Have you kept other people's confidences?

There are many peoples' sayings regarding flattery: "On top of the tongue – there is honey, underneath it – ice." "Warm greetings – cold consequences." "Where there is flattery – there is obloquy."

Are you sinning by satisfying your physical passions through mindlessly adopting the lifestyle and behaviour of the people surrounding you, including those that are members of your church, but who are devoid of the Christian spirit?

Violation of peace . Are you able to maintain peace in your family, with your neighbours and fellow workers? Do you allow yourself to slander, defame, judge, evil laughter? Are you capable of curbing your tongue, is it too loquacious? Do you display a superficial curiosity toward the lives of others?

Envy and malevolence . Have you been jealous of another's success or well-being? Have you wished misfortune and failure to another, or rejoiced when it happened? Have you instigated others to commit wrong deeds while remaining seemingly innocent? Have you ever been overly suspicious of another, seeing only deficiencies in him? Have you ever pointed out to one person the defects of another, so as to start an argument between them? Have you ever betrayed a trust of a close person, disclosing his or her deficiencies and sins to others? Have you ever spread rumours? Have you done anything to produce sorrow or jealousy in another person?

Anger, irritation and antagonism . Are you capable of controller your fits of anger? Do you use swearwords or curses when you argue, or when you are angry with your children? Do use foul language in everyday conversations so that you are "part of the crowd"? Do you permit yourself rudeness, vulgarity, impertinence, sarcasm?

Callousness and hard-heartedness . Were you ever stingy, overcautious, afraid not to receive back that which was asked of you? Do you respond to requests for help? Are you prepared for self-sacrifice and charitable acts? Do you lend things and money freely and willingly? Do you rebuke your debtors? Do you rudely and persistently demand the repayment of your advance or return of borrowed property?

How do you bear the misfortunes of your close ones, do you remember the directive: "Bear one another's burdens"? Are you prepared to come to the aid of another, sacrificing your rest and felicity? Do you a close one who is in trouble?

We succumb to these sins either, because of our attachment to earthly blessings or from fear of losing our material advantages – forgetting that God sends us people in need to test the sincerity of our love.

Grudges and vengeance . Excessive demands from your close ones. These sins deny the spirit as well as the written word of Christ's Gospel. Our Lord teaches us to forgive our close ones their infractions against us. By not forgiving others, avenging our hurts and maintaining our animosity toward others, we cannot hope for forgiveness for our transgressions.

Insubordination . Have you sinned by disobeying your parents, your elders or your superiors at work? Have you violated the advice of your spiritual father or failed to fulfil acts of penance that he has directed you to perform?


Sins Against Yourself: Sinful leanings.

Physical excesses . Have you been prone to abusing your physical rest and comfort by oversleeping or lying in bed for lengthy periods after awakening? Have you submitted yourself to laziness, lethargy, inactivity, feebleness? Are you so attached to your lifestyle that you are unwilling to change it for the sake of your close one? Did you indulge in various forms excesses to the detriment to your health, through: gluttony, gorging on sweets, appeasing the body, eating out of hours?

Have you sinned through drunkenness or attachment to narcotics – these most frightening vices that destroy body and soul, bringing suffering to our loved ones? How are you combating these iniquities?

Likewise, are you addicted to smoking, which also destroys health? As the cigarette replaces prayer to the smoker, smoking distracts him from a spiritual life, supplants the awareness of sin, destroys spiritual purity, serves as temptation to those around him and brings harm to them, especially the young.

Have tempted anyone to overdrink, smoke or do something sinful?

Sensient thoughts and temptations . Do you wrestle with your sinful thoughts and desires? Do you avoid places that present tempting sights and sounds? Did you turn away from seductive conversations, feelings and self-defilement? Have you not sinned through immodest scrutiny of members of the opposite sex? Do you recall your past carnal sins with relish?

Unconscientiousness . Do you force yourself to discharge your obligations and promises? Have you sinned by not working conscientiously or through the careless upbringing of your children? Have you ill-treated people by your late arrivals, your offhandedness & flippancy? Are you responsible at work, in your household and when you are driving? Are you scatter-brained at work, forgetting to finish one task before embarking on another? Are you endeavouring to strengthen your resolve to render everything for God?

Laziness , wastefulness , attachment to things . Do you waste your time? Are you applying your God-given talents to achieve good? Are you dissipating your God-given money and other resources without any purpose? Are you sinning with your predilection to the comforts of life, your attachment to material things and your saving of resources for "a rainy day," thereby showing your lack of faith in God and the realisation that you may appear before His Judgment tomorrow?

Hoarding . We succumb to this sin when we are captivated with accumulating money and riches: when we decline to pray or attend church because we are too busy – even on Feastdays and Sundays, when we submit to many activities and bustle. This vice leads to a captive mind and a callous heart.

Egoism and self-love – when we place ourselves in the centre of everything, endeavouring to utilise other people for achieving personal aims, and do everything for personal gain.

Lack of will to struggle with sin. Fallen spirits direct this feeling by implanting thoughts, that it is pointless to fight against sin, as sooner or later the person will fall again. These feelings must be vanquished with hope on God's mercy and His omnipotence. He promised that He would help us. Therefore we must struggle. It is said that if death finds us in a state of battle and atonement, then God will be merciful to us, but if it finds us in a state of sin and despondency, then He will reject us. Consequently, we must assume that each day is our last one on earth. By inclining ourselves this way, we will be able to conquer the wiles of our enemy.

Impatience in our efforts . This refers to our non-fulfilment of our obligations toward reciting prayers, violating fast days, eating at abnormal times, leaving church before the conclusion of the Service.

Depression and despair . Have you ever succumbed to dark thoughts and feelings? Have you ever fallen into despair? Have you permitted yourself thoughts of suicide?


*** *** ***

When you reflect on your past, try to remember all the transgressions that you have committed – intentionally or involuntarily – with regard to God and the ones close to you. Were you ever the cause of sorrow or misfortune for others? Have you destroyed your family? Have you kept your marital fidelity and have you pushed others into sin? Have you directly or indirectly been involved in the sin of abortion? Have you been inclined toward indecent jests, anecdotes, immoral insinuations? Have you ever insulted the sanctity of love with cynical jeers? Bring the most sincere atonement in front of God and your spiritual father in all these and similar sins.

We are forever sinning, if not in deed, then in thoughts, feelings and words – consciously or unknowingly, voluntary and involuntary, so that it is impossible to remember all our sins.

However, we now genuinely repent and seek blessed help to improve ourselves. We promise to be vigilant and with the help of God, to avoid sin and create acts of love.

You oh Lord, through your mercy and sufferance, forgive and remove from us the heavy weight of sin. Bless us to partake of Thy Holy and Lifegiving Mysteries, not for judgment or condemnation, but for healing of soul and body. Amen.


Brief Confession

I CONFESS TO THE LORD MY God and before you, reverend father, all my countless sins which I have committed till the present day and hour: in thought, word, and deed. Every day and every hour I sin through ingratitude to God for His great and numberless blessings to me and His most gracious providence and care for me, a sinner.

I have sinned through idle talk, condemnation of others, scorn, insubordination, pride, unkindness, envy, anger, slander, inattention, carelessness, negligence, impudence, discourtesy, irritability, sloth, despondency, resentment, remembrance of wrongs, paying back evil with evil, violence, obduracy, disobedience, grumbling, self-justification, contradiction, independence, self-will, reproachfulness, evil speaking, lying, laughing, tempting, self-love, ambition, fastidiousness, gluttony, excess in eating and drinking, eating and drinking in secret, drunkenness, attachment to things, conceit, laziness, harboring of licentious unclean thoughts, dallying with them and taking pleasure in them, sensual imaginings, daydreams and issues. I have sinned through excessive sleeping, impure glances, omitting divine service from laziness or neglect, dozing and whispering in church, arriving late for the beginning of church services, inattention during prayer in church and in private, not fulfilling properly the monastic rule of private prayer.

I have sinned in thought, word and deed and by sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch, and by my other spiritual and bodily senses. But I repent of these sins and ask forgiveness.

Here it is necessary to mention, also, other sins, if you have anything special on your conscience.

I also repent and ask forgiveness for everything which I have not confessed through ignorance or forgetfulness.

Forgive and absolve me, reverend father, and bless me to partake of the Holy and Life-giving Mysteries of Christ for the remission of my sins and for eternal life.

Taken from http://www.fatheralexander.org

Baptism and Chrismation

Bishop Alexander Mileant

Translated by Seraphim Larin and Fr. German Ciuba

I n the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, the basis of salvation for every human being lies in spiritual birth: "Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:5-6). This birth with water and Spirit is accomplished through the Mystery of Baptism.

Through Baptism an individual is cleansed from the pollution of sin, freed from the bondage to wicked passions and reborn for a spiritual life. Because Baptism possesses such enormous spiritual power, it is performed only once, even though the baptized person may subsequently lead a life-style that does not conform to the high Christian calling. Thus, it is as though in baptism the Holy Spirit lights a spiritual candle in the heart of the individual: this flame may flare or flicker feebly, but it is never extinguished. The primary goal in our life is to kindle this benevolent fire of grace into a bright flame.

In this article, we will try to reveal the meaning and power of the Mystery of Baptism, and of the Mystery of Chrismation, which is closely associated with it, in the hope that a more detailed acquaintance with these Holy Mysteries may induce readers to take advantage of the great spiritual riches received through Baptism.

The Mystery of Baptism

The mystery of baptism is closely related to the presence of sinful decay in mankind . Each human is born into the world with a nature flawed by sin. Over the years, like a malignant growth, sin spreads and grows stronger, slowly enslaving the soul. Consequently, not only the individual but society as a whole is poisoned with sin, and it is from this determinant that all human miseries are born: crime, suffering, various offenses, physical death, and most importantly–spiritual death.

Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God, came to Earth to destroy sin and grant mankind an opportunity to obtain eternal and joyful life in the Kingdom of Heaven. Spiritual rebirth begins with a man's faith in Jesus Christ, a true desire to be liberated from the tyranny of sin, and a drive to lead a life in accordance with God's will. Our Lord Jesus Christ likened this spiritual rebirth to the resurrection of the dead when He said: "Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live" (John 5:25). However, faith and desire by themselves are not sufficient. What is needed is the power of grace, which realizes the spiritual rebirth of an individual. This power of grace permeates the soul of the person submerged in water during baptism.

The Mystery of Baptism was established by our Lord Jesus Christ after His Resurrection, when He appeared to His disciples and said: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit .He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mt. 28:19-20, Mk 16:16). Following Christ's directive, the disciples went forth and preached faith in Jesus Christ and baptized those who were converted. The first baptism of a multitude occurred on the day the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles. It was here, after hearing the Apostle Peter's sermon, that the listeners asked what they had to do to be saved. Whereupon the Apostle replied: "Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:37-38).

In his Epistle to the Romans, the Apostle Paul reveals further the significance of baptism: "Do you know that as many of us were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:3-4). In dying on the Cross, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ carried all our sins with Him, thereby cleansing us. His death on the Cross has the power to wash away sin. Those who are baptized are immersed into the death of Christ, into the purifying force of Christ's suffering on the Cross. This power completely destroys every sin, so that not even a trace remains. It can be likened to placing a piece of ore in a chemical solution so that all impurities are eaten away, leaving pure gold.

One who is purified from sin is emancipated from its tyranny and freed to follow a spiritual life. The Holy Scripture calls this spiritual birth the " first resurrection ," as opposed to the second, physical resurrection, which will occur before the end of the world (Rev. 20:5). The baptized person becomes a beloved child of God, His adopted son or daughter, by the grace of Christ.

This does not mean that, because of baptism, a person is freed from all temptations or from the spiritual fight. Spiritual struggles are unavoidable for every person who exists in this world of temptation. But a person who is not baptized lacks the power to fight the bondage of sin, and is enslaved to it, whereas someone who is baptized is liberated from sin and receives assistance to fight against temptations.

St. Mark the Ascetic explains the Mystery of Baptism in the following words: "By baptism you have put on Christ, and you have the strength and weapons to subdue (sinful) thoughts … Holy baptism completely emancipates one from slavery to sin… If, after baptism, we become subject to sin, it is not because our baptism was imperfect, but rather because we neglect the Commandments and prefer to dwell in self-indulgence through our own choice. Whether to bind ourselves again to evil desires or to remain free through the fulfillment of the Commandments is a matter for our free will …. When, after holy baptism, we are able to keep the Commandments, but do not do so, we again unwillingly become enslaved to sin, until we entreat God to eradicate our sin by repentance."

Every Christian must understand that, by surmounting temptations, he improves morally, while growing and becoming stronger spiritually . The key to this is personal effort. If there were no struggle, there would be no righteous people. In one's battle against temptations, a Christian is not alone, but receives enormous help from the Holy Spirit through Chrismation, which is usually performed immediately after the baptism.

The Mystery of Chrismation

Just as the death and resurrection of Christ culminated in Pentecost –the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles–so the baptism of a Christian attains its fulfillment in Chrismation. In Baptism, one puts on the death of Christ, and also his resurrection; in Chrismation, one is given the grace of the Holy Spirit. Thus one can see how the miracle of Pentecost is continually renewed in the Church through these mysteries.

The meaning of Chrismation lies in the most important and fundamental words of the mystery, which make up the concluding utterance: " The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit ." They stand as (a) the concluding act confirming the entry of the baptized person into the Church , and (b) the source of grace-filled strength granted to grow stronger and ripen to perfection in the spiritual life.

St. Cyprian writes, "People baptized in church are imprinted with the Lord's seal just as the christened Samaritans once received the Holy Spirit from the Apostles Peter and John, through the laying on of hands and prayer.What they were lacking, (namely the Holy Spirit, as they were baptized in the name of Christ only), the Apostles Peter and John fulfilled … That also happens with us … we become complete with the Lord's seal" (Acts 8:14-17). St. Cyprian confirms that the ancients, in speaking of birth through water and the Spirit, understood birth through water to refer to physical baptism, while Chrismation was the birth through the Spirit. St. Ephraim of Syria (4th century) writes: "The seal of the Holy Spirit seals all the entries into your soul, while the seal of Chrismation seals all your limbs."

During Apostolic times, the gifts of the Holy Spirit were bestowed through the laying on of hands . We read about this in Acts (8:14-17 and 19:2-6): the Apostle Paul met some disciples in Ephesus who had received only the baptism of John. When he learned of this they "were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them."

How was the blessed laying on of hands replaced by anointing with chrism? Most probably, because the Apostles could not physically visit every newly baptized convert and lay hands on him, they replaced this practice by the anointing with chrism, which was blessed by them and distributed to the representatives of many churches. As we are reminded by the Apostle Paul : "Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee" (2 Cor. 1:21-22). The integral words of the Mystery, "the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit," thus also have a basis in these words of the Apostle.

Further on, St. Paul writes: "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption" (Ephesians 4:30). In the Holy Scripture, the "day of redemption" refers to baptism, while "being s ealed" by the Holy Spirit means the seal of the Holy Spirit that follows immediately after baptism.

The oil of the Chrism and no other substance is used in the Mystery of Chrismation, because even in the Old Testament oil was used to endow people with particular spiritual gifts (Exodus 28:41; 1 Samuel 16:13; 1 Kings 1:39). The renowned third-century writer Tertullian had this to say: "After emerging from the baptismal font, we are anointed with a blessed oil just like the ancients were anointed for priesthood with the oil from the horn."

The word " Christian" has always been closely associated by the Holy Fathers of the Church with the word "Chrismation." Christian means Anointed. "Having become a communicant of Christ," writes St. Cyril of Jerusalem , "you are worthy to be called Christians, i.e., anointed ones, even as God said: 'Do not touch my anointed ones'" (Psalm 105:15 [LXX 104:15]).

Throughout these excerpts of the Apostles Paul and John, the term anointing indicates that the Christian is endowed with gifts of the Holy Spirit, which traditionally from the times of the Old Testament were transmitted to the chosen ones through anointing with holy oil. We read in the Apostle John's epistle: "But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things." And further, he says, "But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him" (1 John 2:20-27).

The narratives from the Acts of the Apostles confirm that, apart from receiving spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit, the laying on of hands or the Chrismation after baptism served both as a confirmation of the bestowal of Baptism and a seal of the union of those baptized with the Church. That is why these acts were performed by the Apostles themselves, and subsequently, by their successors, i.e., bishops. While a person is born through baptism for a spiritual life , Chrismation makes him a participant in the Church's life of grace.

The Service of Baptism and Chrismation

Part 1. The Service of the Catechumens.

THE FIRST, PREPARATORY PART of the Mystery of Baptism is performed in the entrance of the church. In ancient days the people preparing for baptism were called catechumens. This preparatory period sometimes lasted several years, during which time the candidates studied the Christian Faith and God's commandments. They were allowed to attend certain church services by standing in the narthex only, and had to leave at the Deacon's exclamation, "All Catechumens depart." In the first part of Baptism, the Priest reads prayers of exorcism, in which he asks God to free the Catechumen from all evil influences. The Catechumen then solemnly renounces the devil, confesses his faith in Jesus Christ and reads The Creed. The Priest then lightly blows three times into the face of the Catechumen, makes the sign of the cross over his chest and lays his hands on his head, reading the following prayer:

Prayer for the Catechumen.

Priest : Let us pray to the Lord.

Choir : Lord, have mercy.

IN THY NAME, O Lord God of truth, and in the Name of Thine Only-begotten Son, and of Thy Holy Spirit, I lay my hand upon Thy servant, (name), who has been found worthy to flee unto Thy holy Name, and to take refuge under the shelter of Thy wings. Remove far from him his former delusion and fill him with the faith, hope and love which are in Thee; that he may know that Thou art the only true God with Thine Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and Thy Holy Spirit. Enable him to walk in all Thy commandments, and to fulfill those things which are well pleasing unto Thee; for if a man do those things, he shall find life in them.

Inscribe him in Thy Book of Life, and unite him to the flock of Thine inheritance. And may Thy holy Name be glorified in him , together with that of Thy beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and of Thy life-giving Spirit. Let Thine eyes ever regard him with mercy, and let Thine ears attend unto the voice of his supplication. Make him to rejoice in the works of his hands, and in all his generation; that he may render praise unto Thee, that he may sing, worship and glorify Thy great and exalted Name always, all the days of his life.

For all the Powers of Heaven sing praises unto Thee, and Thine is the Glory, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.

Choir : Amen.

1st Prayer of Exorcism.

Priest : Let us pray to the Lord.

Choir : Lord, have mercy.

THE LORD PUTS you under a ban, O Devil: He who came into the world, and made His abode among men, that He might overthrow your tyranny and deliver men; who also upon the Tree did triumph over the adverse powers, when the sun was darkened, and the earth did quake, and the graves were opened, and the bodies of the Saints arose; who also by death annihilated Death, and overthrew him who exercised the dominion of Death, that is you, the Devil.

I charge you by God, who revealed the Tree of Life, and arrayed in ranks the Cherubim and the flaming sword which turns all ways to guard it: be under a ban. For I charge you by Him who walked upon the surface of the sea as it were dry land, and laid under His ban the tempests of the winds; whose glance dries up the deep, and whose interdict makes the mountains melt away. The same now, through us, puts you under a ban. Fear, begone, and depart from this creature, and return not again, neither hide yourself in him neither seek to meet him , nor to influence him , either by night or by day; either in the morning or at noonday; but depart hence to your own infernal abyss until the great Judgment Day which is ordained. Fear God who sits upon the Cherubim and looks upon the deeps; before whom tremble Angels and Archangels, Thrones, Dominions, Principalities, Authorities, Powers, the many-eyed Cherubim and the six-winged Seraphim; before whom, likewise, heaven and earth do quake, the seas and all that they contain. Begone, and depart from this sealed, newly enlisted warrior of Christ our God. For I charge you by Him who rides upon the wings of the wind, and makes His Angels spirits, and His ministers a flaming fire: Begone, and depart from this creature, with all your powers and your angels.

For glorified is the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto ages of ages.

Choir : Amen.

4th Prayer of Exorcism.

Priest : Let us pray to the Lord.

Choir : Lord, have mercy.

O LORD AND MASTER; who hast created man in Thine own likeness, and bestowed upon him the power of life eternal; who also despisest not those who have fallen away through sin, but hast provided salvation for the world through the Incarnation of Thy Christ: Do Thou, the same Lord, delivering also this Thy creature from the bondage of the enemy, receive him into Thy heavenly kingdom. Open the eyes of his understanding, that the illumination of Thy Gospel may shine brightly in him . Assign unto him an angel of light, who shall deliver him from every snare of the adversary, from encounter with evil, from the demon of the noonday, and from evil thoughts.

Expel from him every evil and unclean spirit which hides and makes its lair in his heart, (these words are repeated three times while breathing on the catechumen)

– the spirit of deceit, the spirit of evil, the spirit of idolatry and of every covetousness; the spirit of falsehood and of every uncleanness which operates through the prompting of the Devil. And make him a reason-endowed sheep in the holy flock of Thy Christ, an honorable member of Thy Church, a child of the light, and an heir of Thy Kingdom; that having lived in accordance with Thy commandments, and preserved inviolate the Seal, and kept his garment undefiled, he may receive the blessedness of the Saints in Thy Kingdom.

Through the grace and bounties, and love towards mankind of Thine Only-begotten Son, with whom Thou art blessed, together with Thine all-holy and good and life-giving Spirit: now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Choir : Amen.

The sponsors with the catechumen turn about and face the West, with their backs to the priest. The priest then asks the following questions.

Priest : Do you renounce Satan, and all his works, and all his angels, and all his service, and all his pride?

Catechumen : I do renounce him. (This is repeated three times)

Priest : Have you renounced Satan?

Catechumen : I have renounced him. (This is repeated three times)

Priest : Breathe and spit upon him.

The sponsors and the catechumen to be baptized spit symbolically toward the west. Then they turn back to the East, and stand facing the priest.

Priest : Do you unite yourself unto Christ?

Catechumen : I do unite myself to Christ. (This is repeated three times)

Priest : Have you united yourself to Christ?

Catechumen : I have united myself to Christ. (This is repeated three times) .

Priest : Do you believe in Him?

Catechumen : I believe in Him as King and God.

The Creed.

I BELIEVE IN ONE GOD, the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages. Light of Light, true God of true God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man. And He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried. And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father. And He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; whose Kingdom shall have no end.

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

In one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Priest : Have you united yourself to Christ?

Catechumen : I have united myself to Christ (this is repeated three times).

Priest : Bow down also before Him.

Catechumen : I bow down before the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit: the Trinity, one in Essence and undivided.

Priest : Blessed is God, who desires that all men should be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.

Choir : Amen.

Part 2 The Sacrament of Baptism.

The priest leads the sponsors with the catechumen into the Baptistry, or the place where Baptism is performed. Lighted candles are given to the sponsors. A censing is made around the baptismal font. At the conclusion of the censing, the priest begins.

Priest : Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: now and ever, and unto ages of ages.

Choir : Amen.

Deacon intones the Litany : In peace let us pray to the Lord.

Choir : Lord, have mercy.

For the peace from above and for the salvation of our souls, let us pray to the Lord.

That this water may be sanctified with the power, effectiveness, and indwelling of the Holy Spirit, let us pray to the Lord.

That there may be sent down into it the grace of redemption, the blessing of Jordan, let us pray to the Lord.

That there may come upon this water the purifying operation of the transcendental Trinity, let us pray to the Lord.

That we may be illumined by the light of understanding and piety, by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, let us pray to the Lord.

That this water may prove effective unto the averting of every snare of enemies, both visible and invisible, let us pray to the Lord.

That he who is baptized therein may be made worthy of the incorruptible Kingdom, let us pray to the Lord.

For him who is now come unto holy Baptism, and for his salvation, let us pray to the Lord.

That he may prove himself a child of the Light, and an heir of eternal good things, let us pray to the Lord.

That he may be a member and partaker of the death and resurrection of Christ our God, let us pray to the Lord.

That he may preserve his baptismal garment and the betrothal to the Spirit pure and blameless unto the dreadful Judgement Day of Christ our God, let us pray to the Lord.

That this water may be to him a bath of regeneration, unto the forgiveness of sins, and a garment of incorruption, let us pray to the Lord.

That the Lord God will hearken unto the voice of our petition, let us pray to the Lord.

That He will deliver him and us from every sorrow, anger, and want, let us pray to the Lord.

Help us; save us; have mercy on us; and keep us, O God, by Thy grace.

Commemorating our most holy, most pure, most blessed and glorious Lady Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary, with all the saints, let us commend ourselves and each other, and all our life unto Christ our God.

Choir: To Thee, O Lord.

Prayer for Blessing of the Water.

GREAT ART THOU, O Lord, and marvelous are Thy works, and there is no word which is sufficient to hymn Thy wonders (thrice).

For Thou, of Thine own good will, hast brought into being all things which before were not, and by Thy might, Thou upholdsest creation, and by Thy providence Thou orderest the world. When Thou didst join together the universe out of four elements, Thou didst crown the circle of the year with four seasons. Before Thee tremble all the Powers endowed with intelligence. The sun sings unto Thee. The moon glorifies Thee. The stars meet together before Thy presence. The light obeys Thee. The deeps tremble before Thee. The springs of water are subject unto Thee. Thou hast spread out the heavens like a curtain. Thou hast established the earth upon the waters. Thou hast set round about the sea barriers of sand. Thou hast poured forth the air for breathing. The Angelic Powers serve Thee. The choirs of the Archangels fall down in adoration before Thee. The many-eyed Cherubim and the six-winged Seraphim as they stand around and fly, veil their faces in awe before Thine ineffable glory.

For Thou, who art God inexpressible and everlasting, hast descended upon earth, and hast taken on the semblance of a servant, and wast made in the likeness of man. For, because of the tender compassion of Thy mercy, O Master, Thou couldest not endure to behold mankind oppressed by the Devil; but Thou hast come, and hast saved us. We confess Thy grace. We proclaim Thy mercy. We conceal not Thy gracious acts. Thou hast delivered the generations of our mortal nature. By Thy birth Thou hast sanctified the Virgin's womb. All creation magnifies Thee, who hast manifested Thyself. For Thou, O our God, hast revealed Thyself upon earth, and dwelt among men. Thou hast hallowed the streams of Jordan, sending down upon them from heaven Thy Holy Spirit, and hast crushed the heads of the dragons who lurked there.

Wherefore, O King who lovest mankind, come Thou now and sanctify this water, by the coming of Thy Holy Spirit. (thrice)

And grant unto it the grace of redemption, the blessing of the Jordan. Make it the fountain of incorruption, the gift of sanctification, the forgiveness of sins, the remedy of infirmities, the final destruction of demons, unassailable by hostile powers, filled with angelic might. Let those who would ensnare Thy creature flee far from it. For we have called upon Thy Name, O Lord, and it is wonderful, and glorious, and terrible unto adversaries.

The Priest then blesses the water by dipping the fingers of his right hand into it and tracing the sign of the Cross three times saying:

Let all adverse powers be crushed beneath the sign of the image of Thy Cross. (thrice)

We pray Thee, O God, that every aerial and unseen phantom may withdraw itself from us; and that no demon of darkness may conceal himself in this water; and that no evil spirit which instills darkening of intentions and rebelliousness of thought may descend into it with him who is about to be baptized.

But do Thou, Master of all, show this water to be the water of redemption, the water of sanctification, the purification of flesh and spirit, the loosing of bonds, the remission of sins, the illumination of the soul, the laver of regeneration, the renewal of the spirit, the gift of adoption to sonship, the garment of incorruption, the fountain of life. For Thou hast said, O Lord: "Wash, be clean, and put away evil things from your souls." Thou hast bestowed upon us from on high a new birth through water and the Spirit. Wherefore, O Lord, manifest Thyself in this water, and grant that he who is baptized therein may be transformed; that he may put away from him the old man, which is corrupt through the lusts of the flesh, and that he may put on the new man, and be renewed after the image of Him who created him ; that being buried, after the pattern of Thy death, in baptism, he may, in like manner, be a partaker of Thy Resurrection; and having preserved the gift of Thy Holy Spirit, and increased the measure of grace committed unto him , he may receive the prize of his high calling, and be numbered with the firstborn whose names are written in heaven, in Thee, our God and Lord, Jesus Christ. For unto Thee are due all glory, dominion, honor, and worship, together with Thy Father, who is from everlasting, and Thine all-holy, and good, and life-giving Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

(The prayer for blessing of the oil may be found in the service book.)

The Anointing with Oil.

Anointing the water thrice, the Priest says: Let us attend! Alleluia.

Choir : Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

The Priest anoints the forehead, the breast and the shoulders of the catechumen, saying: Blessed is God, who illumines and sanctifies every man that comes into the world, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.

The servant of God, (name), is anointed with the oil of gladness; in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Unto the healing of soul and body.

Unto the hearing of faith.

Thy hands have made me and fashioned me.

That he may walk in the way of Thy commandments.

This anointing with oil denotes the catechumen's healing from infirmities of soul.

Then submerging the catechumen three times into the blessed water, the priest says:

The servant of God (name), is baptized, in the Name of the Father, Amen; and of the Son, Amen; and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Prayer for the Garment

The priest then takes the white baptismal garment symbolizing purity of soul, and placing it upon the newly baptized says:

Priest : The servant of God (name), is clothed with the garment of righteousness; in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Choir: ( 8th tone) Grant unto me a robe of light, O Thou who clothest Thyself with light as with a garment; O most merciful Christ our God.

Part 3 The Sacrament of Chrismation.

Prayer before Chrismation.

BLESSED ART THOU, O Lord God Almighty, Source of all good things, Sun of Righteousness, who shinest forth upon them that were in darkness the light of salvation, through the manifestation of Thine Only-begotten Son and our God; and who hast given unto us, unworthy though we be, blessed purification through hallowed water, and divine sanctification through life-giving Chrismation; who now also hast been graciously pleased to regenerate Thy servant who hast newly received Illumination by water and the Spirit, grant unto him forgiveness of sins, whether voluntary or involuntary. Do Thou, the same Master, compassionate King of all, grant also unto him the seal of the gift of Thy holy, and almighty, and adorable Spirit, and participation in the holy Body and the precious Blood of Thy Christ. Keep him in Thy sanctification; confirm him in the Orthodox faith; deliver him from the evil one, and from his snares. And preserve his soul in purity and uprightness, through the saving fear of Thee; that he may please Thee in every deed and word, and may be a child and heir of Thy heavenly kingdom.

For Thou art our God, the God who shows mercy and saves; and unto Thee do we ascribe glory, to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

When anointing with the Holy Chrism, the Priest says:

The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Amen, as he anoints the forehead, eyes,

nose, lips, ears, chest, hands and feet of the newly-baptized person.

The priest then leads the sponsors and the newly-baptized person in a procession around the baptismal font, and everyone sings:

As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. Alleluia. (thrice)

This procession in a circle denotes the unbreakable union of the newly-baptized person with Christ, and also that he becomes like him.

The Epistle and Gospel.

Deacon : Let us attend.

Priest : Peace be unto all.

Choir : And to Thy spirit.

Deacon : Wisdom!

Reader : The Prokeimenon in the Third Tone. The Lord is my light and my salvation: whom then shall I fear?

Verse: The Lord is the strength of my life: whom then shall I fear?

Deacon : Wisdom!

Reader : The lesson from the Epistle of the holy Apostle Paul to the Romans. Deacon : Let us attend!

Reader :

BRETHREN: Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus, were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Deacon : Wisdom! Attend! Let us hear the holy Gospel.

Priest : Peace be to all.

Choir: And to thy spirit.

Priest : The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew.

Choir: Glory to Thee, O Lord, glory to Thee.

Deacon : Let us attend.

Priest :

THEN THE ELEVEN DISCIPLES went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshipped Him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

Choir : Glory to Thee, O Lord, glory to Thee.


O THOU WHO, through holy baptism, hast given unto Thy servant forgiveness of sins, and hast bestowed upon him a life of regeneration: Do Thou, the same Lord and Master, ever graciously illumine his heart with the light of Thy countenance. Maintain the shield of his faith unassailed by the enemy. Preserve the garment of incorruption that Thou hast clothed him with pure and unspoiled, upholding unblemished in him by Thy grace, the seal of the Spirit, and showing mercy unto him and unto us, through the multitude of Thy mercies.

For blessed and glorified is Thine All-honorable and majestic Name, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; now and ever, and unto ages of ages.

Choir : Amen.

Priest: Peace be to all.

Choir : And to thy spirit.

Deacon: Let us bow our heads unto the Lord.

Choir : To Thee, O Lord.


HE WHO HAS PUT ON THEE, O Christ our God, bows also his head with us, unto Thee. Keep him ever a warrior invincible in every attack of those who assail him and us; and make us all victors, even unto the end, through Thine incorruptible crown.

For Thine it is to show mercy, and to save us, and unto Thee do we give glory, together with Thy Father who is from everlasting, and Thine All-Holy, and good, and life-giving Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.

Choir : Amen.

The Priest sprinkles the newly-baptized saying: You are justified, you are illumined, you are sanctified, you are washed in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

You are baptized, you are illumined, you are anointed, you are sanctified, you are washed in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Prayer for Tonsuring.

O MASTER, LORD OUR GOD, who has honored man with Thine own image, Thou hast fashioned him from a reason-endowed soul and a comely body (for the body serves the reason-endowed soul): for Thou hast set the head on high, and hast endowed it with the most important of the senses, which, nevertheless, do not impede one another; and Thou hast covered the head with hair, so it will not be injured by changes in the weather, and hast fitly joined together all his members, that he may give thanks with them unto Thee, the Great Designer. Thou, the same Master, through Thy chosen vessel, the Apostle Paul, hast given us a commandment that we should do all things to Thy glory: Bless, now, Thy servant, (name), who is come to make a first offering shorn from the hair of his head, and likewise his Sponsor; and grant that they may all exercise themselves in Thy law, and do those things which are well pleasing in Thy sight.

For Thou art a merciful God, who lovest mankind, and unto Thee do we give glory, to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.

Choir : Amen.

Taking the scissors, the priest cuts the hair of the newly-baptized person in the form of a cross.

Priest : The servant of God, (name), is tonsured in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Choir : Amen.

The cutting of the hair signifies a man's submission to God.

Priest : Glory to Thee, O Christ our God and our hope, glory to Thee.

Choir : Glory to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen. Lord, have mercy; Lord, have mercy; Lord, have mercy. Father, bless.

Priest : May Christ our true God, through the intercessions of His most pure Mother, and of all the Saints, have mercy on us and save us, forasmuch as He is good and loves mankind.

Choir : Amen.

Part 4 Prayers at the Fortieth Day

On the fortieth day the infant is brought to the Temple to be churched, that is, to make a beginning of being taken into the Church. The priest makes the sign of the Cross over the infant, and, touching his head, he saith the following prayers.

O LORD GOD ALMIGHTY, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who by Thy word hast created all things, both reason-endowed men and animals, and hast brought all things from nothingness into being, we pray and implore Thee: Thou hast saved this Thy servant, (mother's name), by Thy will. Purify her, therefore, from all sin and from every uncleanness, as she now draws near to Thy Holy Church; and make her worthy to partake, uncondemned, of Thy Holy Mysteries.

And bless the child which has been born of her. Increase him ; sanctify him ; enlighten him ; render him chaste, and endow him with good understanding. For Thou hast brought him into being, and hast shown him the physical light, and hast appointed him to be made worthy in due time of the spiritual light, and that he may be numbered among Thy chosen flock, through Thine Only-begotten Son with whom also Thou art blessed, together with Thine all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.

O LORD OUR GOD, who wast brought on the fortieth day as an infant into the Temple according to the Law, by Mary the Bride unwedded, who also was Thy holy Mother; and wast borne in the arms of Symeon the Just, do Thou, O Master all-powerful, bless also unto every good deed this infant which has been brought here, that he may present himself unto Thee, the Creator of all men, and rear him well-pleasing unto Thee in all things; and drive far from him every adverse power, through sealing with the sign of Thy cross; for Thou dost preserve infants, O Lord. And grant that he may receive the portion of the elect ones of Thy kingdom, and be preserved, together with us, through the grace of the holy, and consubstantial, and undivided Trinity.

For unto Thee are due all glory, thanksgiving and worship, together with Thy Father who is from everlasting, and Thine all-holy, and good, and life-giving spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.

Choir: Amen.


Some Remarks about Baptism

About Immersion into Water.

Baptism should be performed through immersion into water. The Greek word " baptizo " means "immersion." The baptism of a eunuch by Philip is described in Acts (8:38): " So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away." The triple immersion into water is accompanied by the utterance of the words, "The servant of God is baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," in accordance with the command of Christ Himself (Mat. 28:19). This was the way baptism was performed in the ancient Church, as mentioned in the Epistle of the Apostle Barnabas. Tertullian clearly observes that through Christ's prescribed words, "the manner of Baptism had been determined." He testifies to the triple immersion, as well as the need for the baptized to renounce Satan and his angels and to confess the faith thereafter.

Baptism of Infants.

The baptism of an infant reflects the parents' burning desire to have their child partake of Christ's blessings as soon as possible. Having been baptized, the child starts to develop in a church environment. For the child, the church is his familial home.

The practice of baptizing infants is quite ancient, dating back to Apostolic times, and has its beginnings in Christ's words: " Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven " (Mat. 19:14).

The Apostles' writings contain many examples of whole families being christened, e.g., the house of the jailer, the house of Stephen (1 Cor. 1:16). Nowhere is it mentioned that infants were excluded. In their sermons to the faithful, the Holy Fathers of the Church insisted on the baptism of infants. St. Gregory the Theologian had this to say to Christian mothers: "Do you have an infant? Do not allow its corruption be strengthened through time; let the child be blessed in infancy and consecrated to the Holy Spirit from its youth. Because of your weak nature are you afraid of the seal … O faint-hearted mother of little faith? But Anna, even before giving birth, promised Samuel to God, and, soon after his birth, consecrated and brought him up to be a priest, unafraid of human frailties but having faith in God."

At the same time, it is essential that those who bring infants to be baptized understand the responsibility they have taken on, for the upbringing of the child in the faith and in Christian good deeds. We find these directives in the book, On the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, attributed to St. Dionysius the Areopagite, a holy father highly regarded by the Church: "Our teachers saw fit to allow the baptism of infants under the holy conditions that the natural parents entrust them to one of the faithful, who in turn would thoroughly instruct the child in spiritual matters, and would subsequently be concerned about the child, like a father sent from above, and a guardian of the baby's eternal salvation. It is the promise of that person (who undertakes to guide the child toward pious living) which prompts the hierarch to pronounce the words of the renunciation [of the devil] and the sacred confession of faith."

Unrepeatable Baptism.

The tenth article of the Nicene Creed pronounces: "I confess ONE baptism for the remission of sins." This means that if the baptism is performed correctly, through the triple immersion in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, it, just like a spiritual birth, cannot be repeated. That is why the Church accepts heretics into its fold by Chrismation, not by Baptism, provided they were properly baptized in accordance with the dictates of the Bible and the ancient Church. Orthodox people must restore the mystery of their baptism through repentance, confession and the partaking of the Holy Sacraments.

About Godparents.

The godparents of the newly baptized child or adult act as his or her spiritual parents. They are given the responsibility for their charge's spiritual development. They pray for him or her, and assist with advice or help during difficult periods of his or her life. In other words, to be a godparent is not only an honor, it is a great responsibility. During baptism, it is usual to have two godparents, a godfather and a godmother, even though one would suffice. They must be pious Orthodox, as well as church-going individuals, so that they can exert a good influence on their godchild. Normally, they provide a cross to be worn by the newly baptized.

Name of the Newly Baptized.

During baptism, the child or adult is given the name of a saint belonging to the Church. This saint becomes that person's heavenly patron. Everyone should know the life of his or her patron saint and attempt to partake of Holy Communion on that saint's day, or as close as possible to that day.

Baptism request form

Taken from http://www.fatheralexander.org