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.
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.
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?
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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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
Taken from http://www.fatheralexander.org
The eye sees the visible while the mind comprehends the invisible. A God-loving mind is the light of the soul. A person who has a God-loving mind has an enlightened heart and can perceive God with the mind.
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