Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18
As you’ll recall from previous reflections, there are many reasons why the Church baptizes infants and doesn’t wait for us to reach adulthood in order to be baptized. This is an historical reason—a plague went through Europe many centuries ago, and wiped out a large percentage of the population, depriving many infants and children of being baptized. We baptize infants, to make sure that this commandment for us to be baptized has been met.
We know that through Baptism and Chrismation, the Holy Trinity touches a person in a very unique and important way. We are cleansed through Baptism, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit through Chrismation, and we are sustained in our journey through the Eucharist. God’s power has no limits. He does not require us to attain a certain age, level of intelligence, or level of comprehension of Him in order to dwell in us. He doesn’t even require our agreement. Thus, we baptize infants who don’t remember their baptism and who haven’t taken a catechism class. There is no one, no matter how old we are or how much we know, that has mastered Christianity. It is a continual learning process. Remember Saint Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch who we discussed previously. (Acts 8) He knew enough to desire to be baptized. And was committed to learning more.
Learning begins the day we are born. Parents don’t wait until their children are of a certain age to begin teaching them. None of us remembers learning our numbers or our colors or being potty-trained or learning how to drink without a bottle. All of these things happened to us before we are old enough to remember.
We also begin “living” fully on the day we are born. We breathe, we eat, we poop, we sleep, we cough, we cry and we do many other things from the day of birth. No, we don’t do math, or write, or read, or sing—these all come later. But we begin living our lives from the moment of birth and we continue to learn as we get older.
We don’t ever tell our children “you have learned enough.” Even when they are adults, with college degrees and years of work experience, we are still learning and our parents are still encouraging us to learn.
Most of us were baptized as infants. We knew nothing of God, or the Bible, or Church Tradition. And yet we started living the Christian life despite having no knowledge. As we discussed above, this mirrors our life experience. Our son will not remember when he was one year old and we were teaching him the days of the week and we asked him, “What day comes after Saturday?” and he answered “church day.” We had a book for little children called “Guardian Angel,” and it was about Christ and the Church. Every night, he asked us to read the “church book,” as he called it. We read it so many times that it fell apart. And when we asked him, “Who loves you?” he would reply “God loves me.” Before he knew the alphabet and long before he was potty-trained, he knew that God loved him, that Sundays were reserved for worship, and that church is a special place. Now that he is older, he knows much more.
As I’m writing this, our son is twelve years old, he loves going to church and serving in the altar and I pray that it will always be so. We didn’t stop our teaching at “God loves you,” and “church is special.” His education continues weekly in Sunday school and daily in our home, as we pray together and read Scripture together.
It is important that we teach our children about the Lord, about the Church, about love, and about service. We can reinforce these concepts when our children are babies. We must reinforce them when they are children. And we must continue to encourage learning even when they are adults. As adults, we didn’t finish learning the day we finished Sunday school. Learning about the faith (and about other things) should be a life-long pursuit.
O Lord our God, Who through the fulfillment of the baptismal Font have, by Your Goodness, sanctified them that believe in You: do You bless this child here present, and may Your blessings come down upon his (her) head; as You did bless the head of Your servant David the King through the Prophet Samuel, so also bless the head of this servant (Name), through the hand of me, the unworthy Priest, visiting him (her) with Your Holy Spirit, that as he (she) goes forward to the prime of his (her) years, and the gray hairs of old age, he (she) may send up Glory to You, beholding the good things of Jerusalem all the day of his (her) life. For to You are due all glory, honor and worship, to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen. (Prayer from the Sacrament of Baptism, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
It’s okay that we knew nothing when we were baptized. However, we must continually learn about our faith as we get older, and continue to encourage our children to learn as well.
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The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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