Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Reflections on my Baptism: December 7, 1975

“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” - Galatians 3:27

“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” - Romans 6:4

“We believe…in one baptism with repentance for the remission and forgiveness of sins” - The Nicene Creed

“Thou who hast called this thy servant, O Lord, to the holiness and the enlightenment of baptism, we pray thee, make him worthy of thy most precious grace. Put off him the old garment of sins and renew him unto a new life. Fill him with the power of the Holy Spirit that he may have the renewal of the glory of thy Christ. And to thee, the Mighty One and to thy only-begotten Son and to the liberating Holy Spirit is fitting dominion and honor, now and always and unto the ages of ages. Amen.” - From the Order of Baptism according to the Rite of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church

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Thirty-five years ago, today, I was baptized into the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church at 17 days old. It has been a very joyous day for me, as I spent the day in prayer, thanksgiving, and reflection upon my Baptism. As I offer the following reflections on my Baptism, and Baptism in general, I invite the reader to remember their own Baptism, and how God has been faithful to His promise of salvation regarding this Mystery.

If you were to ask my parents and relatives if they fully comprehended the theological significance of what was being performed on December 7, 1975, they would have said no. Thankfully, the efficacious nature of my Baptism was not dependent upon their knowledge of the Sacrament, and regardless of their level of understanding, the invisible grace of God was present and accomplished what Christ and the Apostles said would be accomplished. Like other baptized Christians before me, I was saved and entered into the fellowship and life of the Church, into the Kingdom of God, with the new status of child and co-heir of Christ.

Baptism is not meant to be a static event, something that just happened in the past, and to be remembered in thought alone. Our Baptism is to be lived out, continually at the forefront of our minds, reminding us of the words proclaimed over us, the promise of the Holy Spirit, our salvation in Christ, and the Church believing with us, serving as our Godmother. Although we are cleansed of sin at Baptism, and leave the font as a new creature in Christ, we are continually cleansed by sin as we walk in this newness of life. Through this Sacrament, we are set on the path of salvation for the purpose of union with Christ. Baptism initiates this union, and seals us as we are being saved, as we continue to 'become' Christians.

Was I conscious of what was taking place on that day? No, not in any theological sense, nor was my free-will involved. I’m sure I only had a few simple things on my mind, none of which were related to my Baptism. However, this is why Baptism is not a private event, but a community and public event. It is why Baptism (even for adults) is not merely about the individual, or their choice in the matter, as much as it is about Christ Himself, the Word, and His Body, the Church. At my Baptism, my parents, and my Godfather, declared my faith on my behalf, with the Church as witness. They were commissioned with raising me in the Christian faith, and that is precisely what they did. Placed on the path of salvation, I eventually had to take responsibility for my faith, and either accept or reject what was given to me as an infant.

As the day comes to a close, I am thankful for God’s faithfulness in my life, making my Baptism an ongoing sacramental event. I continue to pray for God’s salvation through His mercy and grace, as I strive to remain faithful to Him through a life of repentance, living out my Baptism in faith.

“Everyone baptized in the orthodox manner has received mystically the fullness of grace; but he becomes conscious of this grace only to the extent that he actively observes the commandments.” - St. Mark the Ascetic

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In gratitude of my Baptism, I would like to honor the following:

Jesus Christ, Who sanctified the waters of Baptism, by being baptized Himself, and as the founder of this Mystery, directly performed my Baptism.

My parents, Augustus and Elsie Vozzy, for being obedient to the teachings of Christ and His Church, for taking the Christ-given responsibility of initiating the Christian faith in their home, for not depriving me of this necessary aspect of salvation, and for committing me to the holy font for the cleansing of sin, rebirth in Christ, and membership into the One, Catholic, Holy, and Apostolic Church.

Fr. Garen Gdanian, for serving the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church as priest, and for presiding over my baptism, representing both Christ, and His Church.

My Godfather and Uncle, Christopher Garabedian, who has served as a profound Christian example and influence in my life.

Rev. Todd A. Zielinski, who, prior to my re-entrance into the Armenian Orthodox Church, played a vital role in helping me to even recognize the validity and legitimacy of my infant baptism.

The picture above is the font in which I was baptized, located at St. Peter Armenian Apostolic Church, in Watervliet, NY.