A Milestone

Thou art baptised, thou art illumined, thou hast been anointed with the Holy Chrism, thou art sanctified, thou art washed: in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
-from the rite of Chrismation
Today marks the fifth anniversary of my entry into Christ's Church. On the 6th of February, 2006, being the 19th of February by the civil calendar, I received the double Sacrament of Baptism and Chrismation. This was to have been at Pascha of that year but, for particular reasons, was brought forward to the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, itself a very fitting time for being received as an adopted son of the Father.

This year, the Sunday of the Prodigal Son falls tomorrow, and in preparation I have been reading the homily of St Gregory Palamas on the Prodigal Son. He makes some very good points about the detail of this parable that I had never previously considered, and makes me realise just how much I have inherited as a child of God. When I, as a result of my baptism, am able to stand with my brothers and sisters and cross myself, and sing 'Our Father', I am claiming all that is promised to the children of God who are adopted through the grace of baptism. The kingdom of God, the riches of heaven, the promise of growth into the life of God: I find this astounding once again, and it is in the Liturgy that I find this in its fullness.

There are two points in this homily that touch me most. St Gregory points out that the father in the parable only divides his estate into two portions: one for each of his sons. Nothing does he hold back for himself, having no need of such and being filled with generous love for his sons. It is only we who are in need of the grace that emanates from God. The second is that the Son demands of the father what he has no right to even request. The inheritance that is alotted to him is given only because of the father's loving generosity and is his. It reminds me of how much of what is good is often taken for granted and how little I sometimes acknowledge the source of these things.

I was also pleased and not a little disturbed to find elements of St Gregory's homily that bear directly on my struggle of faith last year, as though he himself had endured the same thing. Of course, it is perfectly possible that he had.

In any case, five years have passed, I have been relieved of many romantic ideas and like to think that I have grown a little amidst the numerous failures, thanks to those who have looked after me and guided me. I look forward to seeing where the next five years take me.
Having foolishly abandoned thy paternal glory, I squandered on iniquities the riches which thou gavest me. Wherefore, I cry to Thee with the voice of the prodigal son, saying, 'I have sinned before Thee, O compassionate Father. Receive me as one repentant, and make me as one of thy hired servants.'
-Kondak from the Sunday of the Prodigal Son

10 responses:

Patricius said...

Congratulations Michael, my prayers are with you on this, the Lord's Day.

Mark said...

Congratulations Michael. Who needs baptism certificates now we have you tube!

Michael said...

Thank you, Patricius, my friend. I've had a truly uplifting day, despite the one negative element, and am much improved on my mood and spiritual state yesterday. :-)

Mark, quite so! I'll just send that link next time I need to prove that I am who I say I am. :-)

Martin (Audley) said...

Congratulations Michael!

I am attending my niece's baptism next Sunday in Coventry. She is not being baptised into the Orthodox Church alas, but after a very difficult couple of years (especially for a 17 year old) she is finally breaking free of some Wiccan nonsense. Like St Mary of Egypt she was prevented from entering a church for a couple of months last year but has finally made it!

Last night I sent her various quotations from the service of Matins for Sunday of the Prodigal as when I read through the service last night so much seemed relevant.
She was made to give up her cross when she joined a coven and Fr Samuel has provided me with a replacement for her - which has been in a box in the altar alongside another cross which had been touched to a fragment of the True Cross.

I was reading through the Baptism service last night and never before has the renouncing of the devil, the spitting and the exorcism of the waters made more sense.
The service was obviously written for a time when such evils as witchcraft and paganism were much more prevalent.

May you grow in faith for the next five years and beyond - like I hope to too!


Ian Climacus said...

Congratulations, and God grant you many, many years Michael!

[I am yet to receive my Chrismation certificate...5 years and 2 months later... :) ]

May God continue to bless, guide and sustain you in all you do. I can identify with the romantic ideals and I too, I pray, have grown via failures. You have been a great inspiration and encouragement to me in the Faith, for which I gratefully thank you.

I shall try and find and read St Gregory Palamas on the Prodigal Son this week too.

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

Many Years indeed, Michael :-)

Anonymous said...

Again, congratulations, Michael. Thank you for including the words from the rite of baptism at the beginning of this post. As a Priest in the Church of England, I have been reviewing the meaning of baptism in the wake of the many meaningless baptisms that tend to take place in our parish churches. May God help us to give this Sacrament the reverence and awe that it deserves. May it shape and transform our lives.

Michael said...

Many thanks, all.

Ian, it is you who have been an inspiration to me, sharing, as we have done, similar struggles in life and faith. Thank you.

Martin, that gift sounds wonderful and apt, and I am sure that it will be a defence against evil in her life. I love some of those triumphal hymns in honour of the Cross that we sing at certain times of year.

Welcome, remac. I think we all have our pockets of failure in our churches in failing to appreciate the awesome Mysteries. We are not immune to it in Orthodoxy either. Ask those who have had quickie baptisms so that they can get married. The saving grace is that sometimes these things do bear fruit and the person does truly have a conversion of heart, perhaps due to the fervour of the spouse. I am grateful for my catechumenate. Only now I speak to more and more people do I realise that many people are made catechumens as a mere formality, immediately before they are baptised. I was made a catechumen and had five months of gentle preparation, during which the parish benefitted from more instruction as well. I think that it is truly beneficial. And catechumens should be made to leave when they are dismissed from the Liturgy. I was. If the catechumen truly believes what he has claimed to believe when he is made a catechumen, then this should be no hardship. It does actually mean something about his place in relation to the communion of the faithful, to which he is not yet joined.

I ought to sleep soon.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Many years, Michael!

My own baptismal anniversary is Feb. 25, so very near yours.

Maybe I'll finally get a chance to meet you when we come to England this summer.

Michael said...

Thank you, Anastasia! It's great to see you here. How are you keeping? Will you come for a long stay again or will it be a shorter visit? Either way, yes, I do hope we can meet. And don't forget the pan-Orthodox pilgrimage to Ilam in August. :-)

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