A baptism in the Greek Orthodox Church is a always a delightful affair. The atmosphere is light and the air rings with the laughter of little children and adults coming to share in a ceremony with a special meaning. If the star of the show screams until there is no air left in the little lungs while being undressed and immersed in water, no-one complains. There is a gentle tolerance which covers the church and it hums with cooing sounds and parents adoring their own little ones who have already been baptised. Adults look at children with smiles on their faces, no matter how naughty or difficult that child may normally be. No matter how many times a baptism has been attended, it is new every time.
Whether it is a baptism in an orthodox church or a christening in a protestant church, there are the same affections ringing through a church. No matter the place of the ceremony, the culture or the religion, it has a very specific and very special meaning for those who attend. There is something about the sprinkling of water or immersion of a child and calling the protection of God over the soul of the little one that touches us on a different level altogether, something so deeply profound that words often escape any explanations.
In the orthodox church each person attending receives a beautiful little pin on his shoulder after the baptism. This little pin thanks the guest for being there, for being a witness to a very special occasion, for sharing in the occasion of dedicating this child to the Lord our God.
I wonder how many of us realise that a baptism or a christening always takes place in the presence of others, those others almost always being adults, no matter how many or how few. Attending a baptism brings a particular significance to being a witness to such a dedication. Being in the presence of others means that we as single witnesses are part of a collective promise as witnesses. It surely means that we as a community, no matter how large or small, agree to take care of this little one as we should take care of all our children. This in turn means that we as a community take on the responsibility to watch out for all our children, whether they belong to us biologically or not.
As witnesses at a baptism we take on the responsibility to embrace all our children. We promise to take care of them, to help teach them responsibility and love and how to embrace the Truth. We as adults should therefore be vigilant in finding that Truth ourselves so we may be able to adequately guide our little ones. To adequately guide them and teach them, we have to be serious about the baptism we have just witnessed and we have to be committed to dedicating all our children to Our Maker, the One and Only Almighty. If we are then serious about being a witness, we have to be serious about protecting all our little ones from Evil to the very best of our abilities.
The most ironic and heartsore fact of all is that the pedophiles, the child pornographers, the abusers and the violent parents of society stand with us and between us at baptisms and christenings. They look just like you and I, they also smile with delight at the immersion of the baby, they also receive the pin and wear it proudly. There is no doubt that they too witness the innocence, the life without blemish, the absolute purity of the little ones. It is what they do with what they witness that turns the whole world upside down. The mere thought turns my heart inside out and it is hard for me not to pass judgment … the Big Book says it is not mine, so I prefer to believe that He has a particular plan for these people who undo what the rest of us witness as sacred.
I pray that each time we attend a baptism, we shall take to heart both the beauty and the importance of what we witness and that we shall remember the role we as adults play at baptisms and christenings. I pray that we shall do our best to preserve that innocence and hope in our children so that they may do so to theirs in turn and maybe this way we can do our little share in turning the world right again for our children. (By Annalie)