Monday, February 4, 2008

The Kingdom of Gentleness and Freedom


I was pleased to find the following news item on the official website of the Chersonese Diocese (Moscow Patriarchate), which I translate from the French for your benefit:
The Diocese of Nizhny-Novgorod Restores the Tradition of Baptismal Liturgies

The Diocese of Nizhny-Novgorod has decided to return to the tradition of Baptismal Liturgies, which have disappeared from Orthodox parish practice for several centuries. A first Baptismal Liturgy will be held in the Nizhni-Novgorod Cathdral during Paschal week: twenty adults will receive the Mystery of Baptism.
In most cases, Baptism, accompanied by Chrismation and tonsure, is celebrated separately from the Eucharistic Liturgy, and often in the absence of the parish community. The Baptismal Liturgy, however, includes the rites of Christian initiation within the Eucharist. Such Liturgies including Baptism have been celebrated for several years in the church of the St Tikhon Institute of Theology with the blessing of Patriarch Aleksei.

The celebration of Baptism during the Liturgy, “although quite rare today, corresponds to the tradition of the Orthodox Church. It is particularly solemn and the baptized are made to feel called to the community of the Church,” says Fr Maxim Antonenko, a professor at the Nizhny-Novgorod Seminary.
The process by which the Church in Russia has returned to a more traditional Baptismal practice has been a slow one. With the fall of the Soviet Union, it became very fashionable for people (especially the young) to seek out Baptism, if only as a symbolic rejection of Soviet ideology. At the time, the Church was entirely unprepared for such a mass reception, and many people were Baptized by sprinkling (asperges) rather than by full immersion, which is the standard Orthodox practice both for children and adults. (The Greek infinitive "baptizein," from which we get our English word, means to immerse.) In time Patriarch Aleksei decreed that all newly-constructed churches were to have baptisteries sufficient to baptize adults by full immersion. Pre-Baptismal preparation has become better systematized; in some places a formal catechumenate has even been established. Baptism by sprinkling is now the exception rather than the rule. It is therefore even more heartening to see the return of Baptism to its proper place as part of the Divine Liturgy. Baptism is, after all, an initiation into the Body of Christ, and thus should be performed within the fullness of the Eucharistic assembly. There are no such things as private sacraments: even Confession is essentially a matter of reconciliation to the body of the Church (read the prayers of absolution to see this very clearly).

Speaking of Baptism, I have long been particularly touched by St Basil the Great's treatment in On the Holy Spirit. He writes that Baptism can be looked at as both a drowning and a washing: the "Lord, Who is the Dispenser of our life, gave us the covenant of Baptism, containing a type of life and death, for the water fulfills the image of death, and the Spirit gives us the earnest of life." I remember a priest telling me of his impressions after serving both a Baptism and a funeral in the same day: in both cases he was looking down into a grave. Here are the words of St Basil which I find most powerful and poetic:
So in training us for the life that follows on the resurrection the Lord sets out all the manner of life required by the Gospel, laying down for us the law of gentleness, of endurance of wrong, of freedom from the defilement that comes of the love of pleasure, and from covetousness, to the end that we may of set purpose win beforehand and achieve all that the life to come of its inherent nature possesses. If therefore any one in attempting a definition were to describe the Gospel as a forecast of the life that follows on the resurrection, he would not seem to me to go beyond what is met and right. (15:35)
The Gospel is the recipe for the life that follows the resurrection. Baptism itself is a death and resurrection, after which we can indeed live the Gospel, actually achieving beforehand all that the life to come promises. Those who have died and been resurrected through being downed in the Baptismal waters three times, and then raised up again, are already able to live in a foretaste of the world to come, that world of which the Gospel is the forecast, that Kingdom where gentleness and freedom reign.

4 comments:

Maximus Daniel said...

Wonderful!

Also, seeing as you are more aware of Orthodoxy in Europe, I was wondering if you could help me with something. My brother is currently in Angers, France and I have told him he should visit an Orthodox parish over there. Are there any Orthodox communities in Angers that you know of? Or could you direct me to any websites? (I already searched this MP diocese's).

Felix Culpa said...

The largest number of churches in the Russian tradition in France are under the Russian Orthodoxes Churches in Western Europe, Exarchate of the Ecumenical Patriarchate -- often called the "Paris Jurisdiction."

You can find a listing of parishes here:

http://www.exarchat.org/spip.php?rubrique7

I don't see anything for Angers, unfortunately, but he could likely find something within a short train ride's distance.

Your best bet is to email Fr Jivco Panec (webmaster of Orthodoxie) for assistance. He knows English quite well: orthodoxie@gmail.com

Maximus Daniel said...

thank you!

Felix Culpa said...

Here's an interactive map of France with a church finder: http://la-france-orthodoxe.net/fr/peler/

Angers is in the Pays-de-la-Loire region. Four parishes are listed:

Paroisse Saint Basile de Césarée
53 Boulevard de la Beaujoire,
44300 Nantes

Atelier d'iconographie de la Sainte Trinité
11, rue Charles-de-Renéville,
49410 Saint-Florient-le-Vieil

Communauté des Disséminés
rue Saint-Benoît (crypte de l'église Saint-Benoît),
72000 Le Mans

Monastère Saint Silouane
72440 Saint-Mars-de-Locquenay

I don't know which is closest to Angers, but I can't imagine any of them would be too far away.