As we said earlier, this is the beginning of the Orthodox way of life. This is the gateway to grace and participation in the Mysteries of the church. It is a new birth and is performed for our salvation.
He who believes and is baptized will be saved (Mark 16:16).
The Epistles of the Apostles tell us that through Baptism we are sanctified, cleansed, justified, die to sin, are buried with Christ to arise with Him.
You were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6:11)
We are buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Rom 6:4)
The Greek word is “baptizo” which literally means “to immerse.” After anointing with oil the priest takes the child facing East, while the sponsor anoints the entire body, and then immerses the body three times saying, The servant of God (name) is baptized in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
This is done in accordance with the command of Christ Himself:
Make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you. (Matt 28:19)
In Baptism all sins are forgiven. As the priest is finishing the blessing of the water he recites a prayer which says:
“Will You the Sovereign of all, show this water to be the water of redemption, the water of sanctification, the cleansing of flesh and spirit, the loosing of bonds, the remission of sins, the illumination of the soul, the bath of rebirth, the renewal of spirit, the gift of adoption to sonship, the garment of incorruption, the fountain of life…. “
Baptism is like a resurrection, it is a new birth, The prayer continues:
“Being buried in the likeness of Your death through baptism, he (she) may likewise become a partaker in Your resurrection; and having guarded the gift of the Holy Spirit, and increased the measure of grace entrusted to him (her), he (she) may receive the prize of the heavenly calling and so be numbered among the first-born, whose names are written in heaven, in You our God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Through baptism the door is opened to a new way of life. One now is united with the body of Christ in the Church and has the opportunity to receive the gifts of God though the Mysteries of the Church. Our spiritual growth still depends on our God given free will. We must be willing to follow God’s will. Through the mystical life of the church we will be supported in our spiritual growth. Baptism is the starting point of our salvation. We must now cooperate with divine grace and partake of the support given to us through the mysteries of the Church.
Why Infant baptism?
It is normal for Orthodox to be baptized as infants. Some Protestants argue that the only valid baptism is that of an adult who believes in Christ. They claim that baptizing a helpless infant who is only a few weeks old and who is unable to believe is meaningless. Why baptize a baby when it doesn't know yet what is happening? Why not wait for the baby to grow and believe in Christ and ask for baptism? If we were to follow this line of reasoning, we wouldn’t inoculate the baby against disease until he grows up and asks for it! But we know better. Baptizing infants before they know what is going on is an expression of God's great love for us. It shows that God loves us and accepts us before we can ever know and love Him. It shows that we are wanted and loved by God from the very moment of our birth. Nothing shows the nature of God's grace more than infant baptism. The Orthodox Church does not belittle personal faith in an adult who seeks baptism, but instead insists that the whole emphasis of baptism is not an what the baby does or the parents or the godparents, but on what God does. The fact that we are Christians is not due to any act on our part; it is due to the act of God in Christ through the Holy Spirit. Of course Baptism demands a personal response on the part of the baptized child when it reaches the age of reason. The child must accept what God did for him or her in Baptism. Baptism is not a divine pass that will get us into Heaven automatically. It must be followed by a personal awareness or awakening to the many gifts of God's love bestowed upon us through this great sacrament. Infant baptism is a practice that comes from the earliest days of the Church.