Schedule of Services

Sundays: Orthros (Matins): 8:45 AM | Divine Liturgy: 9:45 AM

Weekdays: Orthros (Matins): 9:00 AM | Divine Liturgy: 10:00 AM

For information on our Lenten and Holy Week services please contact the Church office at (203) 795-1347 between the hours of 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday.

 

 

Baptism

As Orthodox Christians, the Sacrament of Baptism is our entry into the Church as members of the Body of Christ. It is the “new birth” by which we die to the world, and are raised with Christ to eternal life. It is through Baptism, that we are mystically born into spiritual life. The Holy Sacrament of Baptism serves as the door leading into the Kingdom of Grace, and grants access to participation in the other Sacraments of the Church. Even before the establishment of the Sacrament of Baptism, Christ indicated its absolute necessity in his conversation with Nicodemus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” When Nicodemus expressed his perplexity, “How can a man be born when he is old?” the Savior replied that this new birth is accomplished by water and the Spirit: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is truly born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” (John 3. 3-5)

In Baptism, man receives, in place of the old existence he had, a new existence and life, and becomes a child of God, a member of the Body of Christ and the Church, and an inheritor of eternal life. Baptism, therefore, is indispensable for all, including infants, so that growing in body and spirit one might grow in Christ.

The Great Commission

Christ appeared to the eleven disciples after the Resurrection and commanded them to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit...” (Matthew 28.19) The annotations of the Orthodox Bible explain this passage further, “if we observe the context for the Lord’s command we see that the making of disciples cannot be done in the strength of man, but only in the power of God. The reality of the Resurrection refers not only to its historicity, apostolic witness, and necessity for faith, but also its power in our Christian life and mission. The resurrected Son of God, living in us and energizing us, makes possible the salvation of all.”

The second part of what is known as the Great Commission is found in the next verse, “…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28.20) By stating that He is ‘with you always,’ Jesus means that His

Resurrection is not just the past, nor the future. It is always present in our lives through the Holy Spirit. We know Him directly, here and now, in the present, as our Savior and our Lord. ‘To the end of the age’ does not imply that we are to be separated from Him at some point in time, but rather that He will be with us forever, even unto the ages of ages.

The Early Church
Fifty days after the Resurrection of Christ, while the disciples were gathered together ‘in one accord in one place,’ (Acts 2.1) to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit appeared to them as ‘divided tongues of fire and sat upon each of them.’ (Acts 2.3) It should be noted that on this first Christian Pentecost, the Holy Spirit appears while the Apostles are gathered together ‘with one accord in one place,’ meaning that they are gathered as an assembly of faithful. Their unity creates an environment in which the Holy Spirit appears.

It is during his sermon following their ‘baptism of the Holy Spirit’ that the Apostle Peter exhorts, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Sprit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2.38-39.) Peter’s call to respond to the gospel requires specific actions that define Christian life within the Church. We must first, repent; second, be baptized; and third, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. To this day, people come to Christ in precisely this same manner in the baptismal service of the Orthodox Church. They first, repent, renouncing the devil; next they are baptized by immersion in water for the remission of sins; and finally they are christmated (anointed) thus receiving the Holy Spirit.

During the first and second century, after the Resurrection of our Lord, the majority of those being baptized as Christians were adults. The candidates for Baptism, called catechumens, were progressively introduced into the life of the Church by special rites that included exorcisms, prayers, explanations of the Scriptures, etc. This period of preparation, which according to local customs lasted anywhere from one to three years, involved the entire community, which was preparing itself for the reception of new members. It was during this time that each catechumen chose a sponsor (godparent) who would assist the Apostles and/or Priests in teaching them about Christianity. The sponsor would then stand as a witness to the sincere intentions and belief of the person to be baptized. vile spirits so that having found mercy with You, (God), they may be found worthy of Your immortal, heavenly mysteries and offer up glory to You O God….”

The Priest then asks God to bless the soon to be baptized Christian with a guardian angel to guide, guard and protect them all the days of their life. This is followed by a dialogue between the Priest (representing the Church) and the person being baptized (if this is a child – the godparent is called to respond on their behalf). The dialogue begins with our backs to the altar and the questions “Do you renounce Satan…?” and “Have you renounced Satan?” The questions and answers “I renounce him” and “I have renounced him” are repeated three times. These statements of repentance are followed by the instructions to “blow and spit upon him (Satan).” With this act of defiance of ‘spitting on the devil’ the group then turns towards the altar (towards God) and continues the dialogue.

“Do you join yourself to Christ?” “Have you joined yourself to Christ?” The questions are once again asked three times, and responded to three times, with the following confession of faith: “I do join myself to Christ” “I have joined myself to Christ.” A final question is asked, “And do you believe in Him” and answered “I believe in Him as King and as God.” The godparent then recites the Creed paying further witness to the faith and teachings of the Church. It is for this reason that the sponsor must be an active member of the Orthodox Church and becomes from that moment the spiritual brother or sister of the parents.

The Godparent
With the appearance and prevalence of infant baptism between the mid second and fifth centuries, there has been a subtle change in the role of the godparent. Instead of acknowledging the sincere intentions of the person who is seeking to be Baptized, the sponsor is given the honor by the Church to assist the parents in the spiritual nurturing and upbringing of the child. It is the role of the godparent, during the Baptismal service to respond on behalf of their godchild to the questions posed by the Church.

The Service of the Catechumens
The Sacrament of Baptism is divided into two distinctive services. The first service takes place in the Narthex of the Church and is known as The Service of the Catechumen. It is during this service that several things occur, first, three prayers of exorcism are read, asking God to “empower,” the soon to be baptized Christian, “to triumph over Satan and his vile spirits so that having found mercy with You, (God), they may be found worthy of Your immortal, heavenly mysteries and offer up glory to You O God….”

The Priest then asks God to bless the soon to be baptized Christian with a guardian angel to guide, guard and protect them all the days of their life. This is followed by a dialogue between the Priest (representing the Church) and the person being baptized (if this is a child – the godparent is called to respond on their behalf). The dialogue begins with our backs to the altar and the questions “Do you renounce Satan…?” and “Have you renounced Satan?” The questions and answers “I renounce him” and “I have renounced him” are repeated three times. These statements of repentance are followed by the instructions to “blow and spit upon him (Satan).” With this act of defiance of ‘spitting on the devil’ the group then turns towards the altar (towards God) and continues the dialogue.

“Do you join yourself to Christ?” “Have you joined yourself to Christ?” The questions are once again asked three times, and responded to three times, with the following confession of faith: “I do join myself to Christ” “I have joined myself to Christ.” A final question is asked, “And do you believe in Him” and answered “I believe in Him as King and as God.” The godparent then recites the Creed paying further witness to the faith and teachings of the Church. It is for this reason that the sponsor must be an active member of the Orthodox Church and becomes from that moment the spiritual brother or sister of the parents.

The Sacrament of Baptism
The Blessing of the water begins with a Doxology (Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and unto the ages of ages) that announces the Kingdom of God as the theme, the content, and the ultimate goal of Baptism. The Sacrament of Baptism begins the spiritual journey of the soon to be enlightened Christian, and the initial doxology reveals and announces its final destination: the Kingdom of God.

Following the initial petitions and prayer that bless the water, the pre-baptismal anointing with olive oil takes place. Oil has always been a religious symbol. It is a natural source of light and joy, and in ancient times was primarily used as medicine. In the case of baptism, it is the sickness of sin from which we are being healed. Oil is also known as the symbol of reconciliation and peace. The priest says a prayer of thanks to God for the oil and asks God to accept the offering and make it a gift of healing, a gift of peace, a gift of spiritual power and life.

The priest makes the sign of the cross in the water with the oil three times and anoints the person who is to be baptized on their brow, their breast, their ears, their hands, their feet and their back. The candidate is then baptized with the triple immersion in the name of the Holy Trinity, during which the entire Church “seals” each action with an “Amen.”

The Sacrament of Holy Chrismation
Immediately after Baptism, the newly baptized receives the Sacrament of Chrismation, the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit. This sacrament is the fulfillment of Baptism and signifies the participation of everyone who is baptized into
the Spirit of Pentecost, consecrating the person as the Temple of the Holy Spirit. From earliest times, the church has practiced chrismation immediately following baptism and the roots of this sacrament are clear in both the Old and New Testaments.

In his sermon on Pentecost, Saint Peter quotes the well known prophesy of Joel, “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.” (Acts 2:17; Joel 2:28) The Orthodox Study Bible reminds us that this ‘prophesy is significant because under the Old Covenant, the gift of the Holy Spirit had been given only to a few – the patriarchs, the prophets, and some of the judges.” Joel, however, prophesied that the Holy Spirit would be given to all of God’s people; this was fulfilled at Pentecost. The Prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel also speak about the same promise of the Holy Spirit and Ezekiel’s passage ties together the water and the Spirit in a prophetic vision of baptism and chrismation. (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27)

Jesus repeatedly promised the gift of the Holy Spirit to his disciples and stated that the Holy Spirit would reveal truth to the Church. In fact, the last words of Christ before His Ascension include a promise: “John (the Baptist) truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:5) The promise of God includes both our union with Christ in Holy Baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit at chrismation.

(Editor’s note: The material of the Holy Chrism is made of 49 aromatic substances that symbolize the infinite Gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is prepared every ten years on Holy Thursday in a special service at the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in the presence of representatives of all the Orthodox Patriarchates of the world.)

Gift to God
The priest also cuts hair from the infant’s head in the form of a cross. This is done on behalf of the child who offers a gift to God, to thank Him for the great gift of eternal life that he has just inherited. The newly baptized Christian is then dressed in a white baptismal garment, symbolizing purity and righteousness. The priest then places a cross around the child’s neck while repeating the words of Christ: “He who wishes to follow me, let him pick up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

All Those Who Have Been Baptized
The celebrant then leads the newly baptized with their sponsor(s) in a circular procession around the baptismal font, while the congregation chants the verse from Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians (3:27) “All those who have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ forever, Alleluia!” This is followed by the reading of the Epistle (Romans 6:3-11) which speaks about our new life in Christ, and the Gospel (Matthew 28:16-20) which contains the Great Commission of Christ commanding us to “Baptize all nations….”

The Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist
Finally, the newly baptized partakes of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. By partaking of Holy Communion, the child becomes part of the Church or Ekklesia. Here, everyone gathers to participate in the baptismal liturgy and to witness the Sacraments of Baptism, Chrismation and Holy Eucharist in celebration of the ‘new life’ offered in Christ to the newly baptized. This gathering serves also as a reminder that each of us is continually renewed through the partaking of Holy Communion and we, along with the newly baptized, are continually offered ‘new life’ in Christ!

Baptismal Names
It is the practice of our Church to give the name of a saint to a newborn child. By accepting/choosing the name of a Saint, we honor and express our gratitude to a Holy Person for their exceptional contributions to our faith and provide the newborn with an example worthy of emulation. The Saint then becomes the Patron of the child protecting it from all danger. Through their prayers, God will grant the child the necessary illumination to become an ardent follower of Christ.

Holy Communion and on-going life in the Church
Following the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Chrismation, the newly-baptized child is immediately given Holy Communion, the Body and Blood of Christ. This is a central act in the spiritual life of the child from that day forth, for Jesus has told us that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53)

It has become a tradition to have the Godparent accompany the child, after their Baptism, to the Divine Liturgy on the following three Sundays and to bring him/her for Holy Communion with the lit Baptismal Candle. It is important, however, that the child come forth for Holy Communion not just for the traditional following three Sundays, but each Sunday as he/she grows in the life and grace of the Lord.

Our Church provides many opportunities for young children to experience the fellowship and nurture of the Faith. There are various programs including: our religious education program beginning with Nursery School; PATCHES for pre-school children; JOY (Junior Orthodox Youth) for 8-12 year olds; and GOYA (Greek Orthodox Youth of America) for 12-18 year olds; and summer camp. At Saint Barbara, the Summer Camp encompasses children from ages 4 and upwards, in two separate and unique programs. Also included in this array of activities for the young people of our faith is a diverse athletic program, that offers fellowship through a variety of sports programs throughout the year.

Of course, the Church can only offer these ministries in hopes that the parents will help their children participate in them. Naturally, the child will learn a great deal from the example set by the parents and from participation in the educational and overall life of the Church. This is why it is so vitally important to the life and salvation of children for the entire family to participate in the worship life and activities of the Church. In the words of Solomon the Wise: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) It is prudent for the parent or godparent to assure the child a proper spiritual education through enrollment in our church Sunday School Program and culturally through our Greek School Program and our Odyssey Cultural Dance Group.

How long should you wait to baptize your child?
Since an unbaptized child has not yet received the fullness of the gifts and promises spoken of by Christ, it would seem to be a logical and spiritually prudent decision to baptize him/her soon after the churching. This often takes place when the child is anywhere from 3 to 9 months old. In all cases, parents are encouraged to give the life, health and salvation of the child top priority over all other social circumstances so as not to delay this important event for sake of less important matters.

Sacramental Sponsorship
By Dr. Lewis J. Patsavos
Professor of Canon Law, Holy Cross School of Theology

The importance of the sponsor’s role in the sacraments of baptism and matrimony cannot be overstated. The Church expects that the person who serves as a sponsor be a practicing Orthodox Christian whose life corresponds to its teachings. Therefore, someone who has married outside the Orthodox Church or abandoned its teachings may not serve as sponsor. (Editor's Note: However, attendance to the baptismal ceremony is highly encouraged for all members of the family of the newly baptized.)

To understand the Church’s view, it is necessary to know the sponsor’s role in context, particularly at the baptism. A Sponsor’s presence at baptism dates to the early Church when initiation of adults into the Faith was common. It was the sponsor who guaranteed the sincere intentions and orthodox belief of the person about to be baptized. The sponsor, then, had to be a person of integrity with credible testimony and a real commitment to instructing another in the faith. With the appearance and prevalence of infant baptism, the sponsor’s role has become purely functional. Obviously, even the ceremonial role assumed by sponsors makes it absolutely necessary that they be identifiable Orthodox Christians. Consequently, non-Christians, non-Orthodox, schismatics and those excommunicated are forbidden to be sponsors. Also forbidden to act as sponsors, but for different reasons, are the parents, clergy, minors, and others as discussed with your parish priest.

Great care must be taken in selecting a sponsor for the sacraments of baptism or matrimony, as a great deal of spiritual responsibility is placed on the sponsor. The person entrusted with the sacred responsibility of professing the Orthodox faith on behalf of one about to be baptized ought to exemplify all that this entails. Such expectation will help assure a special kind of relationship not only between the sponsor and godchild, but also between the sponsor and the godchild’s parents. Sponsorial relationships arising from baptism and matrimony should serve to expand one’s spiritual bonds with others. The more persons from a community engaged in a spiritual commitment, the more spiritually alive and aware that community can become. Such relationships, when pursued properly, can serve to foster spiritual renewal in our parishes.

We need not perpetuate the notion that sponsorship is simply a social manner. On the contrary, an Orthodox Christian should carefully select sponsors whose counsel and support can be trusted as godly, pious and faithful to the traditions of the Orthodox Church.

40 Day Churching
When the mother and child return from the hospital, it is traditional for them to observe a period of 40 days during which they rest and recuperate from the delivery and refrain from traveling outside the home. The first place that the child is brought, then, is the Church, and what a beautiful sign of our dedication and hopes for the child than to offer him/her to the Lord! The roots of this tradition are found in the Old Testament (Leviticus 12), but the reason that they are still practiced is founded in the example set by Christ through His own presentation in the Temple (Luke 2:22-40).

In the Orthodox Church, both baby boys and baby girls are taken to the Church on the fortieth day after their birth. This is done in rememberance of the Theotokos and Joseph taking the infant Jesus to the Temple. Let us take a closer look.

It is important to remember that both Mary and Joseph were both of Jewish desent and observed their religious customs. One of these customs was for Jews to take their first-born son to the Temple forty days after his birth and dedicate the child's life to God. If the parents were wealthy they were to bring a lamb and a young pigeon or a turtle dove to be offered as a sacrifice at the Temple. The custom provided that if the couple was poor, they were to offer two pigeons or two turtle doves for the sacrifice.

When Jesus was forty days old, Mary and Joseph took him to the Temple in Jerusalem. They were not wealthy so they took two turtle doves with them to offer as a sacrifice. When they arrived they were met by a very old, holy, and intelligent scholar named Simeon. Simeon had spent much time studying the Prophets and had learned of the coming of the Messiah, who was to come and deliver Israel from its conquerors. He spent many years praying for the Messiah to come and at one point during his prayers he heard the voice of God promising that Simeon would not die until he had seen the Messiah.

When Simeon saw Jesus, he took the baby in his arms and blessed the Lord and said these words:
"Lord, now let you servant depart in peace according to your word, because my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and glory to your people Israel." Luke 2:29-32

There was also an older widow present, named Anna the Prophetess, who had spent her time in the Temple worshipping, fasting and praying. When she saw the Christ Child she praised God and spoke of him to all who were awaiting the Messiah.

Today, when a mother and father bring their children to the Church to present the child to God, they are following the example of Christ. Instead of the couple just bringing their first born son however, now all children (sons and daughters) are brought by their parents to dedicate their child's life to God.

At the Forty Day Blessing, prayers are offered to thank God for blessing and protecting the mother during child birth and make her worthy to enter into the Church and to continue to participate in the Sacramental Life of the Church. Prayers are also read for the health and well being of the child asking God to protect him/her and make them worthy of His Promise of Eternal Life at the time of their Baptism.

The mother then presents the baby to the Priest who carries the child into the Church saying various prayers before gently presenting the child back to the parents.

 

2014 Stewardship:


Parish Resource Guide:

Ministry Resource Guide 2013-2014: Part 1

Ministry Resource Guide 2013-2014: Part 2

Ministry Resource Guide 2013-2014: Part 3


New Publication:

The Winter 2014 Edition


Upcoming Events and Services

Odyssey Set-Up

August 28, 2014 9 am

Choir Rehearsal

August 28, 2014 6:30 pm

Beheading of the Holy and Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John

August 29, 2014

Ἀποτομή Κεφαλῆς Προδρόμου

August 29, 2014

Odyssey Festival 2014

August 29, 2014 12 pm

Apodosis of the Feast of the Forerunner

August 30, 2014

See more on our Calendar Page »

GOYA Day at Holiday Hill


Lecture at Fairfield University


Summer Camp Registration


Half Day Camp Registration




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GOYA Fall Retreat


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