h1

My Baptism – part II

March 2, 2009

Part II please scroll down to read part 1 or this won’t make sense
Okay, tell me this picture doesn’t look like a Water Buffalo coming up for air! It does too!

jan-3-008

Once I had come to the place where I was ready to say yes to Orthodoxy, I knew I wanted to be baptized. Now, I’ve been in the church for over 50 years so this was no small thing for me. I awoke the morning of and I was full of anticipation and nervousness. I was looking forward to the fulfillment of what I had come to understand yet I was nervous because I knew my disability would mean I’d have to be helped in and out of the Font.  But more than that it meant everyone was going to see my skinny white legs! That’s right, all the truth of the history of the Church and my pride was fighting all the way, but I wasn’t going to allow anything to interfere with what was about to happen: I was about to die.

One of the things I love so much about Orthodoxy, is that nothing is done without purpose. One of the things that irritates me most about Orthodoxy, is that nothing is done without purpose. Sometimes you just want to scream: “Okay, let’s lighten it up a bit!” But I am so glad we don’t. The richness and depth of my baptism service exposed the very reasons I had despised it for so many years. It wasn’t simply a public show of my commitment to follow Jesus; it wasn’t merely following his example, an identification, it was confirmation. It said, I’m moving from one world view to another, It said my world view is dead and now the life I have is hidden, in Christ, with God! And just as Joshua led Israel through the Jordan to new life, so the Font is entrance into the new life, the very life of God poured out. When Father Patrick asked if I renounced Satan and told me to spit on him, I wanted to haug-a-luegy and splat it on the wall. Graphic yes, but o’ so true.

When I came out of the water, and I know this sounds corny, what I felt most, was clean. For perhaps the first time in my entire Christian experience I felt clean and I felt NEW, and I didn’t care about my skinny white legs or the fact that I looked like a Water Buffalo, I just felt clean. As a boy I was a responder. By that I mean that If I were in church and an altar call was given, I was there. My Mother often questioned my apparent need to “go forward”, but go I would. Growing up as a Puerto Rican I have always joked that I was born under two signs: the first is Rice and Beans, we had them almost every night when I was a boy, not because we had too but because we loved them. The second was guilt. This guilt was always with me, it was the proverbial backpack I carried on every journey and took on every step of life. It never left me and my actions up until that day had done nothing but make that backpack heavier and heavier. But when I left that Font, I was light and I knew for perhaps the first time in my entire life that I was loved and that God…God was good. How I can say something like that after having been in the church for 50 plus years and having been a worship pastor makes no earthly sense, but since that day I feel as if I have been given a blank spreadsheet. (That’s for my wife) It is no longer filled with columns of negative numbers. I can’t explain in a deep enough sense what a new life feels like. As we all walked around the Font singing “as many as are baptized into Christ have put on Christ” I wanted to fall down in worship, and later as we all together took the Body and Blood for the first time, I felt the same thing I have felt every time since then: nothing has ever tasted so sweet.

Several months ago a good friend asked why the Church insisted that the bread and wine actually become the body and blood? It just offends our western sensibilities so much. I have thought about her question over and over again. I have no official theological answer for my friend, I only have a deeply personal and practical answer. It’s important to me because He changed, Christ became something he was not, he put on humanity that I might put on Christ. The entire Christian life is about real change. I was once merely man, now I am “New Creation”. I was dead now I am alive. I was blind, now I see. I was polluted now I am clean. I was once the dwelling of sin, now I am the Temple of the Holy Spirit.

I used to teach–though I once despised his table as well–that “Christ not only invites us to sup with him, to feast with him, to dine with him; he provides us himself as the meal.” Of course, I was always talking figuratively, I had no idea how real it could be. “O’ Taste and see that the Lord is Good!” God grant me life that I might live as though LIFE were living in me! Amen.

3 comments

  1. Thank God!


  2. These two posts were awesome. I’m glad you’ve finally shared this part of your journey.


  3. Newly-illumined Mark,
    May this lenten journey be the spiritual chariot which brings you to the fullest and most profound understanding of the Holy Mystery into which you were so recently baptized! Your autobiographical sketch serves to, once again, demonstrate the great Mercy of the Lord Who became poor that we might become rich.
    For spiritual reading, I most heartily commend to you the Baptismal Catecheses of St John Chrysostom. There, you will find a beautiful and pastorally rich theological feast! He meant those to be heard by even the simplest of his converts. I can do no better. Goto the following site to begin searching for the book, or ask me:
    http://www.bible.claret.org/acw_buks17-28.htm
    Fr Patrick



Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: