Note from Fr. Isaac: What with all the recent baptisms at our parish, I thought it'd be timely to re-post this classic piece from Fr. Chip. Enjoy!
Baptize comes from a Greek word--baptizo--meaning:
- repeatedly (continuously) dip
- submerge (of sailing vessels sunk)
- cleanse by dipping or submerging,
- make clean with water
- wash one's self
Not to be confused with the shorter word, bapto, the best example of the meaning of baptizo is a text from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 B.C.
He illustrates this in as a recipe for making pickles--helpful because it uses both words. Nicander says that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be 'dipped' (bapto) into boiling water and then 'baptized' (baptizo) in the vinegar solution--remaining in it over time for the brine and vinegar solution to take the desired effect.
Both verbs concern the immersing of vegetables in a solution. But the first is temporary. The second, the act of baptizing the vegetable, produces a permanent change. It's this permanent change the Lord wants, and that we need for a victorious life in Him. Anything else is a half-measure...after all, one of the alternate meanings of the word for baptize is to overwhelm--which begs the question, then--overwhelmed by what--or, more properly, who? The answer, again comes from Jesus’ own words in Holy Scripture:
"for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now" (Acts 1:5, NASB).
This is the heart of baptism--although the form is important--it helps us guarantee orthodoxy--doing things as Scripture commands, “decently and in order”--the inward and spiritual Grace of Holy Baptism--the real work is done here --accomplished mystically by the Holy Ghost Himself. If we truly have repented--turned away from our old, sinful lives, submitted ourselves to Jesus as Savior and Lord--being as obedient to Him in our hearts as we can--and enter the Sacrament of Baptism in prayer, assembling together--we have every reason to expect a miraculous and personal experience with the Holy Ghost, as He overwhelms our sinful nature by immersing us in Himself...bathing us and sinking our own vessel of self to allow us to be part of the nave (ship)...the Gospel ship He has for us! And like one of the word’s meanings--to bathe ourself, we have to exercise our will to this end. In short we have to decide to do it!
No wonder when this word is used in the New Testament, it refers more to our mystical union and identification with Christ than to our water baptism--a prime example given-- Mark 16:16. "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved."
Christ is saying that mere intellectual assent is not enough. There must be a union with him, a real change, like the vegetable to the pickle!
And, although we only submit to Holy Baptism once, our immersion in the Holy Ghost is never complete... we are commanded to remain immersed in Him, breathing Him in-- and being filled by Him continuously! So we pray and sing in the ancient hymn, "Veni Spiritus Creator"--Come, Holy Ghost--Our souls inspire--fill us with celestial fire!