Info about Christian Initiation Baptism, Christmation & Holy Communion
and the Protocol for Sacraments at st Joseph Melkite Church
We, Parish Priest of St. Joseph Melkite Catholic Parish and members of the clergy, thank you for choosing us to be part of your child’s Christian Initiation and to share with you the joy of this special occasion.
1) Baptism is the first of the signs that the Church puts to us and in which we meet God. This means that by entering into Baptism we meet Christ intimately and go with him to the Father.
Christ unites us to himself in such a way that we live with him and go with him through the great actions of his life: his death and his resurrection; we suffer and die with him, as we shall rise with him to eternal life.
By this Sacrament we become siblings of Christ and co-heirs with him of the kingdom of heaven. We become children of God the Father by adoption. We are hence filled with God’s grace-presence within us.
2) The sign of Baptism is to pour water on the baptised head. The word “baptise” in Greek means “wash with” or “immerse into.” In the first centuries of the Church’s history, the sign of Baptism was to immerse the child into the water 3 times, symbolising death and resurrection to a new life of grace with Christ.
But this tradition faded away and is currently replaced by either pouring water on the forehead (Western churches and some of Eastern churches) or sitting the child into the basin and pouring water on the head to cover the whole body (Byzantine churches).
3) It is interesting to know that water was for the Jewish people in the Old Testament an element of purification (It may be still for the Jews today, as it is for the Muslims before they devote themselves to prayers).
Similarly, the water of Baptism purifies the newly baptised from the bondage of sin, particularly the first sin, the sin of disobedience and reliance on one’s own power and capabilities, which is inherited from the first parents, Adam and Eve. The newly baptised becomes thus a new creation.
4) Baptism gives the child the grace of a new life. For this reason, he/she is given a Saint name, which indicates that he/she lives a new life with the saints in Christ.
Being united to Christ the newly baptised becomes a member of the Church, the body of Christ. He/she is given the grace to participate in all the mysteries of the Church, particularly Confirmation and Eucharist.
1) At baptism the child is united to Christ into a new life and becomes child of God. Not only that, but the child needs also to be endowed with the gifts of the Spirit of God that will help him/her to later mature in his/her spiritual life. This power is conferred upon him/her through the sacrament of Holy Chrismation.
2) By this sacrament the child receives the full power of a messenger of God, of being a witness to Christ. He/she becomes a lay apostle. Chrismation strengthens and increases what the child receives at baptism.
3) The sign of Chrismation is the anointing with the Holy Myron .
The Holy Myron contains a number of ingredients, including olive oil, white table wine, benzoin, aromatic incenses extracted in oil, rose oil, basil, balsam, Venetian turpentine, galangal, oils of bergamot, clove, marjoram, thyme and sandalwood, extracts of ginger root, and nutmeg. The final selection, however, is based on the availability of fragrant oils.
The preparation for the Consecration of Holy Chrism begins on Holy Monday morning, prior to the celebration of the Hours and the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts. After the opening prayers and the blessing of the ingredients, the Chrism is cooked and stirred continuously through the evening of Holy Wednesday. While the Chrism is stirred, the Holy Gospels are read continuously by priests, except during the celebration of the divine services.
After the Holy Chrism is consecrated, it is then distributed to all parishes and missions for use in the celebration of the Holy Mysteries, specifically the sacrament of Chrismation.
4) Oil symbolises the strength the child is given to share in Christ’s work as a messenger.
5) At chrismation the Holy Spirit comes to the child, giving him/her the power to profess and spread his/her faith. Chrismation is his/her personal Pentecost. The Holy Spirit works within the child by means of his seven gifts and serves him/her as guide and guardian.
1) In Holy Communion Christ comes to the child in the form of a meal, of food. As the child must eat to maintain life, to grow and remain strong, so this food is the great means of growing in the life of Spirit and grace.
2) In Holy Communion the child, if he/she is of age, may experience a certain spiritual peace and strength.
3) The child needs a frequent reception of Holy Communion to be transformed into Christ and to be strong enough to drive away every temptation. This holy sacrament helps the child to grow in the Christian life, that is, in faith, hope and love.
Service of Baptism
- The service for the Sacrament of Baptism usually begins in the narthex (entrance of the church) with the priest, Godparents holding the child and one candle, and parents holding the other candle.
- Then we commence with two prayers and walk towards the baptismal basin (which normally is in the narthex).
- The priest directs both the child and Godparents to turn towards the west and asks twice: “Do you renounce Satan?”
- The Godparents must answer the question.
- The priest now directs both the child and Godparents to turn to the East and asks twice: “Do you unite yourself to Christ?”
- The Godparents must answer the question.
- The Godparents and participants then recite the Nicene creed: “I Believe in One God”.
- The priest then questions the Godparents once again: “Have you united yourself to Christ?”
- The Godparents must answer the question.
- The priest prays and blesses the water.
- The priest makes the sign of the Cross over the water three times, at which point the Godmother immediately takes the child to undress him/her quickly.
- The priest blesses the oil and places the Holy oil in the water.
- The priest does the anointing with the oil in the form of the cross on the forehead, on the chest, the ears, the feet and the hands.
- The priest then places the child in the baptismal basin facing the East and then gives the child to the Godparents.
Service of Holy Myron
The service of Holy Myron must always be taken under the sacrament of baptism and can only be undertaken once in a child’s lifetime.
- The priest lays his hand on the head of the baptized, saying a prayer for the child to accept the Myron.
- Taking the Holy Myron, the priest anoints the baptized with the sign of the cross over the forehead, eyes, nostrils, mouth, ears, chest, hands and feet.
- In the Melkite Catholic tradition, the priest returns the baptized to the basin, to wash off the Myron.
- One of the Godparents brings the singlet/robe to the priest for blessing.
- The Godparents then take the baptized to dress him/her. The outfit must be WHITE, which is a symbol of purity.
- Whilst the baptized is getting dressed by the Godparents the deacon or a participant of the ceremony reads the Epistle.
- After the reading, candles are given to those present during the ceremony to light from the Godparents candles.
- A procession is then undertaken following the priest and the baptized around the church three times, whilst the priest is singing and the deacon ringing the church bells. One of the Godparents holds the baptized during the first round of procession; the other Godparent holds the baptized during the second round of procession. The whole procession is a symbol of joy to welcome a new member of the parish.
- After the procession, the priest reads the Gospel over the head of the baptized.
- The priest then washes the face of the newly baptized with a towel and clean water.
- The priest then undertakes the final blessing.
- In our parish tradition, the Godparents take the first photo with the priest and the other members of the clergy. The parents then take the second photo and the immediate families then take the third photo.
Usually the holy communion is given immediately after the Holy Myron. However, if communion is not available in the Holy Tabernacle, the Godparents and parents must attend the following Sunday Divine Liturgy.
It is optional if the parents would like the parish priest to announce and welcome the newly baptized at the following Sunday Divine and Holy Liturgy. If so, they must present the name on a small piece of paper to the parish priest, prior to the end of the Divine and Holy Liturgy.
The service for the Sacraments of Baptism, Chrismation and Holy Communion usually begins in the narthex of the church. If more than one candidate are introduced to baptism, prayers are said in the plural, except for the anointing with oil, the baptism itself, and the Holy Chrismation, which are said separately for each candidate.
Steps to follow before the ceremony
Step 1 – Pre-booking of the Celebrant and the Church
(Please call Deacon Maurice on 0412712944 and confirm the final booking by SMS).
- Parents will choose the Godfather and the Godmother;
- Parents and Godparents will meet twice with the Parish Priest in order to organize the ceremony.
The following topics are covered during the meeting:
- Explanation of the ceremony of the Sacrament of Baptism; Chrismation & Holy Communion.
- Explanation of each element for each Sacrament.
Hence, it is important that the parents familiarise with the process of the Ceremony prior to the meetings so that they can ask the priest any questions they may have with regards the sacraments or the ceremony itself.
Step 2 – Rehearsal
The parents and Godparents will meet with the celebrant one week prior to the ceremony for a quick overview of the ceremony and general rehearsal.
Step 3 (optional) – Print off the ceremony booklet
Some parents may choose to print off the Ceremony Booklet (English and Arabic) and give them to guests to follow during the ceremony which they can then take home as a souvenir of the day.
Items to bring on the day
– 2 large candles, either long about 1 m (square or round), or square about 30 cm long and 5 cm wide, or round about 30 cm long and 10 cm in diameter. One of the candles remains in church and the other is kept by the family (these figures are only approximations).
– 1 large white bath or beach towel and 1 white hand or body towel.
– 1 soap.
– 1 small cross (wooden or otherwise) to be hung above the child’s cot.
– small amount of incense.
– 1 little bottle of olive oil.
– candles for procession (number depends on number of guests).
– optional bottle for baptismal water to be taken home.
– child’s white or bright colour garments.
Sacrament of Baptism Book as PDF