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Question: 11
 

Dear Father Christopher,
Our Greek-English Small Euchologion states that, in the case of an emergency baptism "...if no priest is available and the infant is dying, he may be baptized by an Orthodox layperson, or even a doctor or nurse, anyone nearby, preferable Christian, who may conduct a 'Baptism by Air.' How can a Muslim, pagan or even non-Orthodox Christian baptize someone into the Orthodox faith, and does not Baptism require, beside the invocation of the Holy Trinity, water?
In Christ,
Fr. Polycarp

 
Answer to Question 11
Dear Father Polycarp,
Christ is in our midst!
Both the Greek Small and Great Euchologion do not mention the practice of laypeople Baptizing infants in danger. Neither is there a canon that deals directly with the matter, other that the 1st Canon of St. Basil which says that anyone baptized by a layman must be re-baptized by a Priest. In the Peladion (Rudder) there is also mention of this practice in the footnotes to canon XLVII of the Apostolic canons and the XXIV of St. John the Faster. The XLVI Apostolic canon says that only a Bishop or a Presbyter can perform the Mystery of Baptism. The footnote to the XXIV Canon of the Faster says that if an infant is in danger of dying and no Priest can be found in that locality, anyone who happens to be present there, or any monk or deacon must baptize it, or any layman who, however, must be a Christian, or even the father himself of the child.
The note in your Greek/English Euchologion is probably based on this footnote, but the person responsible for the note misinterpreted the word Christian.
By Christian it means an Orthodox Christian, someone who himself is baptized in the Orthodox faith, because all other Christian denominations are considered as heretics and therefore not baptised. “Preferably a Christian” is a gross misinterpretation, leaving it open to mean anyone who is a Christian no matter what church he belongs to, and not only this, is can also mean, as your question suggests, any non-Christian like a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist or a pagan. God forbid!
True Baptism must of course be done with the person being immersed in water three times in the name of the Holy Trinity. Baptism in air is only performed in times of grave danger and under extraordinary circumstances, but it is not a law to the Church. If the child dies then it is to be commemorated along with the Orthodox on the ground that it is in hope of the divine mercy. But, if the child lives, then it must be baptized properly in water, receive holy Chrism and Holy Communion. If the Baptism in air was performed by a Priest the child is again baptized in water, but as the child is immersed into the water, the Priests does not repeat the words he originally said when he baptized the child in the air, in other words he does not repeat the words “The servant of God … is baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Likewise whatever other prayers he mentioned during the first Baptism are omitted. In theory the catechism should also be omitted because this is said in preparation for baptism and there is no need for it after baptism.
With brotherly love in Christ
Fr. Christopher