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?
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
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