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Tomorrow marks the Feast of Theophany (or Epiphany as it is known in the West), when we commemorate the baptism of Jesus Christ by Saint John the Forerunner.

Theophany

The well-known 20th century Orthodox theologian, Father Sergei Bulgakov, very ably described this feast in his book ” Handbook for Church Servers”, 2nd ed

Theophany is understood as a feast in which the event of the baptism of Jesus by John in the Jordan1 is commemorated and glorified (Mt. 3:13-17. Mk. 1:9-11. Lk. 3:21-22). This feast is called Theophany because during the baptism of the Lord the Divine All-Holy Trinity was revealed: God the Father spoke from heaven about the Son, the Son of God was baptized by John and was witnessed by God the Father, and the Holy Spirit descended on the Son in the form of a dove. This explanation of the feast is given by the Holy Church in its Troparion: “When Thou, O Lord, was baptized in the Jordan….”

Since ancient times this feast also was known as the day of illumination and the feast of lights, because God is the Light and reveals Himself to illumine “those who sat in darkness and the shadow of death” (Mt. 4:16) and to save according to grace, Who has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior” (2 Tim. 1:9-10), and because on the Eve of Theophany it was the custom to baptize the catechumens, which actually is spiritual illumination and during which many lamps are lit. Besides this, the ancient Church on this day also remembered other events in which the divine worthiness and representation of Jesus Christ was expressed both during His birth, and during His introduction to preach in public after baptism, namely: 1) the worship of the magi as a revelation of Jesus Christ to the pagan world by means of a wonderful star;4 from this commemoration the very feast of Epiphany in the Western Church received the name of the Feast of the Three Kings (Festum trium regum); in the Eastern Church though it was part of the feast, it was not expressed in the character of the feast; 2) The manifestation of the divine power of Jesus Christ in His first miracle at the marriage in Cana of Galilee when the Lord “created the beginning of signs”; and 3) (in the African Church) the appearance of the divine power in Jesus Christ in the wonderful feeding of the more than 5000 persons by Him with five breads in the desert, from which even the feast is called the Phagiphania. 
 
The beginning of the feast of Theophany arose in apostolic times. It is mentioned in the Apostolic Constitutions and in the 2nd century the witness of Clement of Alexandria about the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord and doing the night vigil spent reading Holy Scripture before this feast; in the 3rd century the Holy Martyr Hippolytus and Gregory of Neocaesarea; in the 4th century the Holy Fathers of the Church: Gregory the Theologian, Ambrose of Milan, John Chrysostom, Augustine and many others talked about the event of Holy Theophany during the divine service for this feast; the Fathers of the Church of the 5th century: Anatolius of Constantinople; of the 7th century: Andrew and Sophronius of Jerusalem; of the 8th century: Cosmas of Maium, John of Damascus and Germanus of Constantinople; of the 9th century, Joseph the Studite, Theophanes and Byzas deposited many church hymns for this feast, that up to now are sung by the Church.
 
The Lord, according to the teaching of St. John of Damascus, was baptized not because He Himself needed cleansing, but rather, having taken our cleansing upon Himself, to destroy the heads of the serpents in the water, “to bury human sin through water” and all of the old Adam, to fulfill the law, to reveal the mystery of the Trinity and, finally, to consecrate “the essence of water” and to grant us a paradigm and an example of baptism. Therefore the Holy Church, celebrating the baptism of the Lord, confirms our faith in the highest, incomprehensible mystery of the Three Persons in one Godhead and teaches us with equal honor to profess and glorify the Holy Trinity, One in Essence and Undivided; it accuses and destroys the errors of the ancient false teachers: Patripassians or Sabellians, Arians, Macedonians and others who rejected the triunity of Persons in one Godhead, together with those false teachers who taught the human nature of the Son of God was a phantom; it shows the necessity of baptism for the believers in Christ; it inspires in us feelings of boundless gratitude to the Enlightener and the Cleanser of our sinful nature; it teaches that our purification and salvation from sin is only by the power of grace of the Holy Spirit; it specifies the necessity of the worthy use the gifts of the grace of baptism and the protection in purity of those precious garments of which we are reminded on the feast of the Baptism by the words: “As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27); and it commands us towards the purification of our souls and hearts in order to be worthy of the blessed life.

 

On January 6, after the Liturgy is finished, usually, at the springs, rivers and lakes, or ponds and wells, “The Order of the Great Sanctification of Holy Theophany”, i.e. the great sanctification of water in commemoration of the baptism of the Lord is also done the same, as in the Compline of the feast. For this sanctification of water there is a solemn procession with the cross, the Gospel, lamps and banners to the water, during the ringing of the bell and while singing the Troparion: “The voice of the Lord upon the waters…”, etc. The return procession is done while singing: “When Thou, O Lord, was baptized in the Jordan…”; at the very entrance of the temple we sing the Ideomelon: “Let us sing, O faithful”.

Unlike in the Greek and Russian traditions, Georgian Orthodox parishes do not engage in the casting and retrieval of the Cross from the waters on Theophany. Mass baptisms  are still a feature of the feast though.

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Saint John Chrysostom’s homily on the subject of Theophany is instructive;

We shall now say something about the present feast. Many celebrate the feastdays and know their designations, but the cause for which they were established they know not. Thus concerning this, that the present feast is called Theophany — everyone knows; but what this is — Theophany, and whether it be one thing or another, they know not. And this is shameful — every year to celebrate the feastday and not know its reason.

First of all therefore, it is necessary to say that there is not one Theophany, but two: the one actual, which already has occurred, and the second in future, which will happen with glory at the end of the world. About this one and about the other you will hear today from Paul, who in conversing with Titus, speaks thus about the present: “The grace of God hath revealed itself, having saved all mankind, decreeing, that we reject iniquity and worldly desires, and dwell in the present age in prudence and in righteousness and piety” — and about the future: “awaiting the blessed hope and glorious appearance of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Tit 2:11-13). And a prophet speaks thus about this latter: “the sun shalt turn to darkness, and the moon to blood at first, then shalt come the great and illuminating Day of the Lord” (Joel 2:31). Why is not that day, on which the Lord was born, considered Theophany — but rather this day on which He was baptised? This present day it is, on which He was baptised and sanctified the nature of water. Because on this day all, having obtained the waters, do carry it home and keep it all year, since today the waters are sanctified; and an obvious phenomenon occurs: these waters in their essence do not spoil with the passage of time, but obtained today, for one whole year and often for two or three years, they remain unharmed and fresh, and afterwards for a long time do not stop being water, just as that obtained from the fountains.

Why then is this day called Theophany? Because Christ made Himself known to all — not then when He was born — but then when He was baptised. Until this time He was not known to the people. And that the people did not know Him, Who He was, listen about this to John the Baptist, who says: “Amidst you standeth, Him Whom ye know not of” (Jn.1:26). And is it surprising that others did not know Him, when even the Baptist did not know Him until that day? “And I — said he — knew Him not: but He that did send me to baptise with water, about This One did tell unto me: over Him that shalt see the Spirit descending and abiding upon Him, This One it is Who baptiseth in the Holy Spirit” (Jn. 1:33). Thus from this it is evident, that — there are two Theophanies, and why Christ comes at baptism and on whichever baptism He comes, about this it is necessary to say: it is therefore necessary to know both the one and equally the other. And first it is necessary to speak your love about the latter, so that we might learn about the former. There was a Jewish baptism, which cleansed from bodily impurities, but not to remove sins. Thus, whoever committed adultery, or decided on thievery, or who did some other kind of misdeed, it did not free him from guilt. But whoever touched the bones of the dead, whoever tasted food forbidden by the law, whoever approached from contamination, whoever consorted with lepers — that one washed, and until evening was impure, and then cleansed. “Let one wash his body in pure water — it says in the Scriptures, — and he will be unclean until evening, and then he will be clean” (Lev 15:5, 22:4). This was not truly of sins or impurities, but since the Jews lacked perfection, then God, accomplishing it by means of this greater piety, prepared them by their beginnings for a precise observance of important things.

Thus, Jewish cleansings did not free from sins, but only from bodily impurities. Not so with ours: it is far more sublime and it manifests a great grace, whereby it sets free from sin, it cleanses the spirit and bestows the gifts of the Spirit. And the baptism of John was far more sublime than the Jewish, but less so than ours: it was like a bridge between both baptisms, leading across itself from the first to the last. Wherefore John did not give guidance for observance of bodily purifications, but together with them he exhorted and advised to be converted from vice to good deeds and to trust in the hope of salvation and the accomplishing of good deeds, rather than in different washings and purifications by water. John did not say: wash your clothes, wash your body, and ye will be pure, but what? — “bear ye fruits worthy of repentance” (Mt 3:8). Since it was more than of the Jews, but less than ours: the baptism of John did not impart the Holy Spirit and it did not grant forgiveness by grace: it gave the commandment to repent, but it was powerless to absolve sins. Wherefore John did also say: “I baptise you with water…That One however will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Mt 3:11). Obviously, he did not baptise with the Spirit. But what does this mean: “with the Holy Spirit and with fire?” Call to mind that day, on which for the Apostles “there appeared disparate tongues like fire, and sat over each one of them” (Acts 2:3). And that the baptism of John did not impart the Spirit and remission of sins is evident from the following: Paul “found certain disciples, and said to them: received ye the Holy Spirit since ye have believed? They said to him: but furthermore whether it be of the Holy Spirit, we shall hear. He said to them: into what were ye baptised? They answered: into the baptism of John. Paul then said: John indeed baptised with the baptism of repentance,” — repentance, but not remission of sins; for whom did he baptise? “Having proclaimed to the people, that they should believe in the One coming after him, namely, Christ Jesus. Having heard this, they were baptised in the Name of the Lord Jesus: and Paul laying his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them” (Acts 19:1-6). Do you see, how incomplete was the baptism of John? If the one were not incomplete, would then Paul have baptised them again, and placed his hands on them; having performed also the second, he shew the superiority of the apostolic Baptism and that the baptism of John was far less than his. Thus, from this we recognise the difference of the baptisms.

Now it is necessary to say, for whom was Christ baptised and by which baptism? Neither the former the Jewish, nor the last — ours. Whence hath He need for remission of sins, how is this possible for Him, Who hath not any sins? “Of sin, — it says in the Scriptures, — worked He not, nor was there deceit found in His mouth” (1 Pet 2:22); and further, “who of you convicteth Me of Sin?” (Jn 8:46). And His flesh was privy to the Holy Spirit; how might this be possible, when it in the beginning was fashioned by the Holy Spirit? And so, if His flesh was privy to the Holy Spirit, and He was not subject to sins, then for whom was He baptised? But first of all it is necessary for us to recognise, by which baptism He was baptised, and then it will be clear for us. By which baptism indeed was He baptised? — Not the Jewish, nor ours, nor John’s. For whom, since thou from thine own aspect of baptism dost perceive, that He was baptised not by reason of sin and not having need of the gift of the Spirit; therefore, as we have demonstrated, this baptism was alien to the one and to the other. Hence it is evident, that He came to Jordan not for the forgiveness of sins and not for receiving the gifts of the Spirit. But so that some from those present then should not think, that He came for repentance like others, listen to how John precluded this. What he then spoke to the others then was: “Bear ye fruits worthy of repentance”; but listen what he said to Him: “I have need to be baptised of Thee, and Thou art come to me?” (Mt 3:8, 14). With these words he demonstrated, that Christ came to him not through that need with which people came, and that He was so far from the need to be baptised for this reason — so much more sublime and perfectly purer than Baptism itself. For whom was He baptised, if this was done not for repentance, nor for the remission of sins, nor for receiving the gifts of the Spirit? Through the other two reasons, of which about the one the disciple speaks, and about the other He Himself spoke to John. Which reason of this baptism did John declare? Namely, that Christ should become known to the people, as Paul also mentions: “John therefore baptised with the baptism of repentance, so that through him they should believe on Him that cometh” (Acts 19:4); this was the consequence of the baptism. If John had gone to the home of each and, standing at the door, had spoken out for Christ and said: “He is the Son of God,” such a testimony would have been suspicious, and this deed would have been extremely perplexing. So too, if he in advocating Christ had gone into the synagogues and witnessed to Him, this testimony of his might be suspiciously fabricated. But when all the people thronged out from all the cities to Jordan and remained on the banks of the river, and when He Himself came to be baptised and received the testimony of the Father by a voice from above and by the coming-upon of the Spirit in the form of a dove, then the testimony of John about Him was made beyond all questioning. And since he said: “and I knew Him not” (Jn 1:31), his testimony put forth is trustworthy. They were kindred after the flesh between themselves “wherefore Elizabeth, thy kinswoman, hath also conceived a son” — said the Angel to Mary about the mother of John (Lk. 1: 36); if however the mothers were relatives, then obviously so also were the children. Thus, since they were kinsmen — in order that it should not seem that John would testify concerning Christ because of kinship, the grace of the Spirit organised it such, that John spent all his early years in the wilderness, so that it should not seem that John had declared his testimony out of friendship or some similar reason. But John, as he was instructed of God, thus also announced about Him, wherein also he did say: “and I knew Him not.” From whence didst thou find out? “He having sent me that sayeth to baptise with water, That One did tell me” What did He tell thee? “Over Him thou shalt see the Spirit descending, like to a dove, and abiding over Him, That One is baptised by the Holy Spirit” (Jn 1:32-33). Dost thou see, that the Holy Spirit did not descend as in a first time then coming down upon Him, but in order to point out that preached by His inspiration — as though by a finger, it pointed Him out to all. For this reason He came to baptism.

And there is a second reason, about which He Himself spoke — what exactly is it? When John said: “I have need to be baptised of Thee, and Thou art come to me?” — He answered thus: “stay now, for thus it becometh us to fulfill every righteousness” (Mt 3:14-15). Dost thou see the meekness of the servant? Dost thou see the humility of the Master? What does He mean: “to fulfill every righteousness?” By righteousness is meant the fulfillment of all the commandments, as is said: “both were righteous, walking faultlessly in the commandments of the Lord” (Lk 1:6). Since fulfilling this righteousness was necessary for all people — but no one of them kept it or fulfilled it — Christ came then and fulfilled this righteousness.

And what righteousness is there, someone will say, in being baptised? Obedience for a prophet was righteous. As Christ was circumcised, offered sacrifice, kept the sabbath and observed the Jewish feasts, so also He added this remaining thing, that He was obedient to having been baptised by a prophet. It was the will of God then, that all should be baptised — about which listen, as John speaks: “He having sent me to baptise with water” (Jn 1:33); so also Christ: “the publicans and the people do justify God, having been baptised with the baptism of John; the pharisees and the lawyers reject the counsel of God concerning themselves, not having been baptised by him” (Lk 7:29-30). Thus, if obedience to God constitutes righteousness, and God sent John to baptise the nation, then Christ has also fulfilled this along with all the other commandments.

Consider, that the commandments of the law is the main point of the two denarii: this — debt, which our race has needed to pay; but we did not pay it, and we, falling under such an accusation, are embraced by death. Christ came, and finding us afflicted by it — He paid the debt, fulfilled the necessary and seized from it those, who were not able to pay. Wherefore He does not say: “it is necessary for us to do this or that,” but rather “to fulfill every righteousness.” “It is for Me, being the Master, — says He, — proper to make payment for the needy.” Such was the reason for His baptism — wherefore they should see, that He had fulfilled all the law — both this reason and also that, about which was spoken of before. Wherefore also the Spirit did descend as a dove: because where there is reconciliation with God — there also is the dove. So also in the ark of Noah the dove did bring the branch of olive — a sign of God’s love of mankind and of the cessation of the flood. And now in the form of a dove, and not in a body — this particularly deserves to be noted — the Spirit descended, announcing the universal mercy of God and showing with it, that the spiritual man needs to be gentle, simple and innocent, as Christ also says: “Except ye be converted and become as children, ye shalt not enter into the Heavenly Kingdom” (Mt 18:3). But that ark, after the cessation of the flood, remained upon the earth; this ark, after the cessation of wrath, is taken to heaven, and now this Immaculate and Imperishable Body is situated at the right hand of the Father.

Having made mention about the Body of the Lord, I shall also say a little about this, and then the conclusion of the talk. Many now will approach the Holy Table on the occasion of the feast. But some approach not with trembling, but shoving, hitting others, blazing with anger, shouting, cursing, roughing it up with their fellows with great confusion. What, tell me, art thou troubled by, my fellow? What disturbeth thee? Do urgent affairs, for certain, summon thee? At this hour art thou particularly aware, that these affairs of thine that thou particularly rememberest, that thou art situated upon the earth, and dost thou think to mix about with people? But is it not with a soul of stone naturally to think, that in such a time thou stand upon the earth, and not exult with the Angels with whom to raise up victorious song to God? For this Christ also did describe us with eagles, saying: “where the corpse is, there are the eagles gathered” (Mt 24:28) — so that we might have risen to heaven and soared to the heights, having ascended on the wings of the spirit; but we, like snakes, crawl upon the earth and eat dirt. Having been invited to supper, thou, although satiated before others, would not dare to leave before others while others are still reclining. But here, when the sacred doings are going on, thou at the very middle would pass by everything and leave? Is it for a worthy excuse? What excuse might it be? Judas, having communed that last evening on that final night, left hastily then as all the others were still reclining.

Here these also are in imitation of him, who leave before the final blessing! If he had not gone, then he would not have made the betrayal; if he did not leave his co-disciples, then he would not have perished; if he had not removed himself from the flock, then the wolf would not have seized and devoured him alone; if he had separated himself from the Pastor, then he would not have made himself the prey of wild beasts. Wherefore he (Judas) was with the Jews, and those (the apostles) went out with the Lord. Dost thou see, by what manner the final prayer after the offering of the sacrifice is accomplished? We should, beloved, stand forth for this, we should ponder this, fearful of the coming judgement for this. We should approach the Holy Sacrifice with great decorum, with proper piety, so as to merit us more of God’s benevolence, to cleanse one’s soul and to receive eternal blessings, of which may we all be worthy by the grace and love for mankind of our Lord Jesus Christ, to with Whom the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, be glory, power, and worship now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.”

 

 

 

 

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In the Orthodox Church, John the Baptist is usually known as the Prophet John (Ivane) the Forerunner, because his ministry prepared the way for Christ’s mission. His martyrdom at the hands of the Tetrarch of Galilee Herod Antipas is celebrated today; the day is maintained as a strict fast.

The Icon of Ivane the Forerunner is commonly seen in churches here, with him represented wearing a garment of coarse animal fibre (traditionally, camel hair), and his face represented in very similar style to that of Christ (as they were cousins). Known as “The Angel of the Desert”, his icons sometimes show him with wings. As a lifelong Nazarite, he is shown with long hair and a full beard. From Orthodox Wiki: A Nazarite or Nazirite (Nazir in Hebrew) was a Jew who took an ascetic vow as described in Numbers 6:1-21. The term Nazarite comes from the Hebrew word nazir meaning “consecrated” or “separated.” The Nazarite is “holy unto the Lord” (Numbers 6:8) and must keep himself from becoming ritually unclean. The regulations which apply to him actually agree with those for the High Priest and for the priests during worship, as described in Leviticus and in Ezekiel. This vow required the man to observe the following:

  • Abstain from wine, vinegar (which was made from wine), grapes, raisins, and all intoxicants;
  • Refrain from cutting one’s hair and beard;
  • To avoid corpses, even those of a family member.

The vow was usually for a fixed period of time—30, 90 or even 100 days. At that time, the man would make a sacrifice that included a lamb, a ewe, a ram, and a basket of bread and cakes. There are cases where a parent would make this vow for her or his child, which the child would observe for his entire life. The angel (Luke 1:15) that announces the birth of John the Baptist foretells that “he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.” The implication is that John would take a lifelong Nazarite vow (see also Luke 7:33).

The Evangelists Matthew (Mt. 14: 1-12) and Mark (Mk. 6: 14-29) provide accounts about the Martyr’s end of John the Baptist in the year 32 after the Birth of Christ.


Following the Baptism of the Lord, Saint John the Baptist was locked up in prison by Herod Antipas, holding one-fourth the rule of the Holy Land as governor of Galilee. (After the death of king Herod the Great, the Romans divided the territory of Palestine into four parts, and into each part put a governor. Herod Antipas received from the emperor Augustus the rule of Galilee).

The prophet of God John openly denounced Herod for having left his lawful wife – the daughter of the Arabian king Aretas, and then instead co-habiting with Herodias, – the wife of his brother Philip (Lk. 3: 19-20).

On his birthday, Herod made a feast for dignitaries, the elders and a thousand chief citizens. The daughter of Herod, Salome, danced before the guests and charmed Herod. In gratitude to the girl he swore to give her anything, whatsoever she would ask, anything up to half his kingdom. The vile girl on the advice of her wicked mother Herodias asked, that she be given at once the head of John the Baptist on a plate.

Herod became apprehensive, for he feared the wrath of God for the murder of a prophet, whom earlier he had heeded. He feared also the people, who loved the holy ForeRunner. But because of the guests and his careless oath, he gave orders to cut off the head of Saint John and to give it to Salome.

By tradition, the mouth of the dead head of the preacher of repentance once more opened and proclaimed: “Herod, thou ought not to have the wife of Philip thy brother”. Salome took the plate with the head of Saint John and gave it to her mother. The frenzied Herodias repeatedly stabbed the tongue of the prophet with a needle and buried his holy head in a unclean place. But the pious Joanna, wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, buried the head of John the Baptist in an earthen vessel on the Mount of Olives, where Herod was possessor of a parcel of land (the Uncovering of the Venerable Head is celebrated 24 February). The holy body of John the Baptist was taken that night by his disciples and buried at Sebasteia, there where the wicked deed had been done.

After the murder of Saint John the Baptist, Herod continued to govern for a certain while. Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea, later sent to him the bound Jesus Christ, over Whom he made mockery (Lk. 23: 7-12).

The judgement of God came upon Herod, Herodias and Salome, even during their earthly life. Salome, crossing the River Sikoris in winter, fell through the ice. The ice gave way for her such that her body was in the water, but her head trapped beneathe the ice. It was similar to how she once had danced with her feet upon the ground, but now flailing helplessly in the icy water. Thus she was trapped until that time when the sharp ice cut through her neck. The corpse was not found, but they brought the head to Herod and Herodias, as once they had brought them the head of Saint John the Baptist. The Arab king Aretas in revenge for the disrespect shown his daughter made war against Herod. Having suffered defeat, Herod suffered the wrath of the Roman emperor Caius Caligula (37-41) and was exiled with Herodias first to Gaul, and then to Spain. And there they were from view.

In memory of the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, the feastday established by the Church is also a strict day of fast, – as an expression of the grief of Christians at the violent death of the saint. “

From “The Lives of the Saints”

It is worth noting that Joanna, the woman who disinterred John the Forerunner’s head and buried it reverently, re-appears later in the Gospels as one of the women who discovered Christ’s empty tomb on the morning of Pascha.From Orthodox Wiki:

Joanna the Myrrh-Bearer, the wife of Chouza, the steward-administrator of King Herod Antipas, is listed in Luke 8:3 as one of the women who followed Christ from Galilee and supported the disciples, along with Susanna, Mary Magdalene, and others. In Luke 23:55-24:11, we have the story of how these same women went to the tomb to finish the job of embalming Jesus’ body, which was hastily begun by Joseph and Nicodemus. They were perplexed when they found the tomb empty except for the grave clothes. The angel appeared unto them and proclaimed the Resurrection. They believed and became the first evangelists of the risen Christ. The Church celebrates her feast day on June 27, as well as on the Sunday of the Myrrh-bearers.

It is also interesting that, despite the story of John’s martyrdom being so well-known in Georgia, Salome is still such a popular Christian name here.

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The patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church presided over the baptism of hundreds of babies in a Tbilisi cathedral on Sunday as part of an effort credited with helping raise the birth rate in this former Soviet nation.

Patriarch Ilia II has promised to become the godfather of all babies born into Orthodox Christian families who already have two or more children. Since he began the mass baptisms in 2008, he has gained nearly 11,000 godchildren.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has said the patriarch deserves much of the credit for the rising birth rate, which in 2010 was 25 percent higher than in 2005. The number of abortions also declined by nearly 50 percent over the same five-year period.

Parents of the 400 babies baptized by an array of priests Sunday said the patriarch was instrumental in their decision to have a third or fourth child.

“This is a wonderful day for my family,” said Tamar Kapanadze, a 33-year-old father of four. “Our fourth son, Lashko, was baptized by the patriarch himself, and before this he baptized our daughter Liziko. This is why we decided to have a fourth child.”

Lamara Georgadze, whose fourth child was among those baptized on Sunday, said she and her husband also answered the patriarch’s call to have more children.

“The Holy Father reminded us all of the importance of increasing the birth rate,” she said. “There are too few of us Georgians and therefore this is very important.”

Saakashvili has set a goal of increasing Georgia’s population from 4.5 million to 5 million by 2015.

Since coming to power in 2004, Saakashvili has focused on modernizing and expanding the economy, attracting foreign investment and pushing for closer ties with the United States and Europe. With Georgia’s population aging, he is eager to see a new generation born that could help secure the country’s future.

In his annual address to parliament in February, he said the government would give parents a one-time payment the equivalent of about $600 for a third child and double that amount for a fourth child.

“This will help raise the birth rate,” Saakashvili said. “The patriarch has already taken steps in this direction. We should be thankful to him for continually reminding the Georgian people that we should multiply.”

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2012/05/06/3597247/georgias-patriarch-baptizes-400.html#storylink=cpy

Georgia’s patriarch baptizes 400 babies – KansasCity.com.

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