Address at the Baptism of Anna Elizabeth Park

Sunday, November 10/23 2003

By Fr. Seraphim Holland, Celebrant and Grandfather

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

This is an unique opportunity for me, and I want to take advantage of
it. Normally when I baptize someone, I-m speaking to the parents,
exhorting the parents to raise their child in piety: that this is a
beginning for their child, and that they must continue in the ways of
our Lord, following the commandments, so she may grow to maturity. 

But I know the parents pretty well. I don-t need to exhort the parents
to do this, because it would be like - literally - preaching to the
choir! So Anna, I want to say these words to you. And since I will
record these words, and they will be eventually transcribed, perhaps at
some time in your life, when you have a difficulty, these words will
help you. 

Anybody who-s been around me for a while knows that I have certain pet
verses; regardless of what the text of the day is, I always seem to
mention these things. My favorite verse in the Bible is from St. John.
He says, ?We love Him because He first loved us. This explains why we
are capable of holiness, greatness, why we love, why we do everything
that is good. Because the Lord loved us first. And His love imbued us
with the ability to love ? to give love and accept love. It imbued us
with the ability to do all good things. And the reason why He imbued us
with this ability was of course because of His love, and His love made
Him desire that we would know Him. 

Anna, this is the purpose of your life. You don-t know it yet, but
you-ll know it soon enough, and your parents will teach you. You will
learn what the purpose of your life is: to know God. Our Lord described
it in His High-priestly prayer. He said, ?And this is life eternal: that
they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom Thou
hast sent. This is the reason you were born, not to give joy to your
parents, to your grandparents, not to do any great work on the earth,
not to go to school, or to play, or to learn anything temporal. You were
born to know God. 

The only way you can know Him is to become good. Now, you-re good now,
but you-re good because you-re unspoiled. The great despoiler, the evil
one, will attempt to defile you. So when you grow older, it will be
harder to be good. But you will have knowledge then, and the Lord will
help you. 

Truly the only way to know God is to become like Him. The only way to
know algebra is not to read the book only, but to do the problems. The
only way to learn to play baseball is not to watch it, but to
participate, to play. The only way to understand the joy I feel, as both
a grandparent and the celebrant of your baptism, is - to be me. You can
only understand someone, and know someone, if you enter into their life.
Otherwise, you cannot know them. This is why the Lord stresses, again
and again, His commandments ? certainly the Old Testament is a continual
stressing of following the ways of God, of following His commandments.
And our Lord Jesus Christ spoke often also of righteousness, of
goodness, of humilty, of love. These things are necessary, because if we
do not do these things, we cannot know Jesus Christ, because that is the
person He was, and is. The Lord said that the life eternal is to know
the only true God, and Jesus Christ.  You cannot know God without
becoming like Him. 

Anna, you have made a beginning today. A beginning was made for you, of
which you will become aware, soon enough. And those who love you, those
who pray for you, feel as the Apostle Paul felt, for his loved ones: ?We
are confident in this very thing, that He which hath began a good work
in you will perform it unto the day of Christ Jesus. Now He will help
you in all things, but you must supply the effort, the desire, the sense
of priorities, the ordering of your life according to the commandments.
He will give you ability.

Now, you-ll have problems in your life, as everyone does. Perhaps you-ll
have times of doubt, sadness, perhaps times of sin, times of being
unsure, times of great difficulties. But remember, that the kingdom of
heaven is within you, Anna. It-s not for later on; it-s now. God has
given you everything you need to grow to know Him. He has given you
parents who are pious and sweet souls who love you. He has given you the
Church; the Holy Spirit abides in you. You have everything you need.
Now, you-ll learn this soon enough. 

My favorite number is 153. This number is the number of fish that the
Apostle Peter pulled to land when they saw the Lord after his
resurrection. It-s a great big number, and it means a lot for a
Christian who has ears to hear. ?Simon Peter went up, and drew the net
to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for
all there were so many, yet was not the net broken. The key to living
the Christian life is to believe in the resurrection. Not just in terms
of believing it-s an event that occurred, but believing that it is an
event that is occuring, again and again, in you. The kingdom of heaven
is within you. 

Now, this great number of fishes broke the nets, and yet they were able
to pull them to land. God can make you capable of great things, Anna.
Great, incredible things. To become righteous, to become holy, to become
perfected. Things which are beyond our understanding. Just as the
apostles caught a great catch of fish. Earlier in their ministry ?
actually, before their ministry began ? the Lord sent them out to fish,
and when they let down the net, they had so many fish that their boat
began to sink. And Simon Peter, when he saw this, said to Lord, ?Depart
from me, for I am a sinful man. He wasn-t able to bear the goodness of
Lord yet, but three years of training, three years of difficulties,
three years of learning from the Master, three years of being humble,
and even after his threefold denial of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord
sent them out again, and when they caught the fish, a greater catch of
fish, it didn-t make the boat sink, and they were able to bring it to

Now there-s all kinds of meanings for what these fish are. The most
important meaning for us is that the Lord makes us capable of doing
everything, things we cannot imagine. We will be prepared for more and
more. We will mount up like eagles, continually becoming better and
better. All we need do is attempt to live the Christian life. You-ve
been given everything you need, you are lacking nothing. 

May God help you, Anna, through the prayers of your parents, and my poor
prayers, through the prayers of your grandparents, and those who love
you, and teach you about eternal life. But no matter what we say to you,
no matter what we show you, no matter what our example is, you must
bring this example into your heart. You must decide that you want to
live righteously because there is no other important thing in all the
world than to know Jesus Christ. And there-s only one path to know Him:
to become like Him. 

May God bless you, and help you, and grant you salvation. Amen.