The Orthodox Faith – The Sacraments (2c)

The next part of the Baptismal service after the anointing is the tonsure, or the cutting of the hair. In the Old Testament hair is a symbol of strength. Perhaps we recall the story of Samson in the Old Testament. He was the last of the judges, the leader of the Jews. For example, in Judges 13:3-5.
And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have no children; but you shall conceive and bear a son. Therefore beware, and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for lo, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from birth; and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines.” (Judges 13:3-5)
Here God tells Manoah would bare child, who would defend the people of Israel from the enemy. Note that God says that a razor would never touch his head. And this child, Samson, did successfully fight against the enemy of the Jews. Unfortunately, Samson succumbs to temptation, to a prostitute named Delilah, in the pay of the Philistines. She learned that the source of Samsons strength is his hair. After he falls asleep, she has his head shaved and he loses his strength. He is blinded and put in chains.
“And she said to him, “How can you say, `I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and you have not told me wherein your great strength lies.” And when she pressed him hard with her words day after day, and urged him, his soul was vexed to death. And he told her all his mind, and said to her, “A razor has never come upon my head; for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If I be shaved, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.” When Deli’lah saw that he had told her all his mind, she sent and called the lords of the Philistines, saying, “Come up this once, for he has told me all his mind.” Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her, and brought the money in their hands. She made him sleep upon her knees; and she called a man, and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. Then she began to torment him, and his strength left him. And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep, and said, “I will go out as at other times, and shake myself free.” And he did not know that the Lord had left him. And the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with bronze fetters; and he ground at the mill in the prison. So we see that hair was sometimes considered to be a source of strength. By cutting the hair and offering it to God we are saying that our strength is in God’s hands. Taking the scissors, the priest cuts the hair of the newly-baptized person in the form of a cross and says “The servant of God (name) is tonsured in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” and the people respond “Amen.” (Judges 16:15-21)
Now the tonsure is just a matter of snipping off a few strands of hair. Tonsuring had been ore elaborate in the past. People are tonsured when they become readers, for example. Monks and Nuns are also tonsured when they enter the monastic life.
To complete the sacrament of Baptism and Chrismation, the baptized person then receives Holy Communion as soon as possible. Without Holy Communion, the Baptism and Chrismation are not complete.
In many Orthodox churches, Holy Communion is given immediately to the baptized person from the reserved sacrament.
Every year on Holy Thursday the priest prepares an additional Lamb (prosphora) to be consecrated at the Liturgy. The Lamb is not given in Holy Communion that day, but is dried, cut into pieces and placed in a special container which remains on the altar all year. These pieces are used to give Communion to those who, for on reason or another, are unable to come to church and receive in the normal manner. This practice shows the unity of the three sacraments. In other churches, the baptized person receives their first communion at the next Liturgy. If the Baptism takes place before the Liturgy this is quite easy. If the Baptism is not performed directly before the Liturgy the baptized person should come, or be brought, to the next Liturgy. In the case of babies or children, it’s important not to neglect this. To ignore the Liturgy and Communion is a serious error because as we have pointed out, Baptism, Chrismation and Communion belong together.

Fr. John

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