They had examined the history books, but more importantly their own souls, and after a year of intense preparation and purification, twenty-five catechumens were baptized and chrismated into the Holy Orthodox Church. They all joined the Body of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ at Ss. Peter and Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church in Salt Lake City, Utah.
They came into the True Faith on Holy Saturday, April 15, 2017. Since antiquity, the Orthodox Church has baptized catechumens on this day because of its theological significance and importance. On this day, as our Lord’s body lay at rest inside the tomb, His Spirit had descended into hell and crushed the devil, his demons, and the chains that had held every human captive since the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. These newly illumined soldiers of Christ our God, through their confessions and baptisms, crushed their own sins through His power and arose as new men and women from the font.
The twenty-five had studied and grown in the Faith with the pastor, Rev. Fr. Justin Havens, and the assistant pastor, Rev. Fr. John Mahfouz, who had the absolute joy of baptizing them and communing them at the chalice for the first time. The newly illumined, single adults and whole families with young children, had come from all walks of life, leaving behind Protestantism and Mormonism to embrace Holy Orthodoxy. Usually, fifteen Old Testament readings cover all of the baptisms, chrismations and tonsures, but the chanters had to read them twice!
Sheer bliss emanated throughout the church on this Holy Saturday, for the rest of the congregation understood the sacrifices the newly illumined made to become Orthodox – many of them had already done so. But they all understood the reward: entering the Kingdom of God on earth in order to eventually enter the Kingdom of God in heaven. Countless tears of happiness were shed.
The twenty-five took on the names of a wide variety of saints to serve as their protectors as intercessors before God – ancient saints like Marina and Justina, but also Western saints like Columba, and new saints like Paisios of the Holy Mountain who had been canonized in 2015.
The Orthodox Faith is rapidly growing in Utah, especially at Ss. Peter and Paul Church, which was recently featured by one of the state’s largest media outlets, the Salt Lake Tribune. (Utah Mormons, Protestants finding new spiritual home in ancient Orthodox church) In fact, this congregation is bursting at the seams and is planning for a new church temple.
“As the world becomes more and more of a confusing, broken place, people are seeking God in an urgent manner,” Fr. Justin said. “And when they desire to find the original, ancient Christian Church, they are shocked that it actually still exists and that it the Orthodox Christian Church! Thank God, many are seeking their healing in the spiritual hospital of the Church here in Utah. Pray for us to continue to share the light of Holy Orthodoxy in Utah!”
The entire Orthodox Christian family of Ss. Peter and Paul Church is thankful to Almighty God for His abundant blessings, and that more people are joining the True Faith that He established.