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February 8, 2016

Photogeniks is the name used by a Philippine photographer in Flicker. One of his works is a series of fascinating photographs that capture the Coptic Baptism by Immersion of a child of one of his Coptic friends. Baptism in the Coptic Church has always been through using the mode of immersion rather than sprinkling or pouring of the holy water. Photogeniks gives his work the title “A baptismal ceremony for an Egyptian child at a Saint Mark’s Christian Coptic Orthodox Church.” He does not locate the church; and I don’t think there is a Coptic church in Philippines. Here is what he wrote as a matter of a prologue to his work:

While holding under the arms, the High Priest faced the baby towards the West. The child was then immersed into the baptismal font and lifted three times to complete the ritual. In a small but crowded room, I decided to use my 24-50 zoom, rapidly firing as the rites progressed.

There are four major parts: (1) Woman’s absolution (2) Renouncing Satan (3) Liturgy of Baptism and (4) Baptism by Immersion (and discharge of water). These photographs will cover mostly the last part.

As a backgrounder, the woman is required within 40 days after her delivery to come to the church with her baby boy to ask the priest to baptize him (80 days for female child). This period should not be exceeded for any normal reason otherwise the parents would be deemed to have sinned against their children. Before administering the Sacrament, the priest must have fasted for at least nine hours. The Sacrament of Baptism is granted only once in a person’s lifetime. When both male and female children are presented for baptism, the male child is baptized first.

The Baptistery must be furnished and clean. Removable of shoes before entering is required. On the eastern wall of the Baptistery must be placed an icon of the Baptism of Christ by John the Baptist, and the Holy Spirit descending like a dove. Near the Baptismal Font should be placed the oils used in the Baptism as well as the red ribbons and the special crown that will be thereafter conferred on the baptized. Also within reach are the ritual books and the cross specified for Baptism. A table must be placed in the Baptistery with a clean cover for the child to lie down during the anointing of the Holy Myron. The baptized person is signed with 36 crosses of Myron. The first procedure performed by the priest is the prayer of absolution of the woman which signifies permission of entry to the church.

Coptic Baptism – 1st Immersion


Coptic Baptism – 1st Immersion: This photograph showed the priest gradually dipping the child into the water – the first of three immersions until the child became completely submerged – while saying: “I baptize you … (if the baby’s does not have a Christian name, the priest must give a name from the Holy Bible, or a saint’s name) … in the name of the Father…”

It was a defining moment as the anxious mother of the child could only clasp her hands tightly in muted prayers that all would turn out well for her child. Except for the cadenced sound of the priest as he uttered his supplications, the silence was “deafening.”

Coptic Baptism – 1st Lifting


Coptic Baptism – 1st Lifting: He lifts the child from the water and breathes unto him….

Coptic Baptism – 2nd Immersion


Coptic Baptism – 2nd Immersion: … he then immerses the child again, saying: “And the Son…” — this is the second immersion…

Coptic Baptism – 2nd Lifting


Coptic Baptism – 2nd Lifting: Then he lifts the child from the water and breathes unto him again…

Coptic Baptism – 3rd Immersion


Coptic Baptism – 3rd Immersion: … he then immerses the child for the third time in the water while saying: “And the Holy Spirit” – this is the final immersion…

Coptic Baptism – Final Lifting


Coptic Baptism – Final Lifting: I readied my shot for the lifting of the child after his third and final immersion, and this photo was the result. It now hangs in the living room of my Egyptian friend’s house in Cairo.


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