Of Water & the Spirit: A Liturgical study of Baptism by Alexander Schmemann is a Christian book which seeks to bring back the traditional meaning of Baptism by explaining it and its liturgical elements. He traces its origins as a Christian ceremony of re-creation which would be primarily performed and celebrated on Pascha (Easter). The Lent fasting would get the congregation ready for Pascha, and the major celebration of Baptism.
Baptism should not be viewed as a private matter, or something to be performed in a dark corner. It should be the centre-piece of Church life and Pascha. Baptism marks the integration into the Laos (the people of God), the passage from old life to the new, and also a suggestion of the final salvation. In this sense Baptism is not merely a ceremony for a private gathering, or a private entering into the church, but a personal Pentecost and a personal Pascha: the Easter of the congregation and those being welcomed into it. Baptism is so pivotal to the Church because much like the Eucharist, it is the moment that we as Church goers get to take part in something which Christ had done to him (Baptism by John the Baptist, for example), but also because we are reborn in a way which correlates to Christ’s Resurrection. These are the things which Schmemann wants to restore and reinvigorate within the Church, bringing it back to life. In a sense, Schmemann is attempting to Baptise the Church back into its new-life-giving tradition, so then Church itself can respectfully perform Baptism once again in line with its original meaning, and the profoundness which has been lost in the modern world and its interpretation.
It is explained why exorcism and the renunciation of Satan is a part of the Baptismal ritual. Satan does not rival God, but because Satan has been so completely defeated, but still hasn’t surrendered he is at a dangerous stage just before the end when even he bends his knee to God and returns to his former glory. So when a new Christian is being Baptised they must renounce Satan in order to reaffirm God’s victory through the Son, and to make it clear to Satan that he cannot keep denying the reality of his utter defeat. He must surrender to truth and bend the knee, as we all do.
Baptism is not merely a ritual, but a blueprint for the Christian life, where we must prepare and complete, be preparatory and fulfil. So, while Baptism is the acceptance of a new member to the Church, it is also the foundation of and towards a Christian life. As members of the Church we will spend all of our time preparing, and then fulfilling, and then repeat and again. In this sense we are emulating Christ’s life and resurrection, we are reliving the cycle and making such a cycle the pillar of our living as Christians. By making this usual to us, we are able to live properly, where we must prepare and fulfil over and over again on a daily basis for our life and death to come.