Must baptism always be a public statement?

I spent some years with Old Calendarist Greek Orthodox monks. They emphasized the lives of saints including those of martyrs of recent centuries under the so-called “Turkish Yoke.” I distinctly remember instances in history where, say for example, a woman in a sultan’s harem desired to secretly become Christian, and it was allowed. I.E. she was not expected to openly confess and suffer the obvious consequences of martyrdom. On the other hand there were a number of examples of Greek Orthodox Christians who committed some mortal sin (murder, adultery, etc take your pick) and then repented and went to someplace like Mt. Athos and took monastic vows (which is considered to be EQUAL TO BAPTISM with regard to remission of sins committed AFTER baptism.) And yet some of these people felt anxiety as to whether or not their repentance would be acceptable at the Judgment of God. SO, they would go to their spiritual advisor and request permission for martyrdom. IF the father confessor gave a blessing then they would travel to some area where many Muslims live. They would confess their Christian beliefs in such a fashion that the Muslim would consider their words and actions to be an insult of Islam. The Muslims would demand that the Christian convert to Islam or suffer death. The Christian, bent upon martyrdom, would remain steadfast in his/her confession. Often, Christian accomplices would be hiding at some distance with napkins ready to take some martyr’s blood as a holy relic. In fact, in the life of one such martyr, there is what seems like a comic account of someone approaching one Muslim slayer and saying “Oh my, your sword is bloody, here is a handkerchief.” The Muslim gratefully took the cloth, wiped his sword and returned it to the owner. Martyrdom is considered as equivalent to baptism in it’s power to forgive sins. Also, such a martyr INSTANTLY becomes a saint. Furthermore, no Orthodox liturgy can be performed UNLESS the priest has an iconographically embroidered cloth with the relic of an actual martyr sewn into the hem. This cloth is known as an “anti-mensa” which means “in place of a table.”
As an illustration, Basil the Great, a theologian, is a bonafide saint in the Orthodox church BUT did not die a martyric death and so his relics would not be suitable for an antimensa.

On a different note it is claime that Albert Camus enjoyed listening to a certain Baptist preacher. Camus came privately to the preacher and asked if it would be possible to have a secret baptism. Camus desired secrecy because he was renowned as a certain kind of philosopher and public embracing of Christianity would ruin his credibility. The Baptist minister refused saying that acceptance of Christianity MUST be a public statement. There are rare instances in the history of Eastern Orthodoxy where secret conversions were permitted but usually it was to avoid certain death rather than to preserve one’s public intellectual reputation.


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