Along with willingly renouncing Satan, a person being baptized is expected to freely unite with God. This is why after the baptismal candidate or the godparents with the baby trample the devil by blowing and spitting on him, they turn away from his kingdom (symbolically from the west) to the east, where the altar is located, symbolizing the throne of God and the glorious kingdom of Christ. Here is what St Cyril of Jerusalem writes about this: “When you deny Satan, completely breaking any alliance with him and renouncing the ancient harmony with hell, then God’s paradise, “planted in the east,” from where our forefather was expelled for a crime, becomes open to you. Acknowledging this, you are turning away from the west and facing the kingdom of light that lies in the east.
The bodily gestures made by the baptismal candidate or the godparents during baptism are also noteworthy. They are indicated in the Small Euchologion. While facing the west, the baptized person should be standing with his hands raised upwards as a symbol of rejecting Satan. St Simeon of Thessalonica writes: “… the priest commands him (the catechumen) to lift up his hands, as a sign that he has no hidden deeds of the wicked one and that he begins to imitate the One who was crucified for us.” So, the raised hands here also act as a symbol of the Crucifixion, pointing to the fact that the baptized person will henceforth have the example of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ and strive to imitate and follow Him in his life.
However, the posture of the baptismal candidate changes once he is turned to the east. Now he is standing with his hands lowered freely, signifying his voluntary surrender to the will of God. The Clergyman Handbook says the following about this: “This gesture means that the subsided rebellion against God, aroused in the human soul by the enemy’s intrigues, is replaced by obedience and agreement.”
It is with these virtues that the path to Christ begins: obedience, agreement and, finally, humility. Combining the power of God with his own effort, a person is turning to the east and, in doing so, wins the battle with the devil and his evil powers. In this reconciled and reassured state he is now to continue his ascent to the kingdom of heaven, binding more and more with God.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds