Consider the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. They were to be ready to meet their Lord when he returned. That required vigilance over time to be sure that whenever the moment came they were ready. The foolish virgins began with oil in their lamps as did the wise, but the foolish ones at some point neglected their lamps and their supply of oil so that they went out. When the Bridegroom returned at midnight, five virgins were prepared to meet him and enter into his joy. Five were not prepared. Though they were willing, though they were virgins and betrothed, though they had the same duty as did the wise virgins, they were shut out of the kingdom. The one time acquisition of relationship was not enough….it had to be guarded, it had to be replenished, it required vigilance in light or in darkness until the Bridegroom appeared.
Consider the parable of the sower. There are described four sorts of hearts who receive the word of God, those who are so stoney, the seed is plucked away quickly before it can even sprout. Then there are those who are the rough rocky soil who at first receive the seed gladly and it sprouts and begins to grow….but in times of hardship and dryness the plant withers away, for it has no root. Then there are those whose soil is deep and rich enough, and the seed tries to root there but so many other things grow there as well so that the seed of the kingdom is choked out. Finally there is the good soil where the seed flourishes and brings forth its fruit many fold. Do we not see from this that the acquisition of the kingdom is not accomplished in the sowing, but over time in its reception, nurture, strengthening, and maturity. It is not enough for the seed to be sown, or even enough that it sprout and begin to grow….it must come to maturity, and that takes time and it takes care. The care is shown in the soil types, which represent the receptiveness of the soul….but that soil…that soul belongs to someone. The man with the weedy heart can labor to root out those things that would choke the good see. The man with the rocky soil can labor to remove those rocks, to create at least places where the soil is free and deep. The man with the stoney can emulate the man with the rocky heart though his labor is greater. He must be vigilant against the thieving birds, gather the seed and preserved until by his labors he has broken up enough of the stone and built up enough soil receive the seed. No soul is beyond redemption, if that one is willing be vigilant and to labor for his salvation. Note though, nothing the man does directly saves him…it is the growth of the kingdom within him that saves…his responsibility is to prepare his heart to receive the seed so that it may grow and flourish. Even the good soil had to be prepared…it was not just an empty open field…it had to be plowed to open the soil. It had to be harrowed to break up the hard spots and even it out. Then it could receive the seed of the kingdom.
Next consider the word salvation itself. What does it mean? The root "salus" means "health", "wholeness". Consider a related word, "salve"…what is that but an ointment, and unction for healing?
As for the baptism of infants, first consider Christ said forbid not the children. He did not say only permit those who have sufficient intellectual and moral capacity come unto me. All men are broken in some way, some in many ways. Would we forbid baptism to a severely retard adult? Baptism is one of the great sacraments of the Church. It communicates to us the life of Christ. It is the burial of our old diseased life. It is the first resurrection unto newness of life. In it we are mystically united to Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. It is our entry into His kingdom. He is come to be the Saviour of all men, not just those of unencumbered presence of mind to receive him. Like the paralytic those who are unable to bring themselves must be brought by others. Did the child possess of the epileptic demon fall down before Christ himself and ask to be delivered. No his father came and asked for him. Did the little girl who died send a message from her deathbed that Christ should come to her? No. Her parents sent after Christ for her. So do we bring our little children to Christ. They are born into this world of death and decay. They suffer in it from the first day to the last as do we all. And since we know what this world is, and how it is fallen, and in whom our salvation lies…for the sake of the little ones who do not yet know, we bring them to Christ. And in the waters of baptism they are joined to Him and the seed of the kingdom is planted within. And from that day they receive also the holy Body and Blood of Christ, the very medicine of immortality.
There is a caveat though. St. Theophan the Recluse said the baptism of infants and small children presumes that they will be raised in a devout home, that from their mother's breast they will live in a home that serves Christ and lives in the Kingdom. From infancy they will grow up in the Church and be nourished by its sacramental life and its teaching. That will be their catechesis until grown into a more mature mind when they can own their baptism for themselves. If that is not the case, if the home is less devout, is haphazard in its faith as a family, St. Theophan recommended waiting until the child was four or five years old and knew a few simple prayers and could ask for baptism himself.