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January 11, 2017 + A Change in Our Ways Following Baptism

by St. Gregory of Nyssa

But do ye all, as many as are made glad, by the gift of regeneration, and make your boast of that saving renewal, show me, after the sacramental grace, the change in your ways that should follow it, and make known by the purity of your conversation the difference effected by your transformation for the better. For of those things which are before our eyes nothing is altered: the characteristics of the body remain unchanged, and the mould of the visible nature is nowise different. But there is certainly need of some manifest proof, by which we may recognize the new-born man, discerning by clear tokens the new from the old. And these I think are to be found in the intentional motions of the soul, whereby it separates itself from its old customary life, and enters on a newer way of conversation, and will clearly teach those acquainted with it that it has become something different from its former self, bearing in it no token by which the old self was recognized.

January 4, 2017 + On Grace Before and After Baptism

by St. Diadochos of Photiki

76. Some have imagined that both grace and sin - that is, the spirit of truth and the spirit of error - are hidden at the same time in the intellect [nous] of the baptized. As a result, they say, one of these two spirits urges the intellect to good, the other to evil. But from Holy Scripture and through the intellect's [nous'] own insight I have come to understand things differently. Before holy baptism, grace encourages the soul towards good from the outside, while Satan lurks in its depths, trying to block all the intellect's ways of approach to the divine. But from the moment that we are reborn through baptism, the demon is outside, grace is within. Thus, whereas before baptism error ruled the soul, after baptism truth rules it. Nevertheless, even after baptism Satan still acts on the soul, often, indeed, to a greater degree than before. This is not because he is present in the soul together with grace; on the contrary, it is because he uses the body's humors to befog the intellect [nous] with the delight of mindless pleasures. God allows him to do this, so that a man, after passing through a trial of storm and fire, may come in the end to the full enjoyment of divine blessings. For it is written: 'We went through fire and water, and Thou hast brought us out into a place where the soul is refreshed' (Ps. 66.12. LXX).

May 11, 2011 + from Homily XXXVI

The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom on the Gospel According to St. John

"Now there is at Jerusalem a sheep pool, called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of halt, blind, withered, waiting for the moving of the water."  (John 5:2-3)

What manner of cure is this? What mystery doth it signify to us? For these things are not written carelessly, or without a purpose, but as by a figure and type they show in outline things to come, in order that what was exceedingly strange might not by coming unexpectedly harm among the many the power of faith. What then is it that they show in outline? A Baptism was about to be given, possessing much power, and the greatest of gifts, a Baptism purging all sins, and making men alive instead of dead. These things then are foreshown as in a picture by the pool, and by many other circumstances. And first is given a water which purges the stains of our bodies, and those defilements which are not, but seem to be, as those from touching the dead, those from leprosy, and other similar causes; under the old covenant one may see many things done by water on this account. However let us now proceed to the matter in hand.

Preaching Christ Crucified at Theophany

On January 6th, Orthodox Christians gather together for the Feast of Theophany. This feast is the third most important feast day in the Orthodox Church (after Pascha and Pentecost). Yes, it’s even more important than Christmas! On this day, we commemorate the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan. One question that always arises during this festal season is, “Why was Jesus, the sinless Word of God made flesh, baptized by his cousin, John the Baptist?” There are several theologically correct answers. The hymnography and prayers of the feast state that Jesus’ baptism sanctifed the nature of the waters, enlightened all creation, allowed celestials to celebrate and commune with the terrestrials, and made manifest the worship of the Trinity. However, there is another important aspect to this feast. If we look at Scripture and His baptism, we can see the promised fulfi llment of the Old Testament prophecies concerning His sacrificial death on the Cross. Thus, like the apostles, we can preach “Christ crucified” (I Corinthians 1:23) – the very heart of the Gospel – on the feast of Theophany.

First, let’s take a look at John’s baptism. It was not the same as our baptism today. In the sacrament of baptism, we were cleansed of ancestral sin, illumined, justified, given the seal of the Holy Spirit, and made complete and full members of Christ’s one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. This is baptism’s function in the post-Resurrection and post-Pentecost Church. But John’s baptism was before all this. So, what was it? In Mark 1:4–5 we read,

John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and all were baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.

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