Being Orthodox Means Having a Relationship With God

The Orthodox Church is not primarily an institution. Orthodox Christianity is not a series of rules to live by, nor is it a particular structure of church government. Orthodoxy is not a theological system, nor is its fullest expression limited to any particular period of history or cultural environment.

Orthodoxy is nothing less than a relationship with God. Orthodoxy is the expression of the way God interacts with His people. In other words, Orthodoxy is the way God relates to the Church as the Body of Christ, the way He relates to each individual within it, and conversely, a way by which people may interact and interrelate with God.

Orthodoxy begins at or before birth, and it does so as an impersonal relationship between a Creator and His creature. However, when the person participates in the Mystery of Holy Baptism, that relationship enters a new dimension: it becomes personal. In a personal relationship, each person has a name and is recognized when called by that name. Jesus talks about this when He says that He, the shepherd, calls His sheep by name, and they recognize His voice. In the Mystery of Baptism, just as the person dies and rises again in the water, God’s name is revealed, but so too is the name of the person being baptized. God now has a way of getting our attention: He can call us by name.  (Archimandrite Meletios Webber, Bread, Wine & Oil, pp. 29-31)

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The Baptism of Infants

Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with all his household; and many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.  (Acts 18:8)

One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul.  And when she was baptized, with her household…  (Acts 16:14)

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The Orthodox Church, like most of the ancient traditions of Christianity have interpreted passages like those above to mean that everyone in a household was baptized, and that would include the children of all ages.  Those traditions which have a strong sacramental  and incarnational dimension, understand that God works salvation in and through the things of this world because God is interested in the entire human God created – not just their souls, but bodies as well.  This thinking finds support in some other scriptural passages.

For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is they are holy.  (1 Corinthians 7:14)

The children, even of a mixed marriage between a believer and non-believer, are claimed to be holy, purely by being the child of a believing parent.  We baptize such children in recognition of their holiness – not to make them holy.  We are simply recognizing what God is bringing about in the world.

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At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” [2] And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them, [3] and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. [4] Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. [5] “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; [6] but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.   (Matthew 18:1-6)

Whoever receives one such child in Christ’s name, receives Christ!  So in the Church we do receive such children and thereby receive Christ in our midst.  The child brings Christ to us.  The child is for us an example of greatness – the greatest in the kingdom of heaven according to Christ.  The child shows us the way to enter the Kingdom.  Thus when we baptize the child it is not only that we bring the child to Christ, but the child brings Christ to us.  We not only lead the child to the kingdom, but that child leads us to the kingdom.  The baptism of children is also for our salvation!

 And they were bringing children to him, that he might touch them; and the disciples rebuked them. [14] But when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them, “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. [15] Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”  (Mark 10:13)

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The Kingdom of God belongs to the children who are brought to the Church to be touched by Christ.  The child teaches us how to receive the Kingdom of God.  We have much to learn at and from every infant baptism.

Renouncing Satan – Embracing Christ

Kenyan Catechumens renounce Satan.

The following exhortation is found in some Orthodox books preparing catechumens for reception into the Church on Holy Saturday.   These words are said to the catechumens on the evening before their baptisms/chrismations.  They are final instructions to remind the catechumen what they have agreed to live and do as a result of their choosing to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.  As we celebrate All Saints Day in the Orthodox Church, we are reminded that all of us are called and baptized to be saints, God’s holy people.  This requires much from us. 

“This marks the conclusion of your catechesis. The time of your redemption has come. Today, you are about to sign a contract with your faith in Christ. The paper, the ink, and the pen are your conscience, your tongue, and your new habit of life. Therefore, take heed as to how you inscribe your confession. Do not go astray from it, lest you be deceived. They that are about to die put their affairs in order and they designate heirs to their possessions, this one this, and that one that. Well, tomorrow night you are to die to sin. So now put your affairs in order and perform your renunciation as a testament. Assign the devil as heir to sin. Leave to him your sins as his ancestral inheritance. If any of you possesses anything of the devil in his soul, let him cast it at him.

He who dies no longer has authority over his possessions, so let not anyone of you have anything of the devil in his soul. And in so doing, stand and hold out your hands as though being examined by angels.

Let nothing of the devil’s affairs be hidden by you.

Let no one hold on to enmity;

let no one harbor anger;

let no one stand with dissimulation;

let no one listen with hypocrisy.

Cast at the devil all filth and superfluity of evil. You stand here as captives, for such as you does Christ buy back. As each of you sees and hates the devil, so shall each of you blow on him. Enter within your conscience; examine your heart; take heed to what each one has done. If there is anything contrary in you, spit it out with that act of blowing on the devil. Let there not be here any Judas of hypocrisy! Let no one have any doubts about the Mystery. The Word of God examines our hearts, as it is sharper than any two-edged sword. Now the devil has taken his stand in the west, as he grinds his teeth, pulls his hair, wrings his hands, and bites his lips in rage; he laments his loss and loses his faith over your freedom. Now Christ stands before you, over opposite the devil, so that as you renounce him and blow on him, you may take up war against him.

In the west the devil has taken his stand, where is the beginning of darkness. Begin to renounce him and blow on him! Then turn about to the east and align yourselves with Christ. Let no one despise him; stand ye with fear! The present matters are all fearful and awesome. All the powers of heaven stand present here. All the angels and archangels are invisibly writing down your utterances.” (Services of Initiation into the Holy Orthodox-Catholic and Apostolic Church, pp. 150-151)

Revealing Water

The Sunday Gospel lessons in the weeks following Pascha seem to have baptismal themes to them, which is probably why they are found in the lectionary at this point in the year.  Pascha was a traditional time to baptize catechumens, and in the weeks after their baptisms, the newly initiated Christians were given lessons in understanding the Mystery of dying and living with Christ.  So yesterday’s Gospel (John 5:1-15) reading of the Paralytic being healed at the pool of Bethesda fits well into Gospel lessons used to teach about baptism.  This Gospel lesson however might be contrasting the waters of Bethesda with the waters of Baptism.  It is Christ who makes the difference.  The waters of Bethesda may have been able to hear one fortunate person every so often, but the waters of baptism are able to heal every sinner and restore their full humanity.

In the baptismal liturgy, we pray over the water, and find what it is that the waters which Christ offer us (such that we will never thirst) are:

“But show this water, O Master of all, to be

the water of redemption,

the water of sanctification,

the purification of flesh and spirit,

the loosing of bonds,

the remission of sins,

the illumination of the soul,

the washing of regeneration,

the renewal of the Spirit,

the gift of adoption to sonship,

the garment of incorruption,

the fountain of life.

While some people think baptism is for washing away the guilt of original sin, the prayer over the water tells us the cosmic significance of baptism.  It is not just about an individual, nor is it just about the remission of sins.  Baptism is about redemption, sanctification, purification, illumination, regeneration, transformation,  revelation,  and renewal as well as being made an heir of God’s promises and kingdom.  Baptism is the beginning of the new life in Christ – we start to live at baptism.

For You have said, O Lord: “Wash and be clean; put away evil things from your souls.”  You have bestowed upon us from on high a new birth through water and the Spirit. Therefore, O Lord, manifest Yourself in this water, and grant that

he (she) who is baptized therein may be transformed;

 that he (she) may put away from himself (herself) the old man, which is corrupt through the lusts of the flesh,

and that he (she) may, in like manner, be a partaker of Your Resurrection; and having preserved the gift of Your Holy Spirit, and increased the measure of grace committed to him (her),

he (she) may receive the prize of his (her) high calling, and be numbered with the firstborn whose names are written in heaven, in You, our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.

In the prayers of baptism, we ask God to manifest Himself in the waters of baptism – the baptized have the God who is love reveal Himself to them.  We experience our life as a birth from God!  We are born again in baptism, born of God to become God’s children.  We experience Christ’s resurrection and receive the Holy Spirit in baptism. We experience the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity.

Our task in life is to live this baptism – we go out into the world to live our life and to preserve our baptismal garments.  And, as the prayers say we are to increase the grace given to us.  We are not to hide and protect the received grace from contact with the world, but rather are to increase that grace by our life in the world.  We use the gift of the Holy Spirit and the grace of baptism or we lose it.  We use it in our daily life to increase it.  This is the Christian life of loving God and neighbor.

The River Jordan and Paradise

The prayers for the Great Blessing of water entreat God to make the blessing of the Jordan be present in the water in the church font.  In the Vespers service for Theophany, 13 Old Testament Readings are proclaimed.  Four of these reading make reference to the River Jordan:

Joshua 3:7-8, 15-17 (the ark causes the Jordan to stop flowing, so Israel can cross to the promised land on dry ground);

4[2] Kings 2:6-14 (Elisha parts the Jordan after receiving Elijah’s mantle when he ascended into heaven);

4[2] Kings 5:9-14 (Naaman is cured by washing three times in the Jordan);

Genesis 32:1-10 (Jacob reminds God that he became a rich man after crossing the Jordan).

The Jordan River has a virtual mythical quality for Israel, and takes on a mystical purpose and meaning.  Crossing the Jordan is associated with the saving acts of God on earth – with movement that brings one closer to God and God’s Kingdom.   St. Gregory the Theologian reflects on the mystical meaning of the Jordan River.

St. Gregory then comes back to the Jordan:

‘Alone among all rivers, the Jordan received the first-fruits of sanctification and blessing, and has shed the grace of baptism over the whole world, as from a source. And these things are signs of that regeneration which is effected by Baptism’.

This is a very striking definition of a type, that it is an act truly accomplished, and signifying some future action. St Gregory then alludes to the Jordan in its relation to Paradise:

‘The Jordan is glorified because it regenerates men and makes them fit for God’s Paradise’.”

(Jean Danielou, From Shadows to Reality,p 275)

The Jordan is involved in several epiphanies of God, but in Christ’s baptism there is the Theophany of the Holy Trinity. It is Christ’s baptism that gives meaning and power to all baptisms done in Christ.  The Jordan has a mystical quality that is transferred to all who participate in it.

The Incarnation of the Word of God

You will say in that day: “I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, and you did comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”  (Isaiah 12:1-3)

Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.”  (2 Kings 5:10)

In the beginning, God the Father created the world through the Word of God.  In Christ, the Word of God became part of creation.  In Christ’s baptism the Word of God renews creation.  Water is purified by Christ, and in turn becomes capable of washing away sin.  Thus Christ, God incarnate, renews humanity from within by becoming flesh and uniting divinity to humanity, and from without by making water and creation capable of being the means for our salvation.  The body, renewed from within by God, is washed with the waters of salvation.  The inner renewal, and the external washing are both essential in salvation.

St. Irenaeus of Lyons  (d. 202AD) writes:

“Man was created by God so that he might have life. If now, having lost life, wounded by the serpent, he could not return to life, but was to be fully abandoned to death, then God would be conquered and the malice of the serpent would have overcome His will. but since God is at once invisible and magnanimous, He has shown His magnanimity in correcting man and putting all men to the test, as we have said. Yet, by the second Adam, He has bound the strong man and destroyed his arms, and He has done away with death, bringing life to man who had been subject to death. For Adam had become the possession of the devil and the devil held him in his power, having perversely deceived him in subjecting him to death when he had offered him immortality. Indeed, in promising them that they would be like gods, which was not in his power, he brought about death in them. This is why he who made man captive was himself made captive by God, and man whom he had captured found himself freed from the slavery of condemnation.

The Logos of God was made flesh….to destroy death and to give life to man, for we were in the chains of sin and destined to be born through the state of sin and to fall under (the empire of) death.” (The Spirituality of the New Testament and Fathers by Louis Bouyer, pp 232-233)

St. Gregory Palamas on Baptism

Baptism is one of the commonest themes in [St. Gregory] Palamas’s sermons, as it is in his theological and spiritual writings. The sheer number of his references to Christian initiation shows the importance he attached to it; for him neither Christian experience nor spirituality could exist outside the sacramental grace which, in the Church, communicated the divine life to the faithful. It was ‘to make a new being of us, and to renew us by baptism,’ that Christ was incarnate; ‘he has broken on the cross the record of our sins’ (Col. 2:14), and he has rendered innocent those who by baptism are buried with him (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). Baptism, by delivering us from the original corruption, is a ‘resurrection of our soul,’ and to us, ‘communicates strength to conform to the body of the glory of Christ’ (Phil. 3:21). The triple immersion is a symbol of the three days’ sojourn of the soul of Christ in Hades that it might go out thence, and rise again in the body. At baptism we receive a disposition to do good, and we conclude a pact with God, but it depends on us to give real value to this grace. ‘If a man called obeys the call, and accepts baptism to be called a Christian, but does not behave in a way worthy of the name he bears, and does not in fact accomplish the promises given at his baptism, he is called, but he is not chosen.’ Then the promises are of no avail to him, but rather condemn him.

By baptism all Christians are holy – ‘If the vessel consecrated to God is holy,’ Palamas says, ‘how much more is the man holy who is joined to him by the bath of regeneration’ – and they are sons of God, but they are still required to prove by their works that they have received this gift; ‘Renewal and new creation of the characteristics of the soul are accomplished by grace in the bath of regeneration; they grow and reach perfection through just actions in accord with faith.’” (John Meyendorff, A Study of Gregory Palamas, pp 160-161)

The Healing of the Blind Man

For the 6th Sunday after Pascha, we proclaim the Gospel lesson from John 9:1-38, Christ’s healing the blind man using clay He made with spittle.

The Gospel lesson opens with these words:

As the Lord passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man’s eyes with the clay, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. 

From the early days of Christianity this miraculous sign of the blind man was understood to represent the defectiveness of the world of the Fall.  He is blind from birth as his eyes have not formed.  What Christ does in making the clay and anointing the blind man’s eyes is to complete the creative act, thus making the man whole.  Christ was believed in the early Church to have been the creator of the first human in Genesis 2.  It was the pre-incarnate Christ who formed Adam from the dirt of the earth.  Christ again in John 9 takes dirt from the earth to heal, to make whole, the blind human whose creation was incomplete.  As Christ notes, the issue here is not sin, but rather that the glory of God might be made known in him.  This is not just about the Fall, it is about the restoration of creation.  Really, this Gospel lesson seems to reject the notion that “original sin” can explain the reason for all illness and deformity in humans.  It is only the leaders of the synagogue who cast  the healed man out of the synagogue who hold to an idea of “original sin” and see this healed man as being totally depraved!

Christ has the man wash in the pool of Siloam to show how the waters of baptism make us whole again, giving us the eyes to see the truth about God.

Fr. John Behr explains a bit about the ancient teaching concerning this Gospel lesson, beginning with the comments of St. Irenaeus of Lyons.

 

“Christ healed the man blind from birth (John 9). It was not merely by a word that he was healed, but ‘by an outward action, doing this not without purpose or by chance, but that he might show forth the Hand of God that had at the beginning moulded the human being’ (haer. 5.15.2). So, just as ‘the Lord took mud from the earth and formed the human being’ (Gen. 2:7), Christ spat on the ground and made mud, smeared it upon his eyes, ‘pointing out the original  fashioning, how it was effected, and manifesting the Hand of God to those who can understand by what [Hand] the human being was formed out of the dust’ (haer. 5.15.2). As, in Christ’s words, the man was born blind not because of his own sin or that of his parents, ‘but that the works of God should be manifest in him’ (John 9:3), so Irenaeus sets this particular work within the intentionality of the economy as a whole: For that which the artificer, the Word, had omitted to form in the womb, he then supplied in public, that the works of God might be manifested in him, in order that we might not seek out another hand by which the human being is fashioned, nor another Father, knowing that this Hand of God which formed us in the beginning, and which does form us in the womb, has in the last times sought us out who were lost, winning back his own, and taking up the lost sheep upon his shoulders, and with joy restoring it to the fold of life. (haer. 5.15.2; cf. Luke 19:10, 15:4-6).” (Irenaues of Lyons: Identifying Christianity, pp 162-163)

Hymns from Theophany

Orthodox festal hymns are rich in imagery.  As such they reveal a great deal about what hymnographers in past centuries believed and thought about.   This in turn reveals a rich theological heritage – Christians not shaped by modern concerns and controversies revealed how they saw the world in the poetry they composed.

Below are a few hymns from the Prefeast of Theophany which offer glimpses into the mind of our Christian fore-bearers.  The first hymn hones in on the idea that the saving deeds of Christ benefit ALL of humanity, not just those who believe.  There is indeed a universalism to the salvation offered to humanity in Jesus Christ.  Orthodox festal hymns frequently proclaim that there is one God who is both creator and savior of everyone.   Obviously, not everyone is interested in this salvation.  [The emphasis in the text below is mine and not in the original.]

Receiving Him who came to be washed,
That He might wash away the sins of all,
John forbade Him, drawing back in fear:
“It is I who need to be baptized by You!
How can the friend stand in the Bridegroom’s place?
I am only a word from Your voice; a moon reflecting You, the sun,
Whom we exult throughout all ages!

I also find in the penultimate line an interesting scientific reference –  the moon’s light is simply reflecting the sun’s light.  The hymn writer is able to incorporate in a metaphor comparing John the Baptist to Jesus the fact that the moon is not the source of it’s own light.   Some think that the ancients, being pre-modern and pre-scientific, held only superstitious beliefs, but they were interested in the material world and science as they understood it.   Understanding the moon to be reflecting sunlight requires some abstract cosmology as the fact would have been beyond what the ancients could prove.  The hymn shows that this concept of the moon reflecting sunlight was so well established to the hymn writer that he could refer to it in a metaphor and trust that his audience would know the reference.

In a similar vein, a Patristic text on Christ’s baptism, Tertullian references the primordial waters from which life emerged.  Obviously his understanding of the primordial waters comes from the book of Genesis and not from evolutionary science, but he does accept a notion that from the inanimate sea, life came into existence.

In another hymn, we are reminded that the Holy Feast Days in the Church are instances of the Master’s hospitality – an image used on Holy Thursday referring to the Mystical Supper of Christ.  We (all Christians and all who attend the Feasts are the invited guests of God!  We aren’t the hosts of these Feasts, we are God’s guests, enjoying the Master’s hospitality which we are supposed to share with others.  Sadly, when we think we own the Feasts or the sacraments, we lose our proper place at the heavenly Banquet.

 Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he marked how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by any one to a marriage feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest a more eminent man than you be invited by him; and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  (Luke 14:7-11)

God is the Master who shows hospitality to all.  As His invited guests, our task is to give Him thanksgiving and to share His abundant hospitality with others.

Come, O faithful,
Having enjoyed the Master’s hospitality:
The banquet of immortality
In the lowly manger,
Let us run to the Jordan,
There to see a strange mystery,
Revealing light from on high.

The above hymn has us being invited by the Master from one Feast (Christmas) to another (Theophany).  We are the guests, and should be awed and humbled that God invites us to these Feasts honoring His Son!  And we have unlimited grace and divine love to share with all of our neighbors and indeed with the entirety of humanity.

And in the Feast of Theophany we see a strange mystery. Mystery is the normal word for sacrament in Orthodox writings.  The strange mystery is of course Christ’s baptism.  For usually baptism is understood as the spiritual means to wash away sin, but now the sinless Christ is baptized and it is Christ who is sanctifying the waters rather than the reverse.

In Orthodox theology Christ took upon himself the sins of the world.  This is an action of His entire life, not just the short time He was on the Cross.  So, in His baptism, Christ carried not His sins but ours into the River Jordan.  He drowns our sins in His baptism, or in another image, He buries our sins when He goes beneath the waters of the Jordan.   Baptism is a symbolic burial and resurrection to life.  Christ dies on the cross and resurrects to a new life, but His baptism already prefigures this.  Every significant event in Christ’s life was done for our salvation.  Theophany, Christ’s baptism is also accomplished foe our salvation, not His!

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.  (Romans 6:3-5)

So the hymns of Theophany give frequent reference to Christ doing away with our sins, and use several different metaphors to make the point:

In the midst of those seeking baptism,
You stood, a man in essence, not imagination,
The only sinless One by nature,
For You came to bury mankind’s punishment
In the baptismal waters.

In Canticle 1 of the Eve of Theophany, we find this same idea of salvation referenced repeatedly:

Delivered from bitter bondage,
Israel crossed over the waters as if on dry land,
And seeing the enemy drowning,
They sang a song in gladness to God …
Christ now buries our sins in the waters…
Jesus Christ comes forth to drown the rivers of sin in the streams of Jordan…

The hymns see the Exodus event of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea as prefiguring Christ’s own baptism.  The real enemy of the Jews and of all mankind is sin.  The crossing of the Red Sea has eternal significance because the Egyptians are just the symbol of sin.  It does little good to escape a tyrant if you are trapped in sin.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? ” (Matthew 16:24-26)

Finally, all of the hymns are based in the theological truth that Jesus is God incarnate.  That is the whole basis for understanding every Gospel story and for celebrating every Christian Feast.

Once You clothed the shameful nakedness of our forefather Adam;
Now You are stripped naked of Your own will!
You covered the roof of heaven with waters;
Now You wrap Yourself in the streams of Jordan,
Only merciful Christ.

The above hymn accepts the idea that it was the pre-incarnate Christ who clothes the naked Adam and Eve after they had lost the original glorious garment God provided for them in Eden and were expelled from paradise.  Now in His own baptism, Christ stands naked on earth in the Jordan River taking upon Himself the sins of Adam and Eve and all their descendants. Christ is baptized for our salvation – he takes our sins into the Jordan to have those sins washed away.

Christ, who in creating the world covered the heavens with water, now clothes His naked humanity in the streams of the Jordan to heal us all.  He restores all of humanity to its natural potential, giving all of us the chance to once again submit our lives to God.

The Blessing of Water (2016)

Tertullian (d. 225AD) wishing, in the De Baptismo, to justify the use of water in Baptism from the unbroken witness of the Bible, turned first to the story of Creation in Genesis. In this narrative, the waters have two characteristics which Baptism reproduces: it is the primordial element in which life appears, and it is sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Tertullian develops this first aspect:

‘First of all, O man, you should have reverence for the antiquity of the waters as a primordial element’ (Bapt. 2).

It was in the midst of the waters that the earth appeared:

‘Once the elements of the world were set in order, when it was to be given inhabitants, it was the primordial waters which were commanded to produce living creatures. The primordial water brought forth life, so that no one should be astonished that in Baptism the waters are able to give life.’ (Bapt. 2).

And to this characteristic, another is added: the fact that the

‘Spirit of God was carried over the waters, He Who was to recreate the baptized. The Holy One was carried over that which was holy, or, rather, over that which could receive holiness from Him Who was carried. It is thus that the nature of water, sanctified by the Spirit, received the capability of itself becoming sanctifying. This is why all waters, by reason of their ancient original prerogative, may obtain the sacrament of sanctification by the invocation of God’ (Bapt. 2).

What is taught here is the consecration of the baptismal water, to which ancient Christianity attached great importance:

‘You have seen water. But all water does not heal, if the Spirit has not descended and consecrated that water.’ (Ambrose, De Sacr. 1, 15; Botte; 58).”

(Jean Danielou, S.J, The Bible and the Liturgy, pp 72-73)