Being Newly Baptized Forever

Paul was baptized and illumined by the light of truth, and in this way became a great man; as time when on, he became a much greater one. For after he had contributed his fair share – his zeal, his ardor, his noble spirit, his seething desire, his scorn for the things of this world – there flowed into him an abundance of the gifts that come from God’s grace. 

Imitate him, I beg you; and you will be able to be called newly baptized not only for two, three, ten or twenty days, but you will be able to deserve this greeting after ten, twenty, or thirty years have passed and, to tell the truth, through your whole life. If we shall be eager to make brighter by good deeds the light within us – I mean the grace of the Spirit – so that it is never quenched, we shall enjoy the title of newly baptized for all time.”

(St. John Chrysostom, Ancient Christian Writers: Baptismal Instructions, pp. 88-89)

The Transcendent Myth

This is the 3rd and final post based on my reading of  John Breck’s short story, “A Life-giving Myth,” found in the book, THE LONG JOURNEY HOME.  The previous post is A Life-giving Myth (II).  This post is my taking Breck’s points from his short story and reworking them a bit and connecting his ideas to baptism.

Faith is the search for that language that can describe the relationship between heaven and earth, between God and humankind. It is a relationship which ordinary language is incapable of revealing and expressing. It is a relationship which though ethereal is not merely emotional. And so we rely on ritual and symbol to lead us beyond the limits of human language to put flesh on that which is spiritual. Ritual and symbol are the interface where our physical existence encounters and is transformed by that which is outside the physical, that existence which touches us and envelopes us and yet like flowing water is impossible to grasp.  Ritual, icons, poetry and symbol together enable us to express the narrative which guides our understanding of this world.

In the Old Testament, it is dogmatically clear that God has no form, that God is invisible and transcendent, and yet if God were completely invisible to us, we wouldn’t know of God’s existence at all. God created a world, a physical creation in which we creatures can encounter transcendence. God established a temple to help us experience God. Prayer, chant, icons and incense were all used to help the people experience this transcendent God but to experience God in this altered reality of symbol and ritual and even myth. The chant and the scent of the incense and the smoke wafting through the air are all there to remind us that we are encountering a reality which is physical and yet which cannot be adequately portrayed in language or in art because it is outside space and time.  The flickering candle reveals to us the immaterial world which is yet real.

In baptism, in the church in general, we are endeavoring to open our eyes, the eyes of faith, to transcendent reality, to Ultimate Truth, to the presence of eternity within our time and space, to lead us beyond the limits of space and time, and to the presence in creation and in our lives of an infinitely powerful and all-loving God.
We believe that every atom of our physical being and every movement of our heart is directed by God toward a goal: the goal of life beyond the physical existence, with a full participation in his own divine life.

This God who is ever inviting us to experience this goal, who created a world to allow us to in some mysterious way to experience the transcendent, then enters into our world in the incarnation. God thus not only knows ‘about’ our needs, our suffering and our destiny; God shares actively and decisively participates in them.
So God creates time and space, but God does not leave us to history or history to us. The transcendent God who exists in eternity, outside of space and time, enters into history and shares our history including the pain and sorrow of this worldly existence. He accepts our destiny, becoming one with us, part of the created order. God participates in what is happening in this world and what is going to happen to humanity, to the world and the cosmos. Everything that happens or that God allows to happen has an impact or an effect on God – in fact all of it impacts God!

So God in putting on flesh in the incarnation, takes on our history, and in so doing unites us to eternity. In baptism we put on Christ, we enter into the primordial waters of the Jordan River and become united to Christ and put on eternity. Everything begins in transcendence, in God, but God shares this life with a created order in which we can experience transcendence. God enters into the creation God made in order that we might be completely united to God.  Life in the Church – ritual, symbol, icon, poetic hymns – all point to the transcendent life which is just outside our empirical world, yet breaking into it. It becomes our way to experience the transcendent and to be transformed by God.

As Fr John Breck writes in his short story: “Eternity in fact is ever-present. it is not only beyond time and space, beyond the physical universe. It embraces and penetrates, so to speak, everything that exists, including ourselves.

2019 Post-Pascha to Pentecost Posts

35162630206_33a960e501_mAll of the posts related to the themes of the Post-Paschal Sundays for 2019 have been gathered into one file and are now available at Post Paschal Sundays (PDF).

You can find PDF links for all of the posts on my Blog for each of the past 11 years for Christmas, the Pre-Lenten Sundays, Great Lent, Holy Week, Pascha and Bright Week, and the Post-Paschal Sundays at  Fr. Ted’s PDFs.

Before, The Man Born Blind, and After

The Gospel lesson of John 9:1-38 which gives us a narrative of Jesus healing a man blind from birth.  It is one of the Post-Pascha Sunday Gospel themes and so continues exploring in the Orthodox liturgical context the Resurrection of Christ.  The blind man is told by Christ to wash in the pool of water–a baptismal theme  important for the continued spiritual development of those new Christians who had just been baptized at Pascha.

In the Orthodox Church on this Post-Paschal Sunday we read John 9:1-38.  It is worth considering the verses right before and after that pericope as they help set the context of the Gospel lesson and give it additional meaning.  The scripture just before the blind man pericope, John 8:56-59, takes place in the Temple precinct and has Jesus saying to the Jews:

Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad.” The Jews then said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.

The text relates a debate which occurs between Jesus and His interlocutors regarding the interpretation of Scripture.  Jesus maintains throughout His ministry that the Old Testament Scriptures are mostly a prophecy about Himself (see for example John 1:45John 5:39-47, Luke 24:25-49).   Jesus says Abraham spiritually saw ‘Christ’s’ day – He is making the claim that the way to read Torah is as a prophecy of Christ, but those debating with Him see the Torah more as Law or the Teaching about how to live rather than as prophecy referentially pointing to something or someone else.  Those arguing with Jesus not only disagree with Jesus about how to understand the Torah but they don’t at all understand Jesus.  They hear Jesus say ‘Abraham saw my day‘, but then twist His words around and incredulously challenge him as they know He is lying if He claims He has seen  Abraham.  But Jesus is telling them the Torah is prophecy (that is how Abraham saw Jesus), and Abraham was a prophet looking for the Messiah.  This is not something all Jews believed.   So they are rejecting Jesus’ interpretation of Torah and denying that the Torah is what Jesus says it is – prophecy of the coming Messiah.  Jesus tries to show them what Torah is about but they refuse to see.

The narrative of the man born blind is preceded by a question about what is Torah? and Who can interpret it?  The Jews are arguing the Torah tells them how to live, Jesus says Torah helps them see and He claims to be the light of the world.  In other words, Torah reveals Him and He reveals the meaning of Torah.

After this discussion, Jesus leaves the temple:   The temple was a sign of God’s presence in Israel — the Temple itself was a place for the people to encounter God, to encounter God’s message, to hear God’s prophecy, God’s word and to know what God is doing.  But in the temple the people have just shown they can’t see God there and aren’t interested in what God is doing and are not willing to hear what God’s message is.  Thus, they want to stone Jesus.  Torah offered them an encounter with the living God, but they turned it into words carved into stone (so too their minds and hearts turned to stone!  See  2 Corinthians 3).

In this Gospel lesson it is outside the temple that Christ gives sight to the blind man.  It is outside the temple that the blind man’s eyes are recreated.  Outside the temple  Jesus proclaims Himself to be the light to the world.  Those in the temple are still in darkness as is shown above in the conversation they have with Jesus.  In the temple they remain spiritually blind.  The Great Temple in Jerusalem with all its correct liturgical ritual fulfilling Torah and claims of being the place where God dwells on earth did not give sight to the blind, nor to the spiritual leaders of the Jews.  Without Christ, even with the Temple and even within the Temple,  there is spiritual blindness – the people cannot see what God is doing.   So Jesus says: “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.”  Those in the temple are judged, it is outside the temple that people are enabled to see what God is doing, in fact to see God.

Jesus claims to be the light of the world.  It is in Jesus and through Jesus that we see what God is doing.  When we see the Torah as prophecy we see what God is doing, we see Christ.  The Temple itself turns out to be no help to us in knowing God.

John 9:1-38

As he 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.

[“Wash in pool of Siloam” – these words from the Gospel are being used liturgically in Orthodoxy as being a reference to baptism.  Baptism is not just for forgiveness of sins, but also for the healing of soul and body, it gives spiritual enlightenment, displays God’s work in our life, renews and regenerates godliness in us.  As we pray in the Baptism service:  “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.

The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, “Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he”; others said, “No, but he is like him.” He said, “I am the man.” They said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash’; so I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. The Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” There was a division among them. So they again said to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.” The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight, and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if any one should confess him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age, ask him.” So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, “Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner.”

He answered, “Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you too want to become his disciples?” And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Why, this is a marvel! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.

What becomes obvious in the Gospel lesson is that seeing is  is not done only with the eyes.  Seeing can also mean understanding; one sees spiritually as well.  The healed blind man “sees” not only who Jesus is but also sees that the trouble with Jewish leadership is not that they can’t see with their eyes – they see clearly but don’t like what they see and so choose to blind themselves.  They can see Jesus and what Jesus is doing, but they refuse to accept what they see.  This leads them to put an evil interpretation on what is right in front of their eyes.  They are willing to blind themselves to the truth because they don’t want to admit Jesus is God’s revelation, and that the Torah bears witness to Christ who is the light of the world. They don’t want what Jesus teaches to be true.

We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if any one is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe”; and he worshiped him.

The blind man did not see Jesus first when his eyes were opened.  Rather his eyes were given sight and only later did this man physically see Jesus.  In fact when he sees Jesus with his eyes, he does not recognize Jesus!  But even before he ever saw Jesus physically, the man born blind clearly could see who Jesus is –the Messiah!  When at the end of  the Gospel lesson,  Jesus is standing right in front of the cured blind man he does not know he is talking to Jesus.  He came to faith, came to see and recognize Jesus as Messiah with the eyes of his heart, with faith, before he ever laid eyes on Jesus.  He sees the Messiah before he sees the man Jesus. That is the same way that any of us can see Jesus today.  The blind man is showing the way for all of us.  Even if we can’t physically see Jesus today we are like the man born blind and so can know who Jesus is and we can have him in our lives.  The Gospel is giving us encouragement – though we can’t see Jesus today, we know who He is and we know He is doing God’s will.  We know He is our salvation, our path to God, our union with God. We each are born blind, we don’t see Jesus, but we learn about Him, and even when we can’t see Him with our eyes we come to know Him and we come to see He is God’s Son and our Messiah in and through the saints and the Church.  As it turns out this person’s story is the story of each Christian.  This Gospel lesson is about you and you are in the Gospel.  The Gospel lesson tells us that physically seeing Jesus is of no advantage to a person – see also the account of the disciples who walk with the resurrected Jesus and don’t recognize Him in Luke 24.  Those living in the First Century have no advantage over us living in the 21st Century.  God is not visible to our eyes, but to our heart.  What we need to see is not the physical traits of Jesus but rather we need to see the Messiah, the incarnate God.  This is what an icon of Christ also reveals to us – not just a human, but the Messiah and Lord.

John 9:39-41

Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this, and they said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.

If we don’t see our Lord, it is because we choose not to.  We can’t just use our eyes for this, we have to use our heart, our faith, our love.  If we think Jesus is nothing but a nice man or a miracle worker, then we aren’t seeing Christ.

Two additional notes:

1]  Jesus says the man was born blind so that the works of God might be made manifest in him — we so often see our limits or handicaps as deficits which depress us that we aren’t like others.  But in this Gospel, we see that whatever we don’t like about ourselves might also be used to display God’s power in us, it can even serve to protect us from committing the sins that everyone else does.  God might help any one of us overcome our limits and shortcomings in order to display His power to others through us.  Don’t put yourself down or feel sorry for yourself because you are not like others or feel you are somehow aren’t as good as others.  God may be protecting you from making the mistakes and sins others do, or God may use your “weakness to accomplish” His will.  As St. Paul said of himself:

And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.  [ 2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

2]  “Why me?” that’s the common questions we ask when something goes wrong in our lives.  The disciples ask Jesus about the man born blind – Why him?  What did he do or what did his parents do?

We act as if we believe in magic – do good and nothing bad can happen to you.  Jesus refutes this attitude and acknowledges there is a spiritual warfare raging in the world.   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.”    Jesus says there is a war going on between light and darkness,  and He is here to bring light to the world.   The blind man’s condition is not the consequence of some petty sin but rather is part of the cosmic battle in which evil wants to destroy life.  We are able to see heaven opened and to see how Light overcomes darkness.  We are able to receive the Light that is not overcome by the night and to enter that Light.

 

What the Blind Man Sees

Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing. Therefore the neighbors and those who previously had seen that he was blind said, “Is not this he who sat and begged?” Some said, “This is he.” Others said, “He is like him.” He said, “I am he.” Therefore they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?” He answered and said, “A Man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and I received sight.” Then they said to him, “Where is He?” He said, “I do not know.” They brought him who formerly was blind to the Pharisees. Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also asked him again how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Therefore some of the Pharisees said, “This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” Others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. They said to the blind man again, “What do you say about Him because He opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.” But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind and received his sight, until they called the parents of him who had received his sight. And they asked them, saying, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered them and said, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but by what means he now sees we do not know, or who opened his eyes we do not know. He is of age; ask him. He will speak for himself.” His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” So they again called the man who was blind, and said to him, “Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner.” He answered and said, “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.” Then they said to him again, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” He answered them, “I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?” Then they reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.” The man answered and said to them, “Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes! Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him. Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.” They answered and said to him, “You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?” And they cast him out. Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said to him, “Do you believe in the Son of God?” He answered and said, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” And Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.” Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshiped Him.  (John 9:1-38)

Two short meditations based on the Gospel lesson:

The healing of the man born blind highlights an essential and very practical implication of the incarnation. God is pure spirit. But when God the Word united himself with his material creation, the spiritual acquired materiality, and conversely, the material was infused with the spiritual. (Daniel B. Hinshaw, Touch and the Healing of the World, p. 41)

…when we imagine what it could have been when Christ healed the man born blind. He was born a blind child. He had lived all his life without ever seeing anything around him And the first thing that he saw was the face of God incarnate and the eyes of the divine Mercy and Love looking into his eyes. What an experience!  (Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, Churchiantiy vs. Christianity, p. 30)

Bright Friday (2019)

Bright Friday

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. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.  (Romans 6:3-11)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem comments on being baptized into Christ:

O strange and incredible thing! We did not really die, we were not really buried, we were not really crucified and raised; our imitation was in an image, but our salvation was real. Christ was truly crucified, and buried and raised up, and all these things he graciously gave to us, so that by imitation of his passion we might gain participation in salvation in reality. O surpassing love of humanity! Christ received the nails in his pure hands and suffered, and to me grants salvation without my suffering and pain, through sharing [his suffering]. (Lectures on the Christian Sacraments, p. 101)

Baptisms in the early church were done on Lazarus Saturday or Holy Saturday, having used Lent as a time of preparation for baptism – studying God’s Word and through fasting and prayer opening the heart of the candidates to God’s saving action in the world. Baptism was called illumination, and all the candidates were given candles to hold as symbols of their new life in Christ.  St Macarius the Great writes:

“As many torches and burning lamps are lit from a fire, though the lamps and torches are lit and shine from one nature, so too is it that Christians are enkindled and shine from one nature; the divine fire, the Son of God, and they have their lamps burning in their hearts, and they shine before him while they live on earth, just as he did. This is what it means when it says: ‘So God has anointed you with the oil of gladness’” (Ps 45.7). (Illumined in the Spirit, p. 86)

Christ is risen!  Truly, He is risen!

Bright Thursday (2019)

Bright Thursday

Great Lent was traditionally used as a time to prepare catechumens for baptism.  At the end of Great Lent – for Lazarus Saturday or on Holy Saturday – the catechumens were illumined in baptism.  This is reflected in the fact that we still sing “As many as have been baptized into Christ…” during these festal Liturgies in place of singing “Holy God...”  In the week after Pascha, after the catechumens had been newly baptized, there was continued catechetical work in the early Church to help those newly initiated into Christ to understand what they had experienced.    St. John Chrysostom, addresses words to the newly baptized Christians:

You shall be called “newly-illuminated,” because your light is always new, if you wish it that way, and it is never extinguished. Whether we shall have it so or not, night follows the light of this world; but the darkness knows not the shining of this new light. The light shines in the darkness; and the darkness grasped it not. Certainly, the world is not as bright when the sun rises as is the soul which is illumined and becomes brighter from the grace it has received from the Spirit.

Consider more closely the nature of these things. When night falls and it is dark, many a time a man sees a rope and thinks it is a snake; and when a friend approaches him, he flees from him as if he were a foe; when he hears a noise, he is frightened. Nothing like this would happen in the light of day; everything is seen then just as it really is.

This same thing happens in the case of our soul. Whenever grace comes and drives out the darkness from our mind, we learn the exact nature of things; what frightened us before, now becomes contemptible in our eyes. We no longer are afraid of death after we have learned carefully from this holy initiation that death is not death but a sleep and repose which lasts for but a time. Nor are we afraid of poverty or disease or any such misfortune, because we know that we are on our way to a better life, which is impervious to death and destruction and is free from all such inequality.

Let us, then, no longer stay gaping after the good things of this life, such as luxurious foods and expensive clothing. For you have the greatest of garments, you have a spiritual banquet, you have the glory which comes from on high; Christ has become all things for you: table, clothing, house, head, and root. For all you who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. See how He has become your clothing.

Your shining robe now arouses admiration in the eyes of all who behold you, and the radiance of your garments proves that your souls are free from every blemish. For the future, all of you, both you who have just deserved the gift and all who have already reaped for yourselves the benefit of His munificence, must make the excellence of your conduct visible to all and, after the fashion of a torch, you must illumine those who look upon you. For if we should be willing to guard the brightness of this spiritual robe, as time goes on it will send forth a more brilliant luster and an abundance of gleaming light, a thing which cannot happen in the case of material garments.

For even if we multiply the care we take of our bodily clothes ten thousand times, the passing years leave them threadbare, and by the time they have gotten old they are worn away to nothing. If we keep them stored away, the moths get at them or they are ruined by the many other things which destroy material garments. If, however, we are eager to do our fair share, the garment of virtue will not become soiled nor feel the onslaught of age, but as time passes, so much the more does it reveal the fresh sheen of its beauty and its radiant light.

(Baptismal Instructions, pp. 175-176, 114)

Baptism: Being Born of Christ

“As the name of the Trinity is invoked, the candidate is immersed three times in the water and then three times rises up from the water once more: and immediately he enters into possession of all that he seeks. He is born and created; he receives the good seal; he is granted all the happiness that he desires; darkness before, he now becomes light; non-existent before, he now receives existence. God claims him for his own and adopts him as a son. From prison and utter enslavement he is led to a royal throne.

The water of baptism destroys one life and reveals another: it drowns the old man raises up the new.

To be baptized is to be born according to Christ; it is to receive existence, to come into being out of nothing.”

(St Nicholas Cabasilas, from The Time of the Spirit, p. 89)

The Many Graces of Baptism

“When you come to the sacred initiation, the eyes of the flesh see water; the eyes of faith behold the Spirit. Those eyes see the body being baptized; these see the old man being buried. The eyes of the flesh see the flesh being washed, the eyes of the spirit see the soul being cleansed. The eyes of the body see the body emerging from the water; the eyes of faith see the new man come forth brightly shining from that new purification. Our bodily eyes see the priest as, from above, he lays his right hand on the head and touches (him who is being baptized) our spiritual eyes see the great High Priest (Jesus) as He stretches forth His invisible hand to touch his head. For, at that moment, the one who baptizes is not a man, but the only-begotten Son of God.

For this reason, when the priest is baptizing he does not say, “I baptize so-and-so,” but, “So-and-so is baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” In this way he shows that it is not he who baptizes but those whose names have been invoked, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”  (St. John Chrysostom, Ancient Christian Writers: Baptismal Instructions, pp. 120)

Ancestral Sin, Great Lent and Hope

“Because the coming redemption of men and women is the defining feature of the Lenten season, the elaboration of the sin of Adam and Eve is never meant to lead to despair. Quite the opposite; it underscores the audacious mercy shown toward mankind. In light of Christ, the sin of Adam leads to exaltation, not condemnation. Another key concept to bear in mind is that crucifixion is not a one-time event limited to the figure of Jesus of Nazareth; in the liturgy of Easter, it is continually reappropriated in the life of the Church.

Paul says that baptism is our participation in the glory of the cross, gloria crucis – ‘Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism unto death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead…so we too might walk in newness of life’ (Rom. 6:3-4).” (Gary A. Anderson, In Dominico Eloquio – In Lordly Eloquence, pp. 29-30)