St-Basil-the-GreatThe dispensation of our God and Saviour concerning man is a recall from the fall and a return from the alienation caused by disobedience to close communion with God.

This is the reason for the sojourn of Christ in the flesh, the pattern life described in the Gospels, the sufferings, the cross, the tomb, the resurrection; so that the man who is being saved through imitation of Christ receives that old adoption.

For perfection of life the imitation of Christ is necessary, not only in the example of gentleness, lowliness, and long suffering set us in His life, but also of His actual death.

So Paul, the imitator of Christ, says, “being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”

How then are we made in the likeness of His death? In that we were buried with Him by baptism. What then is the manner of the burial? And what is the advantage resulting from the imitation?

First of all, it is necessary that the continuity of the old life be cut. And this is impossible lest a man be born again, according to the Lord’s word; for the regeneration, as indeed the name shews, is a beginning of a second life.

So before beginning the second, it is necessary to put an end to the first. For just as in the case of runners who turn and take the second course, a kind of halt and pause intervenes between the movements in the opposite direction, so also in making a change in lives it seemed necessary for death to come as mediator between the two, ending all that goes before, and beginning all that comes after.

How then do we achieve the descent into hell? By imitating, through baptism, the burial of Christ. For the bodies of the baptized are, as it were, buried in the water.

Baptism then symbolically signifies the putting off of the works of the flesh; as the apostle says, ye were “circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; buried with him in baptism.”

And there is, as it were, a cleansing of the soul from the filth that has grown on it from the carnal mind, as it is written, “Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

Basil the Great (330-379): On the Holy Spirit 15,35.

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