ambrose_of_milanIn the beginning our Lord God made man so that, if he had not tasted sin, he would not have died the death.

He contracted sin; he was made subject to death; he was ejected from paradise.

But the Lord, who wished his benefits to endure and to abolish all the snares of the serpent, also to abolish everything that caused harm, first, however, passed, sentence on man:

‘Dust thou art and into dust thou shalt return’ (Cf. Gen. 2:7,15-17; 3:6-24), and He made man subject to death.

It was a divine sentence; it could not be resolved by a human condition.

A remedy was given: that man should die and rise again.

Why? That that also, which before had ceded to a place of damnation, might cede to a place of benefit.

What is this except death? Do you ask how? Because death intervening makes an end to sin (Cf. Heb. 9:15,16). For when we die, surely we have ceased to sin.

The satisfaction of the sentence seemed to be that man, who had been made to live, if he had not sinned, began to die.

But, that the perpetual grace of God might persevere, man died, but Christ found resurrection, that is, to restore the heavenly benefit which had been lost by the deceit of the serpent.

Both, then, are for our good, for death is the end of sins and resurrection is the reformation of nature.

However, lest in this world the deceit and snares of the Devil might prevail, baptism was found.

Hear what Scripture rather, the Son of God says about this baptism, that the Pharisees, who did not wish to be baptized by John’s baptism, despised the council of God (Luke 7:30). Then baptism is the council of God. How great is grace, where there is the council of God!

Listen then: For, that in this world, also, the grip of the Devil might be loosened, there was discovered how man alive might die and alive might rise again.

What is ‘alive’? That is: the living life of the body, when it came to the font, and dipped into the font.

What is water but of earth? So it satisfies the heavenly sentence without the stupor of death. Because you dip, that sentence is resolved: ‘Thou art dust and into dust thou shalt return’ (Gen. 3:19).

When the sentence has been fulfilled, there is opportunity for heavenly benefit and remedy. So water is of earth, but the potentials of our life did not permit that we be covered with earth and rise again from earth.

Then earth does not wash, but water washes. Therefore, the font is as a sepulture.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On the Sacraments, 2,6,17-19 in St Ambrose: Theological and Dogmatic Works, tr. Roy J. Deferrari, Catholic Univeristy of America Press, 1963, pp. 284-286.