Sophronius of Jerusalem: A Baptism of Salvation Saturday, Jan 7 2017 

St.-Sophronios-of-JerusalemToday the grace of the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, came upon the waters.

Today the unwaning sun has dawned, and the world is lit up with the light of the Lord.

[…]  Today the clouds refresh humanity with a rain of justice from above.

Today the uncreated One is by His own will touched by the creature.

Today the prophet and forerunner approaches the Master, but pauses in awe, seeing God’s condescension towards us.

Today the waters of the Jordan are turned into healing by the presence of the Lord.

Today all creation is watered by mystical waters. Today men’s sins are washed away in the waters of the Jordan.

Today Paradise is thrown open to humankind, and the sun of righteousness shines upon us. Today the water that the people under Moses found bitter, is turned into sweetness at the Lord’s presence.

Today we are free of the ancient grief, and like a new Israel have been redeemed. Today we are delivered from the darkness and are bathed in the light of the knowledge of God.

Today the world’s gloom is dispersed in the epiphany of our God. Today the entire universe is lit as by a heavenly torch. Today error is abolished and the coming of the Lord opens the way to salvation.

Today the heavenly joins the earthly in celebration, and that which is below holds discourse with that which is above. Today the holy and vibrant assembly of the Orthodox rejoices.

Today the Master hastens towards baptism so as to raise humankind to the heights. Today He Who bends to none, bows before His own servant, so as to free us from bondage.

Today heaven has been deeded to us, for of the Lord’s kingdom there shall be no end. Today the earth and the sky have divided the world’s joy, and the world is filled with gladness.

The waters saw You, O God, the waters saw You and were afraid. The Jordan reversed its flow when it saw the fire of divinity descending bodily and entering it.

The Jordan turned back seeing the Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove and hovering about You.

The Jordan turned back seeing the invisible become visible, the creator made flesh, the Master in the form of servant.

The Jordan turned back and the mountains leapt, seeing God in the flesh, and the clouds gave voice, marveling at the One present, light of light, true God of true God, Who submerged in the Jordan the death of disobedience and the sting of error and the bond of Hades, giving to the world a baptism of salvation.

Sophronius of Jerusalem (560-638): Theophany Poem.

Gregory of Nyssa: Christ is baptized by John that He might He might bring the Spirit from above, and exalt man to heaven Thursday, Jan 7 2016 

Gregory_of_NyssaThe time, then, has come, and bears in its course the remembrance of holy mysteries, purifying man,

—mysteries which purge out from soul and body even that sin which is hard to cleanse away, and which bring us back to that fairness of our first estate which God, the best of artificers, impressed upon us.

Therefore it is that you, the initiated people, are gathered together; and you bring also that people who have not made trial of them, leading, like good fathers, by careful guidance, the uninitiated to the perfect reception of the faith.

I for my part rejoice over both;—over you that are initiated, because you are enriched with a great gift: over you that are uninitiated, because you have a fair expectation of hope

—remission of what is to be accounted for, release from bondage, close relation to God, free boldness of speech, and in place of servile subjection equality with the angels.

For these things, and all that follow from them, the grace of Baptism secures and conveys to us.

[…] Christ, then, was born as it were a few days ago—He Whose generation was before all things, sensible and intellectual.

Today He is baptized by John that He might cleanse him who was defiled, that He might bring the Spirit from above, and exalt man to heaven, that he who had fallen might be raised up and he who had cast him down might be put to shame.

And marvel not if God showed so great earnestness in our cause: for it was with care on the part of him who did us wrong that the plot was laid against us; it is with forethought on the part of our Maker that we are saved.

And he, that evil charmer, framing his new device of sin against our race, drew along his serpent train, a disguise worthy of his own intent, entering in his impurity into what was like himself,—dwelling, earthly and mundane as he was in will, in that creeping thing.

But Christ, the repairer of his evil-doing, assumes manhood in its fulness, and saves man, and becomes the type and figure of us all, to sanctify the first-fruits of every action, and leave to His servants no doubt in their zeal for the tradition.

Baptism, then, is a purification from sins, a remission of trespasses, a cause of renovation and regeneration. […] And this gift it is not the water that bestows (for in that case it were a thing more exalted than all creation), but the command of God, and the visitation of the Spirit that comes sacramentally to set us free.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): A Sermon for the Day of the Lights.

Ephrem the Syrian: To Thee be praise from Thy flock in the day of Thy Epiphany! Wednesday, Jan 6 2016 

Mor_Ephrem_iconResponse—To Thee be praise from Thy flock in the day of Thy Epiphany!

The heavens He has renewed, for that fools worshipped all the luminaries:
—He has renewed the earth, for that in Adam it was wasted.
—That which He fashioned has become new by His spittle:
—and the All-Sufficing has restored bodies with souls.

Gather yourselves again ye sheep
—and without labour receive cleansing!
—for one needs not as Elisha
—to bathe seven times in the river, nor again to be wearied as the priests are wearied with sprinklings.

Seven times Elisha purified himself in a mystery of the seven spirits;
—and the hyssop and blood are a mighty symbol.
—There is no room for division;
—He is not divided from the Lord of all Who is Son of the Lord of all.

Moses sweetened in Marah the waters that were bitter,
—because the People complained and murmured:
—Thus he gave a sign of baptism,
—wherein the Lord of life makes sweet them that were bitter.

The cloud overshadowed and kept off the burning heat from the camp;
—it showed a symbol of the Holy Spirit, which overshadows you in baptism
—tempering the flaming fire that it harm not your bodies.

Through the sea the People then passed, and showed a symbol
—of the baptism wherein ye were washed.
—The People passed through that and believed not:
—the Gentiles were baptized in this and believed and received the Holy Ghost.

The Word sent the Voice to proclaim before His Coming,
—to prepare for Him the way by which He came,
—and to betroth the Bride till He should come,
—that she might be ready when He should come and take her from the water.

The voice of prophecy stirred the son of the barren woman,
—and he went forth wandering in the desert and crying,
—“Lo! the Son of the Kingdom comes!
—prepare ye the way that He may enter and abide in your dwellings!”

John cried, “Who comes after me, He is before me:
—I am the Voice but not the Word;
—I am the torch but not the Light;
—the Star that rises before the Sun of Righteousness.”

In the wilderness this John had cried and had said,
—“Repent ye sinners of your evils,
—and offer the fruits of repentance;
—for lo! He comes that winnows the wheat from the tares.”

Ephrem the Syrian (c.306-373): Fifteen Hymns on the Feast of the Epiphany, 1, 1-10.

John Chrysostom: For whom was Christ baptised and by which baptism? Tuesday, Jan 5 2016 

Chrysostom3For whom was Christ baptised and by which baptism?

Neither the former—the Jewish, nor the last—ours.

Whence has He need for remission of sins? How is this possible for Him, Who does not have any sins?

He committed no sin—it says in the Scriptures—nor was there deceit found in His mouth (1 Pet 2:22); and further, Who of you convicteth Me of sin? (Jn 8:46).

His flesh was privy to the Holy Spirit…. If His flesh was privy to the Holy Spirit, and He was not subject to sins, then for whom was He baptised?

[…] By which baptism indeed was He baptised? Not the Jewish, nor ours, nor John’s…. He was baptised not by reason of sin and not having need of the gift of the Spirit; therefore, as we have demonstrated, this baptism was alien to the one and to the other….

He came to Jordan not for the forgiveness of sins and not for receiving the gifts of the Spirit…. For whom was He baptised, if this was done not for repentance, nor for the remission of sins, nor for receiving the gifts of the Spirit?

[…] What reason for this baptism did John declare? That Christ should become known to the people, as Paul also mentions: John therefore baptised with the baptism of repentance, so that through him they should believe on Him that cometh (Acts 19:4); this was the consequence of the baptism.

If John had gone to the home of each and, standing at the door, had spoken out for Christ and said: He is the Son of God, such a testimony would have been suspicious, and this deed would have been extremely perplexing.

So too, if he in advocating Christ had gone into the synagogues and witnessed to Him, this testimony of his might be suspiciously fabricated.

But when all the people thronged out from all the cities to Jordan and remained on the banks of the river, and when He Himself came to be baptised and received the testimony of the Father by a voice from above and by the coming-upon of the Spirit in the form of a dove, then the testimony of John about Him was made beyond all questioning.

John Chrysostom (c.347-407): Discourse on the Day of the Baptism of Christ @ Pravoslavie [slightly adapted].

Gregory Nazianzen: The Holy Day of the Lights, to which we have come… Monday, Jan 4 2016 

St.-Gregory-NazianzenThe Holy Day of the Lights,

to which we have come,

and which we are celebrating today,

has for its origin the Baptism of my Christ,

the True Light That lightens every man that comes into the world (John 1:9)

and effects my purification,

and assists that light which we received from the beginning from Him from above,

but which we darkened and confused by sin.

Therefore listen to the Voice of God, which sounds so exceeding clearly to me, who am both disciple and master of these mysteries, as would to God it may sound to you; I Am the Light of the World (John 8:12).

Therefore approach ye to Him and be enlightened, and let not your faces be ashamed, being signed with the true Light.

It is a season of new birth (John 3:3); let us be born again.

It is a time of reformation; let us receive again the first Adam.

Let us not remain what we are, but let us become what we once were.

The Light shines in darkness, in this life and in the flesh, and is chased by the darkness, but is not overtaken by it (John 1:5)—

—I mean the adverse power leaping up in its shamelessness against the visible Adam, but encountering God and being defeated—

—in order that we, putting away the darkness, may draw near to the Light, and may then become perfect Light, the children of perfect Light.

See the grace of this Day; see the power of this mystery.

[…] To us grace has been given to flee from superstitious error and to be joined to the truth and to serve the living and true God, and to rise above creation, passing by all that is subject to time and to first motion.

So let us look at and reason upon God and things divine in a manner corresponding to this Grace given us.

But let us begin our discussion of them from the most fitting point. And the most fitting is, as Solomon laid down for us; us; The beginning of wisdom, he says, is to get wisdom (Proverbs 4:7).

And what this is he tells us; the beginning of wisdom is fear.

For we must not begin with contemplation and leave off with fear (for an unbridled contemplation would perhaps push us over a precipice), but we must be grounded and purified and so to say made light by fear, and thus be raised to the height.

For where fear is there is keeping of commandments;

and where there is keeping of commandments there is purifying of the flesh, that cloud which covers the soul and suffers it not to see the Divine Ray.

And where there is purifying there is Illumination;

and Illumination is the satisfying of desire to those who long for the greatest things, or the Greatest Thing, or That Which surpasses all greatness.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 39 (On the Holy Lights), 1, 2, 8.

Ignatius of Antioch: The Medicine of Immortality, and the Antidote to Prevent Us from Dying Monday, Jan 20 2014 

Ignatius_of_AntiochLet my spirit be counted as nothing for the sake of the cross, which is a stumbling-block to those that do not believe, but to us salvation and life eternal.

“Where is the wise man? where the disputer?” Where is the boasting of those who are styled prudent?

For our God, Jesus Christ, was, according to the appointment of God, conceived in the womb by Mary, of the seed of David, but by the Holy Ghost.

He was born and baptized, that by His passion He might purify the water.

Now the virginity of Mary was hidden from the prince of this world, as was also her offspring, and the death of the Lord; three mysteries of renown, which were wrought in silence by God.

How, then, was He manifested to the world? A star shone forth in heaven above all the other stars, the light of Which was inexpressible, while its novelty struck men with astonishment.

And all the rest of the stars, with the sun and moon, formed a chorus to this star, and its light was exceedingly great above them all. And there was agitation felt as to whence this new spectacle came, so unlike to everything else in the heavens.

Hence every kind of magic was destroyed, and every bond of wickedness disappeared; ignorance was removed, and the old kingdom abolished, God Himself being manifested in human form for the renewal of eternal life.

And now that took a beginning which had been prepared by God. Henceforth all things were in a state of tumult, because He meditated the abolition of death.

If Jesus Christ shall graciously permit me through your prayers, and if it be His will, I shall, in a second little work which I will write to you, make further manifest to you the nature of the dispensation of which I have begun to treat, with respect to the new man, Jesus Christ, in His faith and in His love, in His suffering and in His resurrection.

Especially will I do this if the Lord make known to me that you come together in common, man by man, through grace – individually, in one faith, and in Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David according to the flesh, being both the Son of man and the Son of God;

and if you thus obey the bishop and the presbytery with an undivided mind, breaking one and the same bread, which is the medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent us from dying, but which causes that we should live for ever in Jesus Christ.

Ignatius of Antioch (c. 35 – c. 107): Letter to the Ephesians, 18-20 @ Crossroads Initiative.

Cyril of Alexandria: The Heavens were Opened, and Man upon Earth Brought Near to the Holy Angels Sunday, Jan 12 2014 

cyril_alexandriaAnd it came to pass, that when all the people were baptized, Jesus also was baptized: and as He was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Ghost descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove.

And there was a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son; in Thee I am well pleased. And Jesus Himself was beginning to be about thirty years old (Luke 3:21-23).

Continued from here….

Having been baptized, He prays that you, my beloved, may learn that never-ceasing prayer is a thing most fitting for those who have once been counted worthy of holy baptism.

And the Evangelist says that the heavens were opened, as having long been closed. For Christ said, “Forthwith shall ye see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.”

For both the flock above and that below being now made one, and one chief Shepherd appointed for all, the heavens were opened, and man upon earth brought near to the holy angels.

And the Spirit also again came down as at a second commencement of our race: and upon Christ first, Who received it not so much for His own sake as for ours: for by Him and in Him are we enriched with all things.

Most suitably therefore to the economy of grace does He endure with us the things of man’s estate: for where otherwise shall we see Him emptied, Whose in His divine nature is the fulness?

How became He poor as we are, if He were not conformed to our poverty? How did He empty Himself, if He refused to endure the measure of human littleness?

Having taken therefore Christ as our pattern, let us draw near to the grace of holy baptism, that so we may gain boldness to pray constantly, and lift up holy hands to God the Father, that He may open the heavens also unto us, and send down upon us too the Holy Ghost, to receive us as sons.

For He spake unto Christ at the time of holy baptism, as though having by Him and in Him accepted man upon earth to the sonship, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.”

For He Who is the Son by nature and in truth, and the Only-begotten, when He became like unto us, is specially declared to be the Son of God, not as receiving this for Himself – for He was and is, as I said, very Son – but that He might ratify the glory unto us.

For He has been made our firstfruits, and firstborn, and second Adam: for which reason it is said, that “in Him all things have become new:” for having put off the oldness that was in Adam, we have gained the newness that is in Christ.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on St Luke’s Gospel, Sermon 11.

Gregory Palamas: When Our Nature was Remade in the Jordan, the Most Sublime and All-Accomplishing Trinity was Made Manifest Saturday, Jan 11 2014 

Gregory_PalamasJesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water:

and, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him:

and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3:16-17).

Man is the only creature who, in the image of the tri-hypostatic Being, has a mind, reason, and a spirit which gives life to his body, inasmuch as he also has a body which needs to be infused with life.

When our nature was re-made in the Jordan, the most sublime and all-accomplishing Trinity was made manifest, as the archetype of the image in our soul.

[…] Christ’s going down into the water and His being underneath it, at the time of His baptism, foreshadowed His descent into Hades; and, accordingly, His coming up from under the water prefigured His resurrection from the dead.

As a fitting consequence, when He came up from the water the heavens were immediately opened unto Him.

For at the time of His descent into Hades, He went under the earth for our sake, and on returning thence, He opened all things both to Himself and to us, not just things on or around the earth, but highest heaven itself, to which afterwards He ascended bodily, “whither the forerunner is for us entered” (Hebrews 6.20).

Just as He foreshadowed the saving Passion through the mystical bread and cup, and then handed on this mystery to the faithful to perform for their salvation (1 Corinthians 11.25; Luke 22.17-20), so He mystically foretold His descent into Hades and His ascent from there through this baptism of His, and afterwards passed on this sacrament to believers to perform that they may be saved.

He allowed Himself what was painful and difficult, but bestowed on us communion in His sufferings right from the start through these painless means, causing us, according to the Apostle, to be “planted together in the likeness of His death” (Romans 6.5), that in due time we might also be vouchsafed the promised resurrection.

Having a soul and body like ours, which He assumed from us for our sake, by means of this body He underwent the Passion, death and burial for us, and showed forth the resurrection from the tomb that this same body might become immortal.

He taught us to accomplish the bloodless sacrifice in remembrance of these events, that through it we might reap salvation.

With His soul He went down to Hades and returned, making us all partakers in eternal light and life, and in token of this He handed on to us the practice of holy baptism, that through it we might harvest salvation;

and indeed that through each of these two mysteries and through both elements, soul and body, we might be initiated into and receive the seeds of incorruptible life.

For our whole salvation depends on these two sacraments, as the entire dispensation whereby God became man is summed up in them.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily 60, on the Holy Feast of Theophany: Disclosing the Mystery of Christ’s Baptism as far as is Possible. From Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (Mount Thabor Publishing, 2009) @ Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension, Oakland, California.

Cyril of Jerusalem: In the Jordan Jesus (the Life) Destroyed the Dragon (Death) Thursday, Jan 9 2014 

Cyril-of-JerusalemJesus sanctified Baptism by being Himself baptized.

[…] He was baptized not that He might receive remission of sins, for He was sinless.

Being sinless, He was baptized, that He might give to them that are baptized a divine and excellent grace.

Since the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise partook of the same (Heb. 2:14).

This was so that, having been made partakers of His presence in the flesh we might be made partakers also of His Divine grace.

Thus Jesus was baptized, that thereby we again by our participation might receive both salvation and honour.

According to Job, there was in the waters the dragon that draweth up Jordan into his mouth (Job 40:23).

Since, therefore, it was necessary to break the heads of the dragon in pieces (Ps. 74:14), He went down and bound the strong one in the waters, that we might receive power to tread upon serpents and scorpions (Luke 10:19).

The beast was great and terrible.  No fishing-vessel was able to carry one scale of his tail (Job 40:26 [LXX]). Destruction ran before him (Job 41:13), ravaging all that met him.

The Life encountered him, that the mouth of Death might henceforth be stopped, and all we that are saved might say, O death, where is thy sting?  O grave, where is thy victory (1 Cor. 15:55)?

The sting of death is drawn by Baptism. For you go down into the water, bearing your sins, but the invocation of grace, having sealed your soul, does not allow you afterwards to be swallowed up by the terrible dragon.

Having gone down dead in sins, you come up quickened in righteousness.  For if you have been united with the likeness of the Saviour’s death (Rom. 6:5), you shall also be deemed worthy of His Resurrection.

Jesus took upon Him the sins of the world, and died that, by putting sin to death, He might rise again in righteousness.

Similarly, you, by going down into the water, and being in a manner buried in the waters, as He was in the rock, are raised again walking in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).

Moreover, when you have been deemed worthy of the grace, He then gives you strength to wrestle against the adverse powers.

After His Baptism He was tempted forty days (not that He was unable to gain the victory before, but because He wished to do all things in due order and succession.

So you likewise, though not daring before your baptism to wrestle with the adversaries, after you have received the grace and are henceforth confident in the armour of righteousness (2 Cor. 6:7), must then do battle, and preach the Gospel, if you will.

Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386): Catechetical Lectures 3, 11-13.

Cyril of Alexandria: The Baptism in the Jordan and the Communication of the Holy Spirit Tuesday, Jan 7 2014 

cyril_alexandriaAnd it came to pass that when all the people were baptized, Jesus also was baptized, and prayed (Luke 3:21).

Was He too then in need of holy baptism? But what benefit could accrue to Him from it?

The Only-begotten Word of God is Holy of the Holy: so the Seraphim name Him in their praises.

[…] “There is one Lord Jesus Christ,” as it is written….

He [i.e. Christ in His humanity] was not separate from Him [the Word], and by Himself when baptized and made partaker of the Holy Ghost.

For we know, both that He is God, and without stain, and Holy of the Holy. For we confess that “of His fulness have all we received.”

For the Holy Spirit indeed proceeds from God the Father, but belongs also to the Son.

It is even often called the Spirit of Christ, though proceeding from God the Father.

And to this Paul will testify, saying, at one time, “They that are in the flesh cannot please God: but ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if any one have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.”

And again, “But because ye are sons, God hath sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Father, our Father.”

The Holy Spirit therefore proceeds indeed as I said from God the Father, but His Only-begotten Word, as being both by nature and verily Son, and resplendent with the Father’s dignities, ministers It to the creation, and bestows It on those that are worthy.

Truly He said, “All things that the Father hath are mine.” … But how then…was He baptized, and received also the Spirit?

[…] He had no need of holy baptism, being wholly pure and spotless, and holy of the holy. Nor had He need of the Holy Ghost: for the Spirit That proceeds from God the Father is of Him, and equal to Him in substance.

We must now therefore at length hear what is the explanation of the economy. God in his love to man provided for us a way of salvation and of life.

For believing in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and making this confession before many witnesses, we wash away all the filth of sin, and are enriched by the communication of the Holy Spirit, and made partakers of the divine nature, and gain the grace of adoption.

It was necessary therefore that the Word of the Father, when He humbled Himself unto emptiness, and deigned to assume our likeness, should become for our sakes the pattern and way of every good work.

[…] In order therefore that we may learn both the power itself of holy baptism, and how much we gain by approaching so great a grace, He commences the work Himself.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on St Luke’s Gospel, Sermon 11.