Thursday, March 22, 2007
Is it not wonderful that even death can be washed away by a bath?
CONCERNING BAPTISM by Tertullian
The homily is here.
Of special interest:
...the people, freed from the shackles of Egyptian bondage, escaped the violence of the king of Egypt by crossing the water, the water put an end to the king himself with all his forces. What pattern could be clearer in the mystery of Baptism! The nations are freed from the present world by water assuredly, and they leave behind them the devil, their former tyrant, overwhelmed in the water. Likewise the water is cured of the bitterness which spoilt it, and made sweet, useful and beneficial by Moses' rod. That wood was Christ, bringing healing, of course, out of Himself, to the streams of a nature that had once been poisoned and bitter, in the health-giving waters of Baptism. This is the water which flowed down for the people from "the attendant rock." For if "the rock is Christ," without doubt we see that Baptism is blessed by water in Christ. How great is the grace in water, where God and His anointed are present, for the ratification of Baptism! Christ is never apart from water: for even He Himself is baptized with water; when invited to a wedding He inaugurates with water the earliest trials of His power; when He speaks he invites them "that thirst" to His "everlasting water "; when He teaches about love, He commends the offering of "a cup of water" to a destitute person among the works of love; at a well He recovers His strength, "on water He walks," He crosses the water with delight, with water He serves His disciples. The evidence of Baptism continues right to the time of His passion; when He is given over to the cross, water interposes; Pilate's hands know this; when He is wounded, water breaks forth from His side; the soldier's spear knows it.
13. It is in this connexion, then, that those criminals stir up questions. They actually say: "Baptism is not necessary to those for whom faith is enough; for Abraham also pleased God by no mystery of water, but by that of faith only." But in everything later practice settles a question, and what follows prevails over what has gone before. Let us admit that salvation came about in past times by simple faith, before the Lord's passion and resurrection; but when faith was increased (I mean by faith the belief in His nativity, passion and resurrection), there was added to the mystery, thus enlarged in scope, a ratification in Baptism, in some way a garment of faith, which, previously was simple and now has no efficacy without obedience to its law. For the law of Baptism was enjoined and its ritual prescribed. "Go," he says, "teach the nations, baptizing them in the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit." The addition to this law of the regulation: "Except one be born again of water and spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven," bound faith to the necessity of Baptism. Consequently from that time all believers were baptized. Then Paul, also, when he believed, was baptized. And this is what the Lord also, in inflicting the scourge of blindness, had enjoined, saying: "Rise up, and enter Damascus; there you will be shown what you ought to do"; namely, to be baptized, the only qualification that was wanting to him. Apart from that he had sufficiently learnt and believed that "the Nazarene" was the Lord, the Son of God.
Good Friday and Baptism:
19. Good Friday offers the more regular occasion for Baptism, when also the Lord's passion into which we are baptized was consummated. And it will not be interpreted inconsistently with the type that when the Lord was to celebrate His last passover, on sending His disciples to prepare, He said, "You will meet a man carrying water," and thus indicated the place for the celebration of the passover by the sign of water. Next, Whitsuntide is the most joyous period for the administration of Baptism, at which both the Lord's resurrection was widely made known among the disciples, and the gift of "the Holy Spirit" was inaugurated, and the hope of the Lord's advent suggested, when on His having then been "received back into the heavens," the angels said to the apostles that "He would come in the very way in which He ascended into heaven," namely at Whitsuntide. But indeed when Jeremiah says: "And I will gather them together from the farthest parts of the earth on a festal day," he indicates the day of Good Friday and of Whitsunday, which is properly "a festal day." However, every day is the Lord's, every hour, every time is suitable for Baptism: if there is a difference in regard to the proper season, there is none in regard to the grace.