Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Mystery of Jesus' Baptism

The Gospel reading for the 1st Sunday after the Epiphany of Our Lord (January 6th) tells of the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, and because of that the day has developed into the Festival of the Baptism of Our Lord. In reading through the various sermon preparation helps that are available, I was struck at how the newer they were the more they focussed not on the Baptism of Jesus, but on our baptism.

Then I read this from Cyril of Alexandria (375-444):
But how then, they object, was he baptized and received the Spirit? We reply that he had no need of holy baptism. He was wholly pure and spotless, and the holiest of the holy. He did not need the Holy Spirit, for the Spirit that proceeds from God the Father is from him and equal to him in substance. Now, at last, we must explain God's plan of salvation. God, in his love of humankind, provided for us a way of salvation and of life. Believing in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and making this confession before many witnesses, we wash away all the filth of sin. The communication of the Holy Spirit enriched us, made us partakers of the divine nature and gained for us the grace of adoption as God's children. It was necessary, therefore, that the Word of the Father become for our sakes the pattern and way of every good work when he humbled himself to emptiness and deigned to assume our likeness. For it follows that he who is first in everything must set the example in this too. He commences the work himself in order that we may learn about the power of holy baptism and learn how much we gain by approaching so great a grace. Having been baptized, he prays that you, my beloved, may learn that never-ceasing prayer is a thing most fitting for those who have one been counted worthy of holy baptism.
From Cyril's "Commentary of Luke, Homily 11," as found in The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, NT III: Luke (pp. 66-67).

Ah, the wisdom of the Ancient Church Fathers strikes again.