Friday, January 10, 2014

Christ is baptised . . . to make the water holy

Here is a beautiful passage on the Lord’s baptism by St Maximus of Turin (c.350 - 415). Little is known of his life, except that he became the first Bishop of Turin in 397, and held a council of Gaulish bishops there in 398. But over a hundred of his sermons still exist which show him to have been an evangelist bishop who liked to use Old Testament typology and the Christian liturgy to explain the centrality of Christ. 

Christ is baptised, not to be made holy by the water, but to make the water holy, and by his cleansing to purify the waters which he touched. For the consecration of Christ involves a more significant consecration of the water.

For when the Saviour is washed, all water for our baptism is made clean, purified at its source for the dispensing of baptismal grace to the people of future ages. Christ is the first to be baptised, then, so that Christians will follow after him with confidence. 

I understand the mystery as this. The column of fire went before the sons of Israel through the Red Sea so they could follow on their brave journey; the column went first through the waters to prepare a path for those who followed. As the apostle Paul said, what was accomplished then was the mystery of baptism. Clearly it was baptism in a certain sense when the cloud was covering the people and bringing them through the water.

But Christ the Lord does all these things: in the column of fire he went through the sea before the sons of Israel; so now, in the column of his body, he goes through baptism before the Christian people. At the time of the Exodus the column provided light for the people who followed; now it gives light to the hearts of believers. Then it made a firm pathway through the waters; now it strengthens the footsteps of faith in the bath of baptism.


Jenny said...

What a beautiful explanation! Thank you.

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