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Thought of the day, part II

Some random patristic reflections on today’s Feast of the Baptism of the Lord:

Saint Ambrose of Milan:

Neither repentance avails without grace, nor grace without repentance; for repentance must first condemn sin, that grace may blot it out.  So then John, who was a type of the law, came baptizing for repentance, while Christ came to offer grace.

Saint John Chrysostom

John was setting forth the anticipatory and ancillary value of his won baptism, showing that it had no other purpose than to lead to repentance.  He pointed toward Christ’s baptism, full of inexpressible gifts.  John seems to be saying:  “On being told that he comes after me, you must not think lightly of him because he comes later.  When you understand the power of Christ’s gift, you will see that I said nothing lofty or noble when I said ‘I am unworthy to untie the thong of his sandal.’  When you hear, ‘He is mightier than I,’ do not imagine that I said this by way of comparison.  For I am not worthy to be ranked so much as among Christ’s servants, no, not even the lowest of his servants, nor to receive the least honored portion of his ministry.”  Therefore John did not simply say “his sandals,” he said “the thong of his sandals,” the part counted the least of all.

Saint Hippolytus

Do you see, beloved, how many and how great blessings we would have lost if the Lord had yielded to the exhortation of John and declined baptism?  For the heavens had been shut before this.  The region above was inaccessible.  We might descend to the lower parts, but not ascend to the upper.  So it happened not only that the Lord was being baptized – he also was making new the old creation.  He was bringing the alienated under the scepter of adoption.  For straightway “the heavens were opened to him.”  A reconciliation took place between the visible and the invisible.  The celestial orders were filled with joy, the diseases of earth were healed, secret things made known, those at enmity restored to amity.  For you have herd the word of the Evangelist, saying, “The heavens were opened to him,” on account of three wonders.  At the baptism of Christ the Bridegroom, it was fitting that the heavenly chamber should open its glorious gates.  So when the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove, and the Father’s voice spread everywhere, it was fitting that “the gates of heaven should be lifted up.

Saint Augustine

In the Scripture many details are mentioned distinguishably of each of the triune Persons individually, such as cannot be said of them jointly, even though they are inseparably together, as when they are made manifest by corporeal sounds.  So in certain passages of Scripture and through certain created beings they are shown separately and successively, as the Father in the voice which is heard:  “Thou art my Son,” and the Son in the human nature which he took from the Virgin, and the Holy Spirit in the physical appearance of a dove.  These are mentioned distinguishably, it is true, but they do not prove that the Three are separated.  To explicate this, we take as an example the unity of our memory, our understanding, our will.  Although we list these distinguishably, individually and in their various functions, there is nothing we do or say which proceeds from one of them without the other two.  However, we are not to think that these three faculties are compared to the Trinity so as to resemble it at every point, for a comparison is never given such importance in an argument that it exactly fits the thing to which it is compared.  Besides, when can any likeness in a created being be applied to the Creator?

Saint Gregory Nazianzen

As man he was baptized, but he absolved sins as God.  He needed no purifying rites himself – his purpose was to hallow water.

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