Restores Us to Life

From On the Holy Spirit 15, 35-36 (375)

The Lord, the dispenser of our life, has inaugurated a covenant of baptism, which carries with it the figure of death and the figure of life. Water is symbolic of death and the Spirit signifies the seal of life. This relates to the problem which has been rased as to why water and the Spirit are associated in baptism. The reason is that baptism has two purposes: on the one hand, to destroy the body of sin and prevent us from bearing fruit in death; and on the other hand, to give us life in the Spirit with its fruit borne in holiness. The water is a symbol of death; it receives the body as if it were into a tomb. The Spirit bestows life-giving energy, recalling our souls from the death of sin to the vitality they once enjoyed. This is what is meant by being “born again of water and the Spirit.” Death itself is killed in the water and the Spirit restores us to life.

The great mystery of baptism is accomplished with three immersions and three invocations. In this way the figure of death is represented and the baptized are enlightened by the handing on of divine knowledge. If there is any grace in the water of it is not because of any inherent power the water may possess, but because the presence of the Spirit. For, as Scripture asserts, baptism is “not the washing away of dirt but the appeal made to God from a clear conscience.” This is why the Lord, in order to prepare us for the resurrection life, lays before us the way of the gospel. We are to avoid anger, practice patience, be detached from the pursuit of pleasure and the love of money. In this way, by the exercise of our own free choice, we are anticipating the character of the coming age.

St. Basil the Great (330-379) was Bishop of Caesarea and a devoted advocate of Nicene Christology, traditionally acclaimed as one of the four Eastern Doctors of the Church. A rule written by him is the basis of communal monastic life in the Eastern Church, and he founded the first major Christian hospital. His treatise On the Holy Spirit defends the full divinity of the Holy Spirit amid a controversy eventually settled by the Second Ecumenical Council. His feast day is June 14.


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