My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
ON HOLY LIGHTS (Part II)
by Saint Gregory Nazianzus "the Theologian"
11. And now, having purified the theatre by what has been said, let us discourse a little about the Festival, and join in celebrating this Feast with festal and pious souls. And, since the chief point of the Festival is the remembrance of God, let us call God to mind. For I think that the sound of those who keep Festival There, where is the dwelling of all the Blissful, is nothing else than this, the hymns and praises of God, sung by all who are counted worthy of that City. Let none be astonished if what I have to say contains some things that I have said before, for not only will I utter the same words, but I shall speak of the same subject, trembling both in tongue and mind and thought when I speak of God for you too, that you may share this laudable and blessed feeling.
And when I speak of God you must be illumined at once by one flash of light and by three. Three in Individualities or Hypostases, if any prefer so to call them, or persons, for we will not quarrel about names so long as the syllables amount to the same meaning, but One in respect of the Substance--that is, the Godhead. For they are divided without division, if I may so say, and they are united in division. For the Godhead is one in three and the three in one, in Whom the Godhead is, or to speak more accurately, Who are the Godhead. Excesses and defects we will omit, neither making the Unity a confusion nor the division a separation.
We would keep equally far from the confusion of Sabellius and from the division of Arius, which are evils diametrically opposed, yet equal in their wickedness. For what need is there heretically to fuse God together, or to cut Him up into inequality?
12. For to us there is but one God, the Father, of Whom are all things, and One Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom are all things, and One Holy Spirit, in Whom are all things, yet these words, of, by, in, whom; do not denote a difference of nature (for if this were the case, the three prepositions, or the order of three names would never be altered), but they characterize the personalities of a nature which is one, and unconfused. And this is proved by the fact that They are again collected into one, if you will read--not carelessly--this other passage of the same Apostle…
14. But John baptizes, Jesus comes to Him...perhaps to sanctify the Baptist himself, but certainly to bury the whole of the old Adam in the water, and before this and for the sake of this, to sanctify Jordan, for as He is Spirit and Flesh, so He consecrates us by Spirit and water. John will not receive Him; Jesus contends.
"I have need to be baptized of Thee" says the Voice of the Logos/Word, the Friend to the Bridegroom; he that is above all among them that are born of women, to Him Who is the Firstborn of every creature; he that leaped in the womb, to Him Who was adored in the womb; he who was and is to be the Forerunner to Him Who was and is to be manifested.
"I have need to be baptized of Thee;" add to this "and for Thee;" for he knew that he would be baptized by Martyrdom, or, like Peter, that he would be cleansed not only as to his feet. "And comest Thou to me?" This also was prophetic; for he knew that after Herod would come the madness of Pilate, and so that when he had gone before Christ would follow him. But what saith Jesus? "Suffer it to be so now," for this is the time of His Incarnation; for He knew that yet a little while and He should baptize the Baptist. And what is the "Fan?" The Purification. And what is the "Fire?" The consuming of the chaff, and the heat of the Spirit. And what the "Axe?" The excision of the soul which is incurable even after the dung. And what the Sword? The cutting of the Logos/Word, which separates the worse from the better, and makes a division between the faithful and the unbeliever, and stirs up the son and the daughter and the bride against the father and the mother and the mother in law, the young and fresh against the old and shadowy. And what is the Latchet of the shoe, which thou John who baptizes Jesus may not loose? You who are of the desert, and have no food, the new Elijah, the more that Prophet, inasmuch as you saw Him of Whom you did prophesy, you Mediator of the Old and New Testaments...
17. Now, since our Festival is of Baptism, and we must endure a little hardness with Him Who for our sake took form, and was baptized, and was crucified; let us speak about the different kinds of Baptism, that we may come out thence purified. Moses baptized but it was in water, and before that in the cloud and in the sea. This was typical as Paul saith; the Sea of the water, and the Cloud of the Spirit; the Manna, of the Bread of Life; the Drink, of the Divine Drink. John also baptized; but this was not like the baptism of the Jews, for it was not only in water, but also "unto repentance."
Still it was not wholly spiritual, for he does not add "And in the Spirit."
Jesus also baptized, but in the Spirit. This is the perfect baptism. And how is He not God, if I may digress a little, by Whom you too are made God? I know also a Fourth Baptism--that by Martyrdom and blood, which also Christ Himself underwent--and this one is far more august than all the others, inasmuch as it cannot be defiled by after-stains. Yes, and I know of a Fifth also, which is that of tears, and is much more laborious, received by Him Who washes his bed night and his couch with tears; whose bruises stink through his wickedness; and who goes mourning and of a sad countenance; who imitates the repentance of Manasseh and the humiliation of the Ninevites upon which God had mercy; who utters the words of the Publican in the Temple, and is justified rather than the stiff-necked Pharisee; who like the Canaanite woman bends down and asks for mercy and crumbs, the food of a dog that is very hungry.
18. I, however, for I confess myself to be a man,--that is to say, an animal shifty and of a changeable nature,--both eagerly receive this Baptism, and worship Him Who has given it me, and impart it to others; and by showing mercy make provision for mercy...Will you not give any place to weeping? Will you not shed any tear? Mayest thou not meet with a Judge like thyself? Are you not ashamed by the mercy of Jesus, Who took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses; Who came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; Who will have mercy rather than sacrifice; who forgives sins till seventy times seven...
19. But these sins were not after Baptism, you will say. Where is your proof? Either prove it-or refrain from condemning; and if there be any doubt, let charity prevail.
20. But let us venerate today the Baptism of Christ; and let us keep the feast well, not in pampering the belly, but rejoicing in spirit. And how shall we luxuriate?
"Wash you, make you clean."
If you be scarlet with sin and less bloody, be made white as snow; if ye be red, and men bathed in blood, yet be ye brought to the whiteness of wool. Anyhow be purified, and you shall be clean (for God rejoices in nothing so much as in the amendment and salvation of man, on whose behalf is every discourse and every Sacrament), that you may be like lights in the world, a quickening force to all other men; that you may stand as perfect lights beside That Great Light, and may learn the mystery of the illumination of Heaven, enlightened by the Trinity more purely and clearly, of Which even now you are receiving in a measure the One Ray from the One Godhead in Christ Jesus our Lord; to Whom be the glory and the might forever and ever. Amen.
The Holy Feast of Saint John the Forerunner and Baptist tonight: Great Vespers at 7:00 p.m.
Thursday Morning: Orthros: 9:00 a.m.
Divine Liturgy: 10:00 a.m.
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Glory Be To GOD For All Things!
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God