On What is Accomplished in Holy Baptism and On Repentance (Part II)


My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


By Saint Gregory Palamas

While the three immersions in the water are also the saving invocation of the Life-Giving Trinity, they represent the Lord's three-day burial. Following this, the person being baptized comes out of the water the same number of times, because otherwise he could not have been submerged three times, but also because this signifies the resurrection from sin of the three parts of the soul, and the return of the mind, soul and body, all three together, to incorruption. Thus in divine baptism both death and life can be seen, the tomb together with the resurrection, just as the Lord, Who "in that He died, He died unto sin once: but in that He liveth, He liveth continuously unto God" (cf. Romans 6:10). And what the Lord had said, that "the prince of this world cometh, and will find nothing in me" (cf. St. John 14:30), should also apply to us who have been baptized into His death. Having died to sin through divine baptism, we ought to be alive to God through virtue, so that when the prince of darkness comes looking, he may find nothing in us pleasing to him. And as Christ has risen from the dead, "death hath no more dominion over Him" (cf. Romans 6:9), and in the same way we, after being raised from the sinful fall through divine baptism, must strive not to be held fast by sin any longer. "So many of us as we were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death. Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (cf. Romans 6:3-4).

For this reason, the bishop, having clothed the person who has been baptized in a radiant white garment, and anointed him with Holy Chrism, and having made him a communicant of Christ's Body and Blood, then send him on his way, showing that he has thenceforth become a child of light, both united in one body with Christ and a partaker of the Holy Spirit. For we are born again (cf. St. John 3:3-5) and become heavenly sons of God (cf. Roman 8:14-19; Phil. 2:15; I John 3:12) instead of earthly beings, eternal instead of transient. God has mystically implanted heavenly grace in our hearts and set the seal of adoption as sons upon us through anointing with this Holy Chrism, sealing us by means of the All-Holy Spirit for the day of redemption (cf. Ephesians 4:30), provided we keep this confession firm to the end and fulfill our promise through deeds, though we may renew it through repentance if it drifts a little off course. That is why works of repentance are necessary even after baptism. But if they are absent, the words of our promise to God are not only useless but also condemn us. "Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay" (Eccles. 5:5). And, as Saint Peter the leader of the highest company of the Apostles says, "it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb "The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire" (2 Peter 2:21-22). Another of the Apostles says, "Shew me thy faith by thy works" (St. James 2:18), and, "Who is faithful mans? Let him shew his faith by a good manner of life" (cf. St. James 3:13). The Lord Himself asks, "Why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (St. Luke 6:46). He is the Living and True God, and seeks from us truthful promises, and living, and not dead faith: for "faith without works is dead" (St. James 2:26).

As repentance is the beginning and end of the Christian way of life, the Lord's Forerunner and Baptist, who was himself the starting point of this approach to living, preached saying, "repent ye: for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand" (St. Matthew 3:2). And the Lord Himself, the perfection of all goodness, said the same in His preaching (St. Matthew 4:17). Repentance means hating sin and loving virtue, turning away from evil and doing good (cf. Psalm 34:14; I Peter 3:11). These acts are preceded, however, by condemning ourselves for our faults, being penitent before God, fleeing to Him for refuge with a contrite heart, and casting ourselves into the ocean of His mercy, considering ourselves unworthy to be counted among His sons.  As the prodigal son said when he repented, "Lord, I am not worthy to be called Thy son: make me as one of Thy hired servants" (cf. St. Luke 15:19). (Source: Saint Gregory Palamas. The Homilies)

(To be continued)


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" - Saint John Chrysostom


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George