15 March 2009

On baptism

I had every intention of preparing the text of a homily to preach this morning for the First Scrutiny of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, but we all know what happens to the best of plans.

Last evening I was called to the hospital to be with a dying parishioner and his family who died late last night, peacefully and surrounded by his family. Please keep them in your prayers.

Consequently, morning came all too quickly and I lacked the energy to write out a homily early this morning. I did, though, borrow these words Saint Cyril of Alexandria addressed to his Elect:

May the gate of paradise be opened; may you then enjoy the fragrant waters, which contain Christ; may you then receive Christ’s name, and the efficacious power of divine things! Even now, I beseech you, lift up the eye of your understanding; imagine the angelic choirs, and God the Lord of all sitting, and His Only-Begotten Son sitting with Him on His right hand, and the Spirit with them present, and thrones and dominions doing service, and each man and woman among you receiving salvation. Even now let your ears ring with the sound: long for that glorious sound, which after your salvation, the angels shall chant over you, “Blessed are they whose iniquities have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered” (Psalm 32:1); when, like stars of the Church, you shall enter in it, bright in the outward man and radiant in your souls.

Great indeed is the Baptism which is offered you. It is a ransom for captives; the remission of offenses; the death of sin; the regeneration of the soul; the garment of light; the holy seal indissoluble; the chariot to heaven; the luxury of paradise; a procuring of the kingdom; the gift of adoption. But a serpent by the wayside is watching the passengers; beware lest he bite thee with unbelief; he sees so many receiving salvation, and seeks to devour some of them. Thou are going to the Father of Spirits, but thou art going past that serpent; how then must thou pass him? Have “thy feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15); that even if he bite, he may not hurt thee. Have faith indwelling, strong hope, a sandal of power, wherewith to pass the enemy and enter the presence of thy Lord. Prepare thine own heart to receive doctrine, to have fellowship in holy mysteries. Pray more often, that God may make thee worthy of the heavenly and immortal mysteries.[1]
[1] Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, the Protocatecheses 16, in Lectures on the Christian Sacraments, ed. F. L. Cross (Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1995), 50-51.

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