Chapter 3 //  Contents  // Chapter 5

 

     "THE WAY"
     (An Introduction to the Orthodox Faith)
 
by Protopresbyter fr. George D. Metallinos
Professor Emeritus of the Athens University
 

CHAPTER 4 

 “FROM WATER AND SPIRIT” - (The Theology of the Holy Baptism)


1. The major interpreter of the Divine Liturgy, Saint John Kavasilas (14th century) links the existence of the Church to Her sacraments. “The Church is denoted (revealed) by the sacraments” he underlines, implying chiefly with this the par excellence sacrament of the Church: the Divine Eucharist. There can be no ecclesiastic reality without sacraments; in other words, possibilities for partaking of uncreated Divine Grace and at the same time, the means for experiencing its Spiritual character. The Church is demarcated, revealed, manifested and realized in Her sacraments and more especially, in the Divine Eucharist. According to the same theologian,: “This is the road that the Lord carved out when coming to us, and this is the gate that He opened up when entering the world, which, when returning to the Father, He did not wish to close, but by Him and through it, does He contact the people […] For these are the things by which we live in Him, and move, and are…”  (Acts 17:28)  (PG 150, 304, 501-524).

The Church “exists and is continually shaped in the sacraments and through the sacraments”. Her boundaries are designated, at local levels, only in compliance with the sacramental life of the ecclesiastic body. “Those living outside the sacramental life are outside the body of Christ”. Outside of this way of existence, Satan and his powers dominate. (Fr. John Romanides)

Each sacrament is a possibility for becoming incorporated into the ecclesiastic body; into the divine-human reality of the Church, and for the transformation of the “contra-natural” way of our fallen existence to the “natural” life and existence that renders Man receptive of Divine Grace. It is within the sacraments that the nature of the faithful is “made new”, it is renovated and deified.  Besides, according to Saint Makarios, “It is for this reason that our Lord came; so that he might change the nature of and renovate and reconstruct this living being, which was destroyed by passions on account of the Fall […] and He came to forge into new people, once and for all, all those who believe in Him.”  

2.  The first sacrament in this process of rebirth, but also the beginning and the prerequisite of all the others, is the holy Baptism, “the first of His gifts” (PG 155, 185). The theology of the Baptism is extensively expounded by he holy Fathers, from the so-called Apostolic ones to the Major Fathers of the 4th and 5th centuries, and pursuant to them, up to Saint Nicholas Kavasilas and Saint Simeon of Thessaloniki († 1429). This teaching was summarized by Saint Basil the Great, who defined the two basic purposes and the dynamics of the Baptism: (a) to abolish “the body of sin, so that it may never again bear fruits of death” and (b) provide for the baptized to “live in the Spirit and bear fruits in sanctification” (Galatians 5:22). This is the spiritual birth or rebirth of man, which takes place, according to the word of Christ to Nicodemus, “by water and Spirit” (John 3:5). According to the same Father, “the water provides a representation of death, receiving the body into it as though in burial, while the Spirit inserts life-giving force into it, thus renovating souls, from the deadness of sin to the commencement of life from the beginning.” (PG  32, 129 and PG 31, 429-433). This is also touched on by Saint Gregory of Nyssa: “If one is not born –it is said- out of water and Spirit, he is not able to enter the kingdom of God (=the communion and partaking of Grace). Why were the two –he continues- and not just the Spirit, considered sufficient for the completion (fulfillment) of the Baptism?”  To this question, he replies:  “Man is complex, not simple, as we can accurately observe, and it was on account of this two-fold and joint status that he was allocated the related and similar medications for therapy: for the visible body, palpable water, and for the invisible soul, the invisible Spirit, which is invoked in faith, and comes inexplicably.” (PG 46, 581B) Faith, of course, in the Patristic linguistic code, is not a simple intellectual admission thereof, given that even “the demons believe (sic) and shudder” (James 2:19), but the opening of one’s heart to Grace, and Man’s self-abandonment in God’s Love.

Baptism, with the Grace provided by the Holy Spirit, sets in motion the Christian’s entire spiritual course towards salvation. “If you do not become joined to the simulation of His death, how can you become a communicant of the Resurrection? asks Saint Basil the Great.” Given that “Baptism is a force towards the resurrection” (PG 31, 428A ). And according to Saint Simeon of Thessaloniki, the baptized “comes forth, to cast off the pollution of sin and faithlessness (=the absence of spiritual relations with God), and to become new in whole, and to don te form of the new Adam”. (PG 155, 216B) Rebirth is when Man becomes “of the same form” as Christ (see Romans 8:29), by donning the “image of the celestial” (1 Corinthians 15:49).

The supernatural results of the Baptism are pointed out by Saint Gregory of Nyssa: “Baptism, therefore, is the cleansing of sins, the remission of delinquencies, the cause of renovation and rebirth;  ‘Rebirth’ must be understood as a meaning that is seen noetically, and not by the eyes […]  He that is spotted overall by sins and worn out by evil occupations, we, through a royal grace, bring him back to the irresponsible state of an infant” (PG 46, 580D) in other words, back to the innocence of a baby.  Patristic theologizing persists on the regenerative work of baptism. The blessed Chrysostom thus poses the question:  “If baptism ‘pardons all of our sins’, why isn’t it called ‘the bath of sin pardoning’ and instead is called ‘the bath of regeneration’?” To which he replies: “It is called thus, because ‘it does not simply cleanse us of our misdemeanors, but instead (per John 3:7): it re-creates and re-composes us, not shaping us out of earth once again […], but (re)creating us out of another element: the nature of water” (PG 49, 227), hence the reason for referring to a re-generation, a re-creation; in other words, a new and a once-again creation.  Which is exactly the significance of the Paulian expression “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17), which presupposes the union of Man with Christ: “if one is in Christ, (he is/has become) a new creation”.

The Christ-centered character of Baptism is therefore very obvious.  This is pointed out by Symeon of Thessaloniki: “The Logos of God firstly acted philanthropically within Himself (=implying the Sacraments), so that, by being the commencement of all good things, all of us might receive from Him as though from a spring of His.  For this is also why He was incarnated; so that we might join ourselves to Him and be sanctified by Him, because He, the Logos of God who created us from the beginning, He once again shall re-create us, with the condescension of the Father and the collaboration of the Holy Spirit”. (PG 155, 181A)  The Christological basis leads to the triadological dimension. The stations of Christ’s redemptive opus act redemptively on Man. Just as the Incarnation of the Logos of God potentially re-creates the deteriorated image of Man, thus likewise –according to Saint Gregory Palamas- the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan prepares for our own baptism, with all its salvific benefits.  “It is for this reason that He Himself simulated this by being baptized before us – He, who is also the physician of our souls, the savior of our spirits, Who has taken away the sins of the world – that is, Christ, Whom we are celebrating today.  Because along with Him, He permeates the water with the grace of the Holy Spirit, which He has drawn from above, for those who are pursuantly baptized the way He was, by being immerged in the water, where He will be in Himself, and, enveloped by His Spirit, will secretly be joined to them, repleting all logical spirits with the cleansing and enlightening grace.” To recap, therefore, “….having received (the sacrament of) Baptism in emulation of our Lord and Teacher and Leader, we do not bury ourselves in the soil (=the way He was buried after His death); instead, by going to the element that is related to the soil –the water- we immerse ourselves therein, the way that our Savior immersed Himself in the earth, and by doing this three times, we depict on ourselves the third-day grace of the Resurrection…” (PG 46, 585 AB )  This Patristic excerpt is a memorandum of the baptismal act of Orthodoxy/Church; that is, our co-burial with Christ in the element of water (with a triple immersion, as mentioned in the troparion “….co-entombed with You, through Baptism…”; repeated in Romans 6:4), and our partaking in His Resurrection, with the triple emergence from the element of water.

3.  Baptism simultaneously has a direct ecclesiastic reference. Through it, the “saved ones” (Romans 6:3-5, Acts 2:27) become “one with Christ” (Romans 6:3), attaining the potential to partake of the life in Christ - the ecclesiastic manner of existence - which leads to the renovation of deteriorated nature. In practice, this means they are introduced into a new way of life – one that can preserve the rejuvenating grace – which cannot otherwise occur magically and automatically. This is possible, however, wherever the Church’s way of life has been preserved (for example, in the orthodox monastic commune, or, in the similarly functioning Parishes in the world) and not in the superficial-conventional parish reality to which worship has been limited – or perhaps limited – while the rest of one’s life is surrendered to the world (secularization). Association with the Parish, as well as the structure itself of the Parish, both usually function within a religious framework, and in this context, Christianity can be perceived as a religion, its sacraments as the “ritual magic” and the clergymen as the “witch-doctor of the tribe” – community! However, in the life of the Church, nothing is without presuppositions.

To confine ourselves to Baptism, we should point out that in the New Testament, this Sacrament is linked to sacrifice and martyrdom (Mark 10:39, Luke 12:50), but also to death (Romans 6:4, Cols.2:12). These events of course do not have a metaphorical-symbolic meaning, but are understood literally. Baptism is the actual entry into a life of martyrdom and sacrifice. In Patristic Tradition (Dionysios Areopagite, Cappadocians, Maximus) one finds references to the stage of those “undergoing cleansing”, which refers to one’s preparation for “enlightenment” (baptism) and the period of catechesis. As proved by the “exorcisms” that are nowadays attached to the Sacrament of Baptism, the stage of “Catechesis” constituted the “initiation” of the new Christian into the spiritual labor that will free him from “the snare of Satan, through the cleansing of his heart from every selfishness and egocentricity that obscures the mind and distorts the candidate’s perception regarding the true union in the Church” Besides, the preparatory stage for baptism is referred to as a “rite” (ìõóôáãùãßá), which means a gradual initiation into the mysteries of the Church.  The relevant ecclesiastic act has been recorded in the 7th Canon of the 2nd Ecumenical Synod (381). From the first day of his attendance in Church, one would be called a “Christian”, and, as a catechumen, from the second day, he would be acknowledged as being one of the “faithful”. However, this stage had to be followed by death “in the waters” of baptism, in order to enter into the life of the corpus of the Church, of “selfless love, within the Sacraments”. These are expressed in the Benediction cited on the “first day”, in which benediction the course of the faithful is clearly described:

“Upon Your name, o Lord, the God of Truth, and of Your only-begotten Son and of Your Holy Spirit, I place my hand upon your servant (……..), who has been made worthy of seeking refuge in Your holy name and of being protected under the shelter of Your wings. Take away from him that ancient deception and replete him with faith and hope and love in You, so that he will know that You alone are God, the true God, and Your Only-begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit. Grant him for all his days to walk the path of Your commandments and to safeguard whatever is to Your liking. Write him in Your book of life and add him to the flock of Your inheritance…”. This means: entering upon the commencement of his new life.

4.  The mystery of the “in Christ” new existence is ministered and annotated by the entire officiating (ritual) of the Baptism; the incorporation of the “Catechesis” together with the “Exorcisms” in the Service of the Sacrament somewhat diminishes their place in the pre-baptismal act of the Church. However, the course towards Baptism is linked to the procedure –as mentioned- of freeing Man from the power of the Devil, thus rendering possible his accession into the “in Christ” communion. “The way, by which Man is freed of the devil, is a difficult one and demands a lengthy stage of prayer, fasting and studentship in the teachings of Christ and of the Prophets.” (Fr. John Romanides) A realistic verification of the ancient Church’s practice is possible nowadays, in the life of a communal Monastery, in which, despite the imperfections of the persons, the liturgical declaration “ourselves and each other and our entire life let us appose to Christ the Lord” continues to apply – a declaration that from the beginning has comprised the purpose of ecclesiastic monasticism.

The reinstatement of the faithful’s partaking of the life “in Christ” is made possible by the cleansing of fallen Creation, which “grieves and sighs together” with him in its simultaneous fall with Man (Romans 8:22).  Given that Man “is a part of creation, his communion with God can be restored, only through Creation. Man and Creation are saved together. It is for this reason that the water of Baptism must be exorcised and cleansed of demonic powers prior to one’s entry into Baptism.” Besides, the immersion in the water renders Baptism a true “likeness” of the faithful’s death “in Christ”. (Romans 6:5). The “water” becomes the image of the new life (Romans 6:4); the new “in Christ” reality.  According to Dionysios Areopagite, baptism is a “ritual of theogenesis" – that is, a person’s rebirth in God. Furthermore, Saint Gregory of Nyssa also speaks of a “birth” at this point: “This birth is gestated through faith; through the rebirth of baptism it is led to the light; its “wet-nurse” becomes the Church.” (PG 46, 604)  Baptism is, precisely, a immersion into the life of the Church, who “grafts into Her body, into Her divine-human nature, a new human person; She incorporates it into the oneness of the life and the personal communion of the Saints.” With Baptism and Man’s true partaking of the new, “in Christ” life, the faithful is inoculated into the ethos and the manner of existence of the ecclesiastic corpus. Because Baptism is, precisely, not the end, but the beginning of a course, which reaches its apex with the perfection of the faithful – that is, his deification – which is the complete and fulfilled incorporation in the body of Christ. This is what is expressed by a benediction of the Service: “Disrobe him of the oldness, and renovate him in the eternal life, and replete him with the power of Your Holy Spirit, for union with Your Christ, so that he is no longer a child of a body, but a child of Your Rule.”  

5.  Precedent to the Baptismal Service benedictions are: the “Canons of the Holy Apostles and divine Fathers” (Apostles 47th, 49th, 50th;  7th of the 2nd Ecum.Council, Laodicea 48th; Neocaesaria 6th, Timoth.Alex. 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 6th and 111th  Carthage), who, in response to heretic provocations, determined the true Baptism of the Church (triple immersion and emersion) and its ecclesiological prerequisites, rejecting all the heretic cacodoxies that had been linked to it. Orthodoxy, wherever it may exist, reverently persists in the immersion of a person; in other words, the true and literal baptism (Greek: baptise=to dip, to plunge).  The contemporary baptismal font, which is the continuation of the ancient baptistery, functions as the “womb” of re-creation: “…just as the womb is to the embryo, so the water is to the faithful; he is shaped and fashioned within the water…”(Saint John Chrysostom, PG 59, 153). “The triple immersion into and emersion from the water of the Baptism is not a tutorial model or an allegory; it is a perceptible experience of an actual event. With Baptism, the human existence ceases to be the result of a biological necessity. Contrary to natural birth, which comprises a biological unit that is subject to natural data, Baptism re-erects the existence, into a freedom from natural necessity; into a personal otherness which exists only as an ecclesiological hypostasis of communion and a loving association.”

The death of the former person and the rebirth of the faithful is, thus, not a mere “moral” event, but a “sacramental” and “liturgical” one, because the one who dies and is resurrected “in Christ” is reborn spiritually within the body of the Lord and receives the seal of eternal life, by donning Christ. This is the eschatological aspect of the sacrament.  Baptism –for the one being baptized- is a “pre-engraving” and a “prelude” of the eschatological life of the heavenly kingdom. That is why it is referred to as the “first resurrection”: because it is the power that leads “to the final resurrection”.

The observation is correct, that during the entire Service of the Baptism, no mention is made regarding the forgiveness of any ancestral guilt. In the “exorcisms” also, no reference is made to the “catechumen’s” personal sins. Liturgically, the sacrament is not bound to any sense of “legal” absolution of sins. The Service itself revolves around everything that pertains to the induction of the one baptized into the communion of the Church – his release from “slavery to the devil” will lead him to his entrance into “the heavenly kingdom” and his “coupling” with “a radiant angel, who will deliver him from every scheming of the opposing one” (Fr. John Romanides). The prayer of the ecclesiastic body at this point is: “….and make him(her) a logical sheep of your Christ’s holy flock; a precious member of your Church; a sanctified vessel; a son(daughter) of light and inheritor of your kingdom”, the ultimate goal being the partaking of the uncreated kingdom and glory of the Triadic Divinity (“…so that by living according to your commandments and keeping the seal unbroken and the robe unpolluted, he/she will be bestowed the blessedness of the Saints (=deification), in Your Kingdom.”

6.   A significant aspect of the Sacrament is the “Anadochos” (=godparent, sponsor). A theological expounding of the subject is provided by Saint Simeon of Thessaloniki (PG, 155, 213f), where he details the function of the godparent. One note at the end of the ritual of the Sacrament is extremely noteworthy: “…after which, he (the officiator) places it (the infant) by the doors of the sanctum. Thus, after having thrice prostrated himself, the Godparent receives it in his arms and exits from there”, having thus “re-accepted” the new member of the Church.  In this way, the mission of the godparent is expressed in practice. According to Saint Simeon, the godparent is the (baptized child’s) “guarantor in Christ”, “that it will preserve everything of the Faith and live in the Christian manner”. It also gives the godparent his/her ecclesiastic identity: “where one should be careful to make pious godparents and almost teachers of the faith”.   Let us remember here the case of political marriages and the (rightful) refusal of many of our Bishops to allow the politically married person to perform the duties of godparent, because, as a denier of a Sacrament of the Church, he is rendered “guilty of everything” (James 2:10).   Saint Simeon even defines the dysfunctions that are noted: “But to me, it sounds –he says- extremely inappropriate and heavy. Because some invite persecutors and slanderers of the faith, atheists and heretics, (woe!) to be godparents of their children, as if for something human, and they violate the sacrament; these not only enlighten the children; rather, they lead them into darkness!”

It is in this context that the matter of infant baptism arises, thus causing untimely discussions. Infant baptism – which was already known in the ancient Church (see for example I Corinthians 1:16) – prevailed because the infant is open to Grace, but also for a most powerful anthropological reason:  The absolute need for infant baptism springs from the fact that “children are born under the power of the devil on account of the powerlessness of nature, of body and of soul, which are governed by death and deterioration that are inherited from their parents, and also because of their union with fallen creation and everything dependent on it.”  Needless to say, of course, that respect for the spirit of the Church demands that infant baptism apply in cases of pious parents and godparents, who keep alive their association with the ecclesiastic body, just as no-one dares to baptize children of non-Christians, since they will not have the opportunity for Christian upbringing.

7.  Besides, it must be underlined that one is baptized, not in the sense of a conventional entry into the ecclesiastic community and the acquisition of certain “legal” rights, but for one’s securing his partaking of Grace that is transmitted through the sacrament, which opens the way to “in Christ” perfection (Matthew 5:48, Ephesians 5:1), expressed by selfless love (Romans 14:7, I Corinthians 10:24, 13:1e, Galatians 5:13; 6:1 etc.).  Basil the Great links Baptism – under strictly ecclesiastic prerequisites – with holy-patristic enlightenment, which leads – again under prerequisites – to theosis/deification: “..for the unbaptized shall not be enlightened. And without light, neither can the eye see its own, nor will the soul be able to tolerate the sight of God”. (PG 31, 428A )

Furthermore, with Baptism the door opens for the faithful to enter the “in Christ” communion with the other members of the Lord’s Body.  As  fr. Alex. Schmemann observes: “It is with Baptism and through Baptism […] that we encounter the first and fundamental significance of the Church”.  Through Baptism, the entrance of the neophyte into a certain community is achieved – the Church, as a body in which he will incessantly battle for the final victory over the devil and sin; for his authentic incorporation into the community of “God’s children” (John 1:12).

Consequently, Baptism becomes the entrance to the life of a specific local community, and not to a general – universal – notion of Christianity. Furthermore, it is only natural for all these things to have disappeared in our day, with the activity that distinguishes the members of the Church. Essentially, the idea of the local Church-Parish is disappearing, especially when “churchgoing” is directed by other motives, not ecclesiastic ones (i.e., the search for priests or cantors with good voices, choirs and the suchlike), for the personal “enjoyment” of the Liturgy. But this is where the words of the Chrysostom apply: “The Church is not a theatre, to listen to it for our pleasure”! (PG 49, 58). At Baptism however, as already mentioned, that which must die is “our self-centeredness and our self-sufficiency”, in order to make communion with the other members possible.  Individuality is the inevitable outcome of the Fall, as well as the mortifying of selflessness, which is sacrificed to the instinctive search for self-gratification and bliss.  Hence, Baptism – under the proper presuppositions – leads to Man’s “churchification” and “ecclesiasticism”; in other words, to the transformation of his individuality into an ecclesiastic existence. But this is not something self-understood and without prerequisites. Everything in the Church is the fruit of collaboration with Divine Grace. And this requires predisposition and struggle on the part of Man. There can be no automation in the Church, since Divine Grace does not abolish human freedom as a potential choice, either to accept or to reject (see John 5:6).

8.  This becomes especially perceptible in the case where the one freed from the power of the devil needs to remain within the limits of his “in Christ” freedom (Hebrew 6:4). “For, having died as sinners through divine baptism – observes Saint Gregory Palamas – we are obliged to live virtuously for God, so that even the lord of darkness, when he comes seeking, shall not find anything in us that is to his liking. And just as Christ, having risen from the dead, “death no longer conquers Him”, so must we, after our resurrection from the downfall of sin through divine baptism, must strive to no longer hold on to sin”. This is described even more intensely by Saint Gregory of Nyssa, in expressing the same conscience and act: “For this reason, and even after the acquisition of the status of adoption, the devil conspires even more fiercely, envying with a malignant eye whenever he sees the beauty of a newly-made man hurrying towards the heavenly city - from whence he had lapsed - arousing fiery temptations within us with the intent to sully the second decoration, just as he had with the former world.  But whenever we sense his attacks, it behoves us to say to ourselves the apostolic saying: “whomsoever of us are baptized in Christ, are baptized unto His death’. If therefore we become conformant to His death, most assuredly will sin be dead inside us, having been destroyed by the spear of baptism, just as that fornicator was, by the zealot Fineas..” (PG 46, 597)

The above signify that according to the conscience and the experience of the Saints, “baptism itself does not secure salvation, but rather, it introduces and leads Man to the beginning of the path that leads to the life in Chris and therefore to salvation in Christ”.  According to John the Chrysostom, Man’s continuous partaking of the vivifying energy of the Holy Spirit is not a “once-only” guaranteed thing that is guaranteed by baptism.  “Let us therefore not be encouraged to believe that we have once and for all become members of the Body of Christ” (PG 60, 23). Life in Christ demands a constant spiritual struggle, in order to make possible the activation of the Grace acquired through Baptism.  But also according to saint Gregory Palamas, “……even though the Lord has revived us through holy baptism, and sealed us through the grace of the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption, while still having a mortal and impassioned body, and having cast out the cause that filled the treasuries of our soul with evil, yet He allows external offensives, so that the reborn person (……..), when living charitably and in repentance, disdaining the pleasures of life and suffering the afflictions and being exercised by the attacks of the opposing one, will prepare himself for the reception of incorruptibility.” (PG 151, 213B)  This is the way that the great hesychast defines the course of the faithful after Baptism, as a course leading towards incorruptibility (=deification): as a constant struggle against the devil and sin.

This is why catechism after Baptism was instituted from the very first centuries, along with the sacrament of repentance as a second kind of baptism, which would serve as a toning of the faithful’s spiritual struggle so that he might remain receptive of Divine Grace.  As saint Gregory Palamas teaches: “Which is why, after holy Baptism, deeds of contrition are required; in the absence of which, the reason for one’s promise to God is not only non-beneficial, but also condemns man.” (see Peter II, 2:21). And he continues: “For God is living and true, and He asks from us true promises and a living faith, not a dead one; otherwise, without works, it is a dead faith.” (see James 2:18)

9.  In this context, it becomes necessary to mention that the linking of Baptism and the Divine Eucharist is not self-understood, if it lacks a spiritual continuity.  The oft-said statement that a prerequisite for participation in the Divine Eucharist is that one must be baptized a Christian denotes that the person has entered into the life - the manner of existence - of the Church and that he is engaged in a spiritual struggle in order to remain receptive of Grace. This means that the one entering the ecclesiastic body through Baptism is simultaneously ‘enlisted’ in a permanent and incessant struggle for repentance, in order to remain within the body (to be “one with the body”).

Christianity means a way of life different to the worldly one (John 17:9-19).  “Faithful” means to be crucified “along with one’s passions and desires” and having become “of Christ” (Galatians 5:24).  He lives “in the Spirit” and therefore “is aligned (behaves accordingly) to the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). The “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25) is the Spirit’s presence being revealed in the heart that has been cleansed of its passions.  Catharsis is what one strives for in his spiritual struggle, so that Man may remain open to Divine Grace.

A pure example of this course – but also a historical model – of authentic ecclesiastic living is provided by monastic living. The monastic coenobium, within its Patristic boundaries, is the authentic manner of ecclesiastic existence and the permanent standard for the secular Parish.  Already by the 4th century, at the beginning of the course and the development of organized monastic living, the blessed Chrysostom made the following, most important observation: “Thus do the inhabitants of monasteries live nowadays (=at the end of the 4th century!), as did the faithful (=of Jerusalem) then (in the 1st century). (PG 60, 98)   Monasticism appeared as a continuation of the genuine ecclesiastic way of life, when the dangers of secularization had begun to loom threateningly.  The familiar expression found in ecclesiastic history, that the desert is “turning into a city” means precisely that;  i.e., that the city has been transferred to the remote desert, away from the others, in order to facilitate the “in Christ” way of life – for the completion of Baptism with their course towards deification.  Monastic repentance – the second baptism – is the renewal of the Baptism. Monks remain the “light of the people”, as a permanent model of eccliasticity.

That is why we, the others, as members of our parishes, forever orient our gaze towards the coenobitic monastery – the parish of the desert – having it as a steadfast indicator of our course and our way of life that can preserve the gifts of the Baptism, and the course towards deification.

 


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