|36 - Third Sunday of Pascha, Myrrhbearing Women, May 19, 2013|
Earlier this morning, we asked the Father to send down His Holy Spirit upon the waters of the baptismal font and we believe that they became spiritual. Overshadowed by the Holy Spirit as the Theotokos was overshadowed by the Glory of God, the waters of the font were joined in the Spirit to the waters of the Jordan where God was revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the baptism of His Son, Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ. So, when we were immersed in the waters of the baptismal font, we were covered and made soaking wet with the living waters of Christ’sHoly Spirit. Even as our bodies were bathed and washed clean in the baptismal waters, so our souls were bathed in the waters of the Spirit and washed clean from the death and defilement of our sinful deeds and trespasses; and, we were raised up into the glory of Christ’s Holy Resurrection, born of the Spirit from above as children of God!
St Mark tells us that when the Lord was baptized by John in the Jordan, the heavens were split open. So also, the curtain of the temple was split open at the moment of Christ’s death on the Cross. From this, we see that the Baptism of Our Savior Jesus Christ is one with His Holy Pascha. The Gospels also tell us that the soldiers, to make sure that Our Lord was dead on the Cross, pierced His side with a spear and immediately there came out blood and water. Here is the mystery of the Church, the Bride of Christ, the Second Eve, coming forth from the side of the Second Adam’s crucified and risen body even as the first Eve came forth from the side of the first Adam.
In all of this, we see how the mystery of the Savior’s birth from the Virgin Theotokos, since a child is born in the waters of his mother, His baptism by John in the Jordan are mysteries that belong to His death on the Cross. And so, to be baptized into Christ means to be born into Christ, to “put on Christ”, to be washed in the Spirit of Christ, and to die in Christ. Our baptism into Christ is a birthing and a dying that are of the mystery of God. They are most sacred events of a life and death that are not of this world. They cannot be comprehended by the reasoning of a worldly mind nor can they be imagined by the sentiment of a worldly experience.
Christ is the Son of God. That is to say, He is not of this world. He is light from light, true God of true God, begotten not made, of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made. Moreover, as Man He was conceived not of the seed or the desire or the blood of man but of the Holy Spirit of God and of the ever-Virgin Mary. Precisely because Christ is true God who has become true Man, when we die in Christ, something not of this world, something not ordinary takes place. We descend with Him invisibly, spiritually into His death. In the sacred mystery of the font, we come mystically to the Gates of Hell, gates of bronze and bars of iron, as the Psalmist describes them. These are the gates that the Lord shattered when He gave up His Spirit on the Cross (Ps 107:10-16). I believe these doors belong to the wall of enmity that separated us from God, which St Paul tells us were abolished in the flesh of the Lord when He died on the Cross (Eph 2:14-15), so that the Gates of Eden that were closed shut so that no one could approach the Tree of Life in the Garden are now open to all. I think the smashing of the Gates of hell, releasing those who were held prisoner there, the abolishing of the wall of enmity between us and God in the flesh of Christ, and the opening of Eden are what is “shown forth” in the “Epiphany” of the Savior’s Baptism and in His death on the Cross when the heavens and the curtain of the temple were split open. It is what is “shown forth” in our baptism, when we are united to Christ in the likeness of His death and Resurrection. The heavens are opened to us. The Tree of Life stands before us and the Spirit and His Bride are calling out to us as we are raised out of the waters: “Come! You who hear and are athirst, Come! Drink freely of the living waters of the Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, and now you in your union with Him!” (Rev 22:17)
Raised up in the Spirit of Christ, we are “born again”. We live no more the biological life of the world that is always returning to the dust, but we live the Life of the Spirit, the Life of Christ’s Holy Resurrection that has destroyed the death that was in us and given life to us who were dead in our sins and trespasses (Eph 2;1). Having been united to Christ through the baptism of Faith, we live no longer according to the spirit of the world, the spirit of disobedience. We live according to the Spirit of God, the Spirit of obedience. We are clothed in a different Robe, no longer a robe of darkness, stinking and dirty from the defilement of death and decay, but a Robe of Light. This is the Robe of the Holy Spirit, radiant and fragrant with the heavenly smell of the dew of heaven.
From the baptismal font we follow a visible path to the chalice at the foot of the ambon. Corresponding to that visible path is an invisible path that ascends from where we are now up to heaven. Heavenly light shines within us and around us, for it is the path of the Church that is the body of Him Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life whose body and blood are about to mingled with ours, whose Holy Spirit has been sown in our hearts as a most sacred, divine seed and that now lives and grows inside of us. This heavenly path of light and life we are now called to walk, clothed now in a Robe, a wedding garment of Light, that we may ascend in the light of God with the Lord Jesus Christ who is the light of the world.
Do you see why your baptism is called Holy Baptism? United to the waters of the Jordan and to the tomb of the Lord’s Pascha, and to the mystery of the Holy Virgin Theotokos, the baptismal font is the fountain of immortality. Look into the font like the myrrh-bearing women peering into the tomb of the Lord, where Jocelyn was buried just this morning as was the Lord on Great and Holy Friday. Look into the tomb! It is empty! Jocelyn is not there even as the Lord is not there! The font is empty as the tomb of the Lord is empty! Or rather, it is filled with Heaven, radiant with the spiritual Life of Christ’s Holy Resurrection! And from the tomb of that font as from a bridal chamber Jocelyn has been born again as a child of God. The myrrh-bearing women fled from the tomb in trembling and ecstasy, it says in the Greek – not because the tomb was haunted by a ghost – here is the wonder, the Glory of the Gospel of Christ’s Holy Church! – but because it was filled with Life, the Life of Heaven, the Life of God in whom there is no darkness, no death, no decay, no stench at all but only light and life in the sweet fragrance of the Holy Spirit. That Life now lives in Jocelyn, and so it lives in all of you who have been immersed in that font and made soaking wet by its living waters!
When Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden, the Lord said to them in what sounds like a curse: “You are from the dust, to the dust you shall return.” But in the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, these words are revealed as an announcement already of the Resurrection that was to come in Christ. Those who die in Christ return to the dust. But, in Christ, our life does not end there; it begins. Perhaps this is why the worldly mind cannot see or hear or understand the Faith of the Church. It is because the life of the Church begins at that point where the life of the world ends: in the tomb, in the dust of the ground. And, when we die in Christ, the tomb becomes the bridal chamber, the baptismal font, where we are born as children of God from the spiritual union of Christ and His Bride, the Church. The tomb, the baptismal font, becomes the fountain of our Resurrection when we pass over from death to life, from earth to heaven in the joy of Christ’s Holy Resurrection.
Even our earthly body and soul are transfigured and take on a new spiritual meaning and significance. So long as we are uniting ourselves to Christ and walking in the light as He is in the Light, our bodies change from being a corpse in the making into a divine seed that is being made ready for sowing. Our daily life in this world becomes the ground in which that sowing takes place. From now until the day of our death, when our bodies will be buried in the ground like a seed sown in the soil, we take up the Cross of Christ and work to live in the death of Christ. Through prayer, through fasting, through acts of mercy, through confession of our sins, through partaking of the holy sacraments of the Church, we work the ground of our life, pulling out the weeds, pruning the dead branches of our worldly, carnal lusts and desires, working in faith to purify our senses, our souls and bodies, so that the day of our burial becomes the day of harvest, the day that we reap the fruits of the Holy Spirit in the joy of Christ’s Heavenly Kingdom. The death of a Christian becomes a martyrdom, a witness, to the wonderful proclamation of the Gospel: that God the Word, Son of the Father, who was in the beginning with the Father and who is Himself God, became flesh of the Holy Spirit and ever-Virgin Mary and dwelt among us and by His death on the Cross He has destroyed death by death and given life to those in the tombs. He has destroyed the death that is in you and me. He has given life to those who were dead in their sins and trespasses. And He has opened the gates of Eden that all who want to may enter and become partakers of the divine nature in the marriage feast of the Lamb. O, may God work on us that our ears would open to hear the call of the Spirit and His Bride: Come! Taste and see that the Lord is good in the Glory of His Holy Resurrection! Amen!