The Fifth Baptism
- Dear fellow Group members,
In my recent reading, I came across the following
statement attributed to St. Gregory the Theologian
concerning the "Baptism of tears":
"Let us here treat briefly of the different kinds
of baptism. Moses baptized, but in water, in the
cloud and in the sea; but this he did figuratively.
John also baptized, not indeed in the rite of the
Jews, not solely in water, but also towards remission
of sins; yet not in an entirely spiritual manner, for
he had not added, 'in the Spirit.' Jesus baptized,
but in the Spirit; and this is perfection. There is
also a fourth baptism, which is wrought by martyrdom
and blood... There is yet a fifth, but more laborious,
[Oration 39, in "Sunday Sermons, Vol. I:74, 75.]
I would be grateful if others could provide more
information on this subject, and also discuss how
it differs from the Roman Catholic doctrine of the
"Baptism of Desire." Roman Catholicism teaches
that the Baptism of Desire can be salvific for those
who die outside the discernible boundaries of the
Church Militant, and thus (in a sense) equates it
with the Baptism of Blood.
Could the same be said of the Baptism of Tears--or,
on the contrary, should it be regarded as part and
parcel of the repentance and confession which is
salvific for those who are already Baptized members of
the Church? Do the Fathers make this distinction?
It seems to me that there is a distinction, in that the
Baptism of Blood is regarded as salvific *only* for those
who possessed the Faith of the Church, but who were prevented
through Martyrdom from receiving the Baptism of the Church.
St. Cyprian of Carthage (for example) clearly teaches
that even (seeming) martyrdom is of no avail to heretics.
I don't recall ever having seen the Baptism of Tears
being understood by the Fathers in a manner similar to
the martyric Baptism of Blood--that is, that it could be
salvific for those who die outside of the discernible
boundaries of the Church. But neither have I seen it
discussed with this specific context in mind. Nor
(generally speaking) were the Fathers familiar with
heretics who were never in conscious opposition to the
Church and her Faith--a thing unknown to them, but
commonly experienced by us. Would this make any
It seems to me that if one is to have any hope of salvation
for those who die outside of the discernible boundaries
of the Church, such hope must lie in the Baptism of Tears,
which is a thing known only to God.
The question is: Do we have any solid Patristic basis
for entertaining such a hope? Or is the concept an
innovation that exceeds the legitimate boundaries of
Orthodoxy? Or should it, perhaps, simply be regarded as
a pious (but ultimately unknowable) theologoumenon?
I thank you for your thoughts.