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Homily for 1/20/08 - Sunday After Theophany - water and spirit

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  • Fr David Moser
    Matt 4:12-17 & John 1:29-34 Yesterday was the great feast of our Lord’s baptism wherein He was revealed to the whole world as the Messiah, the Son of God Who
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 20, 2008
      Matt 4:12-17 & John 1:29-34

      Yesterday was the great feast of our Lord’s baptism wherein He was
      revealed to the whole world as the Messiah, the Son of God Who came to
      save the world. Also, for the first time we were shown the visible
      manifestation of the Holy Trinity with the voice of the Father calling
      Jesus Christ His own beloved Son and the Holy Spirit in the form of a
      dove descending upon Him. From this time on, the whole focus of the
      divine work of our salvation began to center upon the God/man Jesus
      Christ. The Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist, John began to step aside
      and to point all who followed him to Christ. This we see in today’s
      Gospel where John says to the people, “I baptize you with water … this
      is He Who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” John’s baptism with water was
      the baptism of repentance for the remittance of sins. It is tied to the
      Law and the Prophets, to the old covenant which awaited the coming of
      the Messiah. The baptism of John was modeled on a well established
      Jewish ritual washing to remove uncleanness (that is sinfulness). As
      know from the scriptures (and from our own experience as well if we are
      honest), we have all sinned, we have all fallen short of the glory of
      God, we have all “missed the mark” and failed to live according to the
      image and likeness of God with which we were created. When we recognize
      this then the path to return to God lies in repentance. Repentance is
      turning away from the old sin and reorienting ourselves towards Christ.
      The law was given to man, not as the instrument of salvation, but rather
      as the instrument of repentance. The law shows us the ways in which we
      err, the ways in which we sin. The law points out our need for
      repentance as well as the specific sins from which we need to repent.
      The Forerunner called all men to that repentance that the law pointed
      out to them. He was the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Repent
      for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”

      John offered to the world the call to repent and in the baptism in the
      Jordan a tangible symbol of repentance. By washing away uncleanness in
      the ritual water of baptism, the old sinful ways were left behind and a
      new beginning was made possible. However, the baptism of John was still
      part of the law and it was all that the law could do. It could turn a
      man away from his sinfulness, but it could not save him. Salvation
      required the grace of the Holy Spirit and this was brought to us by
      Jesus Christ. In Christ, the baptism that John offered, was fulfilled,
      it was completed and now our baptism is no longer a mere symbol, but is
      the means by which the grace of God is imparted to us. When our Lord was
      baptized, He began to offer not only repentance but also transformation.
      The baptism of John was a symbolic washing away of all uncleanness and
      the sign of starting anew. In Christ, baptism became a grace imparting
      cleansing from sin and a rebirth wherein the old man of the sinful,
      fallen nature was set aside and the man was born anew. This is what
      Christ offers to us – the chance to become the new man.

      Having renewed us through the waters of baptism and bestowed upon us the
      grace of a new birth, the Church then empowers us with the baptism of
      the Holy Spirit, that is the sacrament of Chrismation. Recall the
      parable of the man from whom is driven a demon and the demon goes and
      wanders the world but cannot find a place to rest. He returns to the man
      from whom he was driven and finds the house of the soul, clean and
      orderly but empty. The demon seizes the opportunity to return to this
      soul that he once possessed and brings with him seven more demons more
      wicked than himself. In baptism, we are cleansed from the evil of sin
      and the house of the soul is cleaned and set in order. However in order
      that the clean soul not be left untended, God himself enters into us in
      the person of the Holy Spirit and Himself dwells within us. It is His
      presence with us that is the means by which we are transformed into His
      image and likeness. This is the baptism with the Holy Spirit of which
      John spoke and which he told us that Christ would bring to us.

      This process of our salvation begins with repentance, with turning away
      from our sinful self will. It then continues with the cleansing from sin
      and the new life imparted to us through the sacrament of baptism. This
      sacrament is the fulfillment of the baptism of John which was a ritual
      cleansing and the ritual was thereby filled with the power and grace of
      regeneration and rebirth. But it does not stop here, for our Lord also
      gives us the baptism with the Holy Spirit – that is the indwelling grace
      and presence of God in us. It is this that empowers us not only to turn
      away from sin, but also to move towards God. It is the grace of the Holy
      Spirit which transforms us and makes real in us the image and likeness
      of God with which we were created.

      Remember, however, the example of our Lord. He demonstrated for us that
      this transformation is not immediate, nor even automatic, but that we
      now must struggle against our own passions which seek to drag us down
      and away from the path of salvation and against the temptation of the
      evil one which also pulls us away from Christ. Immediately after his
      baptism and the manifestation of the Holy Trinity in Him, He withdrew to
      the desert and there fasted and prayed for 40 days, struggling to
      overcome the passions that sought to rise up in Him and after this he
      was tempted by the evil one and against this foe, He also struggled and
      was successful. This same power and grace He offers to us through His
      grace which we receive from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

      Having received the baptism of Christ we also set out on this struggle
      against the passions and against temptation. In Christ our struggle is
      now empowered by the grace of the Holy Spirit, but that does not remove
      us from the struggle, rather it gives us the means to be victorious.
      Soon, we will begin to prepare for the Great Fast and just as our Lord
      withdrew into the wilderness to fast and pray, so also we will enter
      into this time of fasting, prayer and repentance. But this struggle,
      though it leads to the cross does not end at the cross for we continue
      on with Christ into the tomb, descending even into Hades where He
      defeats death, and frees the captives and leads all into paradise and
      finally we continue with our Lord Jesus Christ out of the grave and are
      resurrected with Him. That is coming. Now we have made our new
      beginning, we have blessed ourselves, our homes our whole environment
      with this blessed water of Jordan, we have repented of our sins and we
      have been filled with the Holy Spirit and so set out to follow Christ on
      the path of salvation.

      The Holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John called the world away from
      sin and to repentance. Now comes Jesus Christ, the Son of God and He
      bestows upon us the grace of the Holy Spirit and calls us to follow
      Himself into the Kingdom of Heaven.

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org
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