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Baptism: I Thirst For You

Drip. Drip. Drip.  It is early morning and the steady dripping rhythm followed by a final gurgle comforts us.  The dripping of water through a filter of coffee grounds starts our morning.  Many of us even have an addiction to the consumption of this rich brown flavored water.  How could we possibly manage without that first warm cup of caffeine? Or that awakening shower?

Drip. Gurgle. Patter. Swish. Splash. Whoosh. Gulp. Gargle. These are other sounds of water that we are most likely to hear in our day.  We can’t escape water; the world surface is about 71% water.  In fact, the human body contains about  65% water.  Water refreshes and cleanses us; it is a sign of life.  A lack of water is barrenness, a desert, a sign of poverty.

It is no surprise then that the soul also needs water.  in the first century, St. Peter speaks of the necessity of Baptism by likening it to the circumstances of Noah’s Flood: “when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.  Baptism which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ..” (1 Peter 3:30-21) The sound of this spiritual cleansing is: “I baptize you in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”— a command from Jesus Christ, Himself.  (Matthew 28:19) These words are accompanied by the pouring of water over the head, or the dramatic dunking of the entire body into water.  The word itself, baptism, comes from the Greek word baptizien meaning to plunge.  It is a bath for the soul.

“Baptism is God’s most beautiful and magnificent gift…We call it gift, grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal and most precious gift.  It is called

gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own;

grace since it is given even to the guilty;

Baptism because sin is buried in the water;

anointing for it is priestly and royal as are those who are anointed;

enlightenment because it radiates light;

clothing since it veils our shame; 

bath because it washes;

and seal as it is our guard and sign of the God’s Lordship.” 

                        -- St Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 40, 3-4 PG 36, 361C

When we enter through the doors of the Church, we bless ourselves with the holy water in the designated fonts.  This is a clear reminder of our Baptism—of all the promises from God attached to it, and our commitment to love Him through the renunciation of all that goes against Him. It also gives us the strength to recommit. We look at the crucifix above the altar and we make the connection between this Sacrament of Life and the Sacrifice of the Cross.  Among Jesus’ final words were “I thirst.”  He thirsts for us with a deep longing.  Baptism is what allows us to come to Him and to live in Him. It is the beginning of eternal life and we can’t begin our journey without the graceful drips of the sacramental water on our body.

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