I ACKNOWLEDGE ONE BAPTISM FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS.
Water washes. What does water wash? It washes perspiration and dust from the skin. That tiny particle of impurity, which the body secretes by perspiring, water washes. And that insignificant particle of dust, which lights upon the skin from this world, water can wash off.
But water is not able to wash away all that impurity, all that dung and decay, that accumulates inside the body. Water is powerless against that internal impurity, which appears and remains in the organs. This impurity comes from the unsound or superfluous dust of this world, which people take into themselves as though it were food.
And so if water is powerless against this material impurity, how much more powerless is it against the impurity in the deepest recesses of the soul?
It is clear that water does not wash the soul. It washes the air and it washes the ground. It is able to wash all earthly skin, including the skin of man. Its effect is enormous, its service invaluable. But it cannot wash away the greasy impurity of the human soul. The Jews used to constantly carry out ritualistic washings and cleansings; i.e., they would constantly wash their skin with water. But the water was never able to touch the impurity of their soul. And internal impurity accumulated in them to such an extent that, once it was vented and poured out on the most pure Lord Jesus, its stench has been spreading itself all over the world even to the present day.
Water is just a symbol. Physical washing is a symbol of spiritual washing. A symbol can wash a symbol, but not reality. Water can wash the exterior face of man, but not his interior face. And this interior face of man is the image of God in man-the living soul with the spiritual reality within it. Therefore, only God alone, through the power of His Spirit, can wash away the spiritual impurity in man.
Yet even as a symbol of purification, water is necessary for Christian baptism. It was indispensable even earlier for symbolic, pre-Christian baptism. St. John the Baptist baptized with water alone. And according to the apostle Paul's interpretation, the entire Hebrew nation was symbolically baptized with water: "Our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea" (I Cor. 10:1-2). This was not actual baptism, but symbolic prefigurative baptism. It was just a shadow of Christian baptism.
Christian baptism means a complete purification. This baptism represents the doors through which people enter Christ's Church. They do not enter two or three times, but once. Hence, there is one baptism. In God's Holy Scriptures this is especially emphasized with the words: "One Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Eph. 4:5). Therefore, avoid those who tell you that a person needs more than one baptism.
Through baptism that most shameful stain, with which the ancestor of our race sullied himself and which he bequeathed to his descendants as an inhentance, is removed from the image of God within us. That demonic seal in our soul, as dark and repulsive as hell itself, can only be removed through true baptism.
Consequently, baptism marks the death of the old, sinful man and the birth of the new, sinless man within us. And God's Holy Scriptures at test to this fact: "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therewith with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life"(Rom. 6:3-4). Yet the Lord did not die twice, requiring us to be baptized into His death twice. Therefore, the Holy Fathers of the Second Ecumenical Council at Constantinople stated: "I acknowledge one baptism."
Jewish circumcision served as a prototype of Christian baptism. With a knife a small piece of the body was cut off. This is the prototype. With baptism the sinful growth in the soul is cut off. This is reality. And just as circumcision used to be performed once for all time, so also is baptism performed once for all time. Circumcision used to be performed on both adults and children. Baptism is also performed on adults and children. It has been treated this way in God's Church since apostolic times (cf. Acts 16:14-15, 30-39 and I Cor. 1:16). Therefore, avoid those who tell you that you should not have your children baptized. Ask them:
"Who will answer for the souls of children who die in the households of baptized parents?"
"For the remission of sins"-this is the purpose of baptism. John's baptism was not for the purification of sins, but for repentance only. John himself attested to this when he said: "I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I... He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire" (Matt. 3:11). And He who is mightier than John the Baptist and mightier than the whole world, showed by His own example the manner of true and complete baptism. He was baptized with water and with the Holy Spirit. The Sinless One was immersed in the water of the River Jordan, and at that moment God's Spirit descended upon Him "in the form of a dove." Here then it is John who baptizes, water that washes the body, and God's Holy Spirit who cleanses the soul-the true and complete baptism-the one baptism, which cannot be repeated on the same person.
During the night Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, came to Christ and asked Him to teach him the way of salvation. The baptized Messiah answered him: "unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). Purification of both the body and the soul. Regeneration of both the body and the soul. The grace of the Holy Spirit gives power and holiness to water. In baptism the fire of the Holy Spirit burns off that ancestral growth on the soul of every descendant of Adam. The sinful burden of many ages and generations, that monstrous hump on the back of man, is removed from the baptized soul. The heriditary leprosy disappears. From that moment the baptized soul is responsible only for the future, not for the past.
The baptism with which John baptized the Jews began and then ceased. It served only as a signal to alarm and prepare. The King of heaven was about to come. The whole spiritual atmosphere had been concealed, like the spirit concealed within a dying man. John felt the blowing of a new, fresh breeze, fragrant and life-giving, in the midst of the corpse-like stench of the world. The Christ was near; and John sounded the alarm and cried out to the people to prepare themselves for His coming, to repent. And he baptized them with water for repentance. That baptism ceased. It did not possess the grace-endowed power of the Holy Spirit, which was given to the world later through Christ (Acts 19:1-6). But baptism with water and with the Spirit has continued to the present day. Without it no one can call himself a Christian. Behold, the Lord commanded the apostles: "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:19). This is the healing and salvation - bearing commandment, which the apostles carried out to the letter, and which the holy, universal, and apostolic Church has continued to carry out up to the present day.
Nevertheless, besides this holy baptism with which we have all been baptized, there exists yet another type of baptism which is not given to everyone. This is baptism with the blood of martyrdom. All those great men and women who suffered and shed their blood for Christ have been baptized with the baptism of blood. Baptism with blood is especially well known to you, Orthodox followers of Christ. Nowhere is there such a great number of people baptized with their own blood as there are among your forefathers, both distant and recent. Even in our own times the blood of martyrs continues to be shed in the Orthodox world. Thousands upon thousands of Orthodox Christians are being baptized in their own blood. These are the valiant witnesses of the gospel of Christ. The children of God, whom pagans and atheists have slaughtered like lambs! Their sacrifice strengthens Christ's Church on earth, and their holy names expand the Christian calendar. Baptized in their own blood, they have always been and always will be the treasure and adornment of Orthodoxy.
There have even been pagans who were unbaptized with water and the Spirit, but baptized with the blood of martyrdom. And their baptism is accepted as canonical and valid. Their baptism is even considered higher than our normal baptism. They did not have time to be baptized with water and the Spirit. Being pagans, they were blind in their spirit, but suddenly they began to see and recognized Christ and immediately laid down their lives for Him. Thus they were baptized with one of the Lord's baptisms but not with the other, with the baptism of Golgotha but not with the baptism of the Jordan. And thousands upon thousands of your Orthodox forefathers, both young and old, both male and female, both emperors and patriarchs, both rich and poor, were baptized with both baptisms-of the Jordan and of Golgotha. The number of these valiant forefathers of yours, who were first baptized with water and the Spirit and later with their own blood in martyrdom, has become so great over the centuries that they could populate an entire country.
The first baptism, with water and the Spirit, was commanded; but the second, with one's own blood, was left to the individual decision of each. On one occasion the meek Lord asked the sons of Zebedee:
"Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink, and be baptized with the baptism with which I am to be baptized?" (Matt. 20:22). Do you see how the Lord called His suffering a baptism? And do you see how He does not say to the sons of thunder: "You must!" Rather He asks them: "Are you able?" It is clear, then, that baptism with blood is not mandatory for all the faithful, as is the first baptism, but it is left up to one's own will. Only those who have exceptionally great faith in the Lord and great love for Him make the decision to be baptized with blood. As He himself said: "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends" (John 15:13-14). Countless numbers of your forefathers were friends of the Friend of men. And they bore witness to their friendship towards Him in the same way as He had borne witness to His friendship towards them-with the seal of blood and death.
Do not allow yourselves to be deceived, Christ-bearers, if a heretic tells you that baptism is the only grace-filled sacrament, and that there are no others. Do not allow yourselves to be deceived by the fact that in our Creed only baptism is mentioned, while the other sacraments are left unmentioned. The Holy Fathers of Constantinople, who mentioned holy baptism, used to recognize the other holy sacraments as well. In addition to baptism, they used to consider chrismation, penance, holy communion, holy unction, marriage, and priesthood holy and canonical. Both the Holy Scriptures and Holy Tradition strongly attest to all these sacraments. Nevertheless, the Holy Fathers, compiling the brief Symbol of Faith, only mentioned baptism because it is the fundamental and initial sacrament in God's Church.
Indeed, by the sacrament of baptism one severs himself from his diseased past, and brings his soul to the "hospital", as the Church is called. And once the soul enters the "hospital" through baptism as through a door, it finds inside everything else that it needs to be healthy. There it finds chrismation, the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit. There it finds confession and penance for any new wounds of the soul. There it finds holy communion, nourishment for the soul with the actual body and blood of Christ. There it finds holy unction-the prayerful invocation of the Holy Spirit to strengthen and have compassion on the bodily temple of man and the weakened dweller in that temple, the soul of man. There it finds the great sacrament of marriage-a miracle of God's most wise economy. There it finds priestly laying on of hands, for the sake of the succession of apostolic ministry and apostolic power. There it finds all the other remedies and channels by which the almighty spirit of God cures, consoles, caresses, and raises up the souls of the faithful.
This is the faith of the considerate and the wise. The inconsiderate and feebleminded accept it with reluctance. Failing to consider their own nothingness, they feel no need for help from God's might. But the considerate have thoroughly investigated their own feebleness and the feebleness of all those born on earth. And by investigating themselves and others they have arrived at the knowledge that the impurity of the human soul cannot be cleansed with water alone, nor with any other element of nature, without the power of the all-powerful Spirit of God. For this reason they turn to God for help in humbleness and humility. And in their wisdom they make use of all those balms for the soul, which are found in the divine hospital, the holy Church. Having turned their backs on the shadows and illusions of this world, they entrust themselves to the will of the Most High. And they direct their gaze continuously towards the eternal light. They know that they are pilgrims, and that their pilgrimage will soon come to an end. Therefore, they joyfully press ever onward and forward. And with compassion they support their fellow wayfarers, their brothers and sisters, as though they were royal children returning to the royal domain of their heavenly Father.
This is your faith, Christ-bearers, the faith of your considerate and wise forefathers. Let it also be the faith of your children, all the way to the end of the journey. This is the continuous, salvation-bearing Orthodox Faith. Truly, this is the faith of the truly chosen people, of those who bear the image of God in themselves. On the Day of Retribution, on the Dreadful Day of Justice, when Christ will pass judgment with justice, they shall be called blessed.
Water - Blood - Rebirth.