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Gregory Nazianzen the Theologian On Holy Baptism (Oration XL), Complete

Translated by Ch. Browne and J. Swallow.

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Preached at Constantinople Jan. 6, 381, being the day following the delivery of that on the Holy Lights.

I. Yesterday we kept high Festival on the illustrious Day of the Holy Lights; for it was fitting that rejoicings should be kept for our Salvation, and that far more than for weddings and birthdays, and namedays, and house-warmings, and registrations of children, and anniversaries, and all the other festivities that men observe for their earthly friends. And now to-day let us discourse briefly concerning Baptism, and the benefits which accrue to us therefrom, even though our discourse yesterday spoke of it cursorily; partly because the time pressed us hard, and partly because the sermon had to avoid tediousness. For too great length in a sermon is as much an enemy to people's ears, as too much food is to their bodies....It will be worth your while to apply your minds to what we say, and to receive our discourse on so important a subject not perfunctorily, but with ready mind, since to know the power of this Sacrament is itself Enlightenment. [4009]

II. The Word recognizes three Births for us; namely, the natural birth, that of Baptism, and that of the Resurrection. Of these the first is by night, and is servile, and involves passion; but the second is by day, and is destructive of passion, cutting off all the veil [4010] that is derived from birth, and leading on to the higher life; and the third is more terrible and shorter, bringing together in a moment all mankind, [4011] to stand before its Creator, and to give an account of its service and conversation here; whether it has followed the flesh, or whether it has mounted up with the spirit, and worshipped the grace of its new creation. My Lord Jesus Christ has showed that He honoured all these births in His own Person; the first, by that first and quickening Inbreathing; [4012] the second by His Incarnation and the Baptism wherewith He Himself was baptized; and the third by the Resurrection of which He was the Firstfruits; condescending, as He became the Firstborn [4013] among many brethren, so also to become the Firstborn from the dead. [4014]

[4009] Enlightenment (photismos) is one of the most ancient names for Holy Baptism; the name, in fact, which S. Gregory uses throughout this Oration, and which his Latin translator almost invariably renders by Baptismus.

[4010] This Veil is Original Sin, by which the soul is darkened and as it were covered.

[4011] All Mankind (pan to plasma). plasma would not be correctly rendered by Creation. It is a word belonging solely to Man, who was formed by the Hand of God, and who, alone among creatures, has to give an account of his past life to his Creator at the Last Day. (Edd. Bened.)

[4012] Gen. ii. 7.

[4013] Rom. viii. 29.

[4014] Col. i. 18.

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