Romanian Orthodox Patriarchate
On 5 January 2014, the Sunday before the Baptism of the Lord, the Gospel presenting the preaching of Saint John the Baptist was read in all churches.
His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church delivered a sermon in the chapel of the Patriarchal Residence dedicated to Saint Gregory the Enlightener, in which he showed the teaching of the Evangelical pericope scheduled for the day (Saint Mark the Evangelist, chapter 1: 1-8): “Saint John the Baptist preaches the baptism of repentance. This means being aware of the need to be saved of sins, to have the sins forgiven. The Baptism of repentance is a preparatory baptism. John baptised in the wilderness of Jordan and people from all over Judaea and Jerusalem used to come to him. The Baptism of repentance gathered lots of people and it was God’s plan that Jesus of Nazareth should be introduced to these crowds of people as Messiah and Son of God. In fact, Saint John the Baptist introduces Jesus Christ, the Saviour, as the Gospel according to John reads, as the Son of God who takes over the sins of the world and will baptise them with Holy Spirit and fire. Saint John the Baptist foretells the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, as an Easter lamb, as well as the fact that the Holy Spirit that Jesus Christ brings over His disciples will be as fire tongues. The Baptism of repentance to which Jesus comes is an opportunity to show the crowds gathered at the river Jordan that Jesus is the Messiah prophesised by the prophets of the Old Testament”.
Saint John lived in much simplicity and asceticism, and his best food was prayer
His Beatitude has spoken about the virtues of Saint John the Baptist: “We notice the great lowliness of Saint John the Baptist through the modesty of his clothes, as well as through his asceticism. He was dressed in clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. The locusts may mean insects flying from one side to another, but also some fruit growing in the bushes of the desert. Anyway, it was very simple food, so that Saint John lived in much modesty and asceticism, and his best food was prayer.”
The Baptism of repentance brings the forgiveness of the sins, but the baptism in the Holy Spirit brings the forgiveness of the sins, as well the adoption according to the grace and beginning of the resurrection of the soul from the death of the sin
We see in a wonderful way that this baptism of repentance is wished by Christ, the Lord, not because He would have had sins, but because He was to take over Him the sins of the world, His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel said, and continued: “This is why Saint John says: Here is the Lamb of God, who takes over the sins of the world, when he introduces Him to the disciples or to the people. Thus, it is a fulfilment of the baptism of repentance as preparation for another baptism, namely the baptism with Holy Spirit. The Baptism of repentance brings the forgiveness of the sins, but the Holy Spirit brings the forgiveness of the sins and the adoption according to the grace and beginning of the resurrection of the soul from the death of the sin. Thus, it is a great difference between the baptism of John and the baptism with Holy Spirit which the Saviour commands to his disciples at the end of his Messianic activity. Before the Saviour instituted baptism by commandment in the name of the Most Holy Trinity we see, as soon as Jesus receives the baptism of repentance from John, how something new mysteriously appears, never seen during the baptism of the people by John, namely the heaven opening. A voice from heaven says: This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased, and the Holy Spirit as a dove comes down over the head of Jesus as soon as He comes out of the river Jordan. Thus, the basis of the Christian baptism as union with the Holy Trinity was shown as soon as Jesus received the baptism of repentance. In other words, something old was accomplished and something new was brought”.
Through baptism we are given the possibility to re-establish the relationship with God
Then, the Patriarch of Romania emphasised the spiritual gifts we receive through the Christian baptism: “The basis of the Christian baptism are given at the Baptism of the Lord, namely: the heaven is opened, the voice of the Father says that the One baptised in the river Jordan is his Eternal Son, made Man out of love for the humans and for their salvation, while the Holy Spirit as dove confirms the powerful Word of the Father. At the same time with the Baptism of the Lord in the river Jordan, after He received the baptism of repentance, the reconciliation of the humans with God through the baptism is shown. This is why the Holy Spirit is seen only once in Jesus’ life reminding the fact that after the flood was over, the pigeon appeared over the waters carrying a branch of olive in its beak as a sign of reconciliation of God with the humans. Here, the Holy Spirit appears as dove to show that through the baptism we are given the possibility to re-establish the relationship with God, because through baptism God is reconciled with the humans forgiving their sins and giving them the gift of adoption according to the grace. Moreover, they are given the gift of resurrection from the death of sin, and then the gift of the universal resurrection”.
When we prepare for meeting God and especially for baptism much prayer and fasting is needed
“The Gospel teaches us that when we prepare for meeting God and especially for baptism much prayer and fasting is needed. The fact that on the Eve of Baptism of the Lord nothing is eaten reminds us that in the early Church those who wanted to become Christians prepared through fasting, both they and their families. The Eve of Baptism is fasting as preparation for baptism. Now, we fast and eat nothing remembering our baptism by which we received the forgiveness of the sins, the gift of adoption and of the spiritual resurrection, so that the preparation for blessing needs repentance, fasting, prayer in order to better understand the special values of the gift of the blessing of the human life”, His Beatitude Daniel also said.
The gift of baptism is a spiritual gift
To end with the sermon, His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel urged to prayer, fasting and mercy when we prepare to receive the spiritual gift of the Christian baptism: “May God help us understand how great the gift of the Christian baptism in water and the Holy Spirit is! At the same time we must also be prepared through prayer, fasting and mercy, as openness and appreciation, to receive this great gift. When we fast we are nourished rather on prayer, on the presence of God in us than on material things. Therefore, we understand that the gift of baptism is a spiritual, not a material one, a heavenly gift which is not from this world, and which prepares us for the heavenly life”.