“We were buried therefore 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. 6:4). The expression “newness of life” has always been attractive to me. It seems full of freshness and hope, like spring flowers and budding trees. It is quite appropriate, at least for us in the northern hemisphere, that Easter occurs in the spring. Our resurrection from the dead will be the ultimate newness of life for us, but it has already begun in the mystery of baptism. The signature quote of this blog is about former things passing away and God making all things new. Christ will definitively manifest this divine marvel when He returns in glory, but the sacrament of baptism already makes former things pass and transforms the soul into a “new creation” in the Holy Trinity. We thus become children of the Father who are members of the Body of Christ and who are renewed and sanctified by the Holy Spirit day by day until we are welcomed to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, where Christ pops the cork on the heavenly wine of eternal joy, as He promised, “when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Mt. 26:29).
We’ve only recently concluded our celebration of the Lord’s baptism in the feast of Theophany, and I noticed that the liturgical texts are full of expressions of the newness of life that Christ came to bring, as He sanctified the waters of the Jordan and, through his own baptism, opened the way for our deliverance from the powers of darkness into the bright and blessed life of the saved. I’d like to share a few of them with you here, since they express the great joy we ought to have over what Christ has done for us.
“O Word without beginning, You have buried man with You in the stream: he was corrupted by error, but You make him new again…” “A new birth He grants to the dwellers upon earth, fashioning them afresh…” “By the cleansing of the Spirit have we been washed from the poison of the dark and unclean enemy, and we have set out upon a new path free from error that leads to gladness of heart past all attainment, which only they attain whom God has reconciled with Himself…” “Let the whole earthly creation clothe itself in white, for this day it is raised up from its fall from heaven. The Word who preserves all things has cleansed it in the flowing waters: washed and resplendent, it has escaped from its former sins…” “Salvation comes through washing, and through water comes the Spirit: by descending into the water we ascend to God. Wonderful are your works, O Lord; glory be to You!”
Perhaps those of us who have labored long and failed often have a hard time believing that all things can be made new. But we have to keep recalling the gift that was granted to us in baptism (and to remember that “the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable”; Rom. 11:29). Confession and Holy Communion renew us in the grace of our election as children of God, and they help us to “forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead” (Phil. 3:13).
We’re having an early spring here at Mt Tabor. The temperatures are in the 60s, but no one has the heart to tell the buds and the bees that it may yet freeze. New life irresistibly bursts forth, and it will weather the weather, come what may. Once we have been baptized we have been forever consecrated to God, and He will recognize us as his own, even when we return after having departed into the far country of our foolish renunciations of the Father’s loving providence. While we still live and breathe in this world, there is never a time when newness of life is not possible. Let us embrace it now, and go ever deeper into the rich life of those initiated into the Mysteries of God, for divine grace is an ever-flowing fountain of joyful life that refreshes us at every step of the way back to our heavenly home. “The Lord will protect your journeying and your homecoming, henceforth and forever” (Ps. 120/121).