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St. Cuthbert and Disciples in a Boat

7.10.04

The Faith of Christ and Baptism

If the Orthodox Church remained alien to the long Western debate on infant versus adult Baptism, it is because she, in the first place, never accepted the reduction of faith to "personal faith" along which made that debate inevitable. From the Orthodox point of the view, the essential question about faith in its relationship to the sacrament is: what faith, and even more precisely, whose faith? And the equally essential answer to this question is: it is Christ’s faith, given to us, becoming our faith and our desire, the faith by which, in the words of St. Paul, "Christ may dwell in you hearts... that being rooted and grounded in love (we) may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height" (Eph. 3:17-18). There is a difference- not only in degree but also in essence- between the faith which converts an unbeliever or a non-Christian to Christ, and the faith which constitutes the very life of the Church and of her members and which St. Paul defines as having in us Christ’s mind, i. e. His faith, His love, His desire. Both are gifts of God. But the former is a response to God’s call while the later is the very reality of that to which the call summons. The Galilean fisherman who, upon being called, leaves his nets and follows Jesus does it on faith; he already believes in the One Who called, but he does not know and possess the faith of the One Who called him. It is his personal faith in Christ which the catechumen to the Church; it is the Church that will instruct him in and bestow upon him Christ’s faith by which she lives. Our faith in Christ, Christ’s faith in us: the one is the fulfillment of the other, is given to us so that we may have the other. But when we speak of the Church’s faith- the one by which she lives, which truly is her very life- we speak of the presence in her of Christ’s faith, of Him Himself as perfect faith, perfect love, perfect desire. And the Church is life because she is Christ’s life in us, because she believes that which He believes, loves that which He loves, desires that which He desires. And He is not only the "object" of her faith, but the "subject" of her entire life.

... Baptism depends- totally and exclusively- on Christ’s faith; it is the very gift of His faith, its true grace. "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ," says St. Paul (Gal. 3:27); but what does it mean to "put on Christ" if not that in Baptism we receive His life as our life and thus His faith, His love and His desire as the very "content" of our life? And the presence in this world of Christ’s faith is the Church. She has no other life but Christ’s, no other faith, no other love, no other desire but His; she has no other task in the world but to communicate Christ to us. Therefore it is the Church’s faith- or, better to say, it is the Church as Christ’s faith and life- that makes Baptism both possible and real as our participation in Christ’s death, as our partaking of His resurrection. This it is on the faith of the Church that Baptism "depends"; it is the faith of the Church which knows and desires it to be- and therefore makes Baptism that which it is- both "tomb" and "mother."

Ft. Alexander Schemann, Of Water and the Spirit

3 Comments:

Blogger Doug said...

Really wonderful quote, Jonathan. Thanks for sharing it. Schmemann is wonderful and I really need to pick up a copy of this one.

3:21 PM  
Blogger Rusty said...

This is a great quote! Thanks

3:49 PM  
Blogger Rusty said...

This is a great quote! Thanks

3:50 PM  

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