Sunday, November 28, 2010

Womb of the Baptistery

The Gospel for the first Sunday of Advent this year is from Matthew 24.  In it Jesus says that as in the days of Noah so too will it be when the Son of Man returns.  There will be marrying, eating, drinking and making merry.  There will be a new creation brought about through the destruction of the old heavens and the old earth.  Peter tells us that Noah's ark was a type pointing to baptism which saves us. (1 Peter 3:21).  We go down into the water of baptism united with Christ in his and death and burial, then we rise with Him in the new life of Resurrection and Grace.   Death is killed and sin is destroyed, now ourselves, but Christ lives in us (Gal. 2:20).

In the early Church, baptism was seen as a regeneration and resurrection.  The area where the baptismal fount was or the baptistery was seen as being a type of womb because of the rebirth in the Spirit and water that took place there.  In his book,  Ambrose of Milan's Method of Mystagogical Preaching, Craig A. Satterlee tells how St. Ambrose preached on this.

"Finally, in De Mysteriis, Ambrose asserts that in the blessing of the font, the Holy Spirit comes upon the font, or upon those receiving baptism, in the same way that the Holy Spirit came upon the Blessed Virgin Mary.  As the Holy Spirit brought forth a miraculous birth in the womb of the Virgin, so too in the womb that is the baptismal pool the Spirit brings forth the birth of a new creation in a miraculous way."

In the time of Noah the world was destroyed because of its wickedness through a great deluge; in the time of Christ's second coming, the world will pass away in fire according to Peter (2 Peter 3:10).
In the time of our baptism we received the Holy Spirit through water, when we celebrated our Confirmation we received the Holy Spirit through chrism and the laying on of hands.  We heard the reading from Acts of the Apostles of how fire descended upon the Apostles. 

In water and fire there is purification.  Water destroys impurity and washes it away.  Fire burns away stubble and chaff and is used to heat molten gold and silver so hot that the impurities of the dross rise to the surface to be removed (1 Peter 1:7).  The Holy Spirit wells up in us as living waters giving drink to a dry and thirsty world (John 4:14).  The Holy Spirit goes forth from our mouth in fire with the Word of God setting the world ablaze; baptizing, purifying, and Christening it. (Luke 12:49; Rev. 11:5).

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