“By my baptism the waters will be sanctified, receiving from me fire and the Holy Spirit”

Today the source of all the graces of baptism comes himself to be baptized in the river Jordan, there to make himself known to the world. Seeing him approach, John stretches out his hand to hold him back, protesting: Lord, by your own baptism you sanctify all others; yours is the true baptism, the source of perfect holiness. How can you wish to submit to mine? I am not fit even to unfasten your sandal straps, let alone to lay my hand upon your venerable head.

But the Lord replies, I wish it to be so. Come and baptize me; do as I wish, for surely you cannot refuse me. Why do you hesitate, why are you so afraid? Do you not realize that the baptism I ask for is mine by every right? By my baptism the waters will be sanctified, receiving from me fire and the Holy Spirit. Unless I am immersed in them they will never be empowered to bring forth children to eternal life. There is every reason for you to let me have my way and do what I am asking you to do. Did I not baptize you when you were in your mother’s womb? Now it is your turn to baptize me in the Jordan. So come, then, carry out your appointed task.

To this John answers: your servant is utterly helpless. Savior of all, have mercy on me! I am not fit even to unfasten your sandal straps, let alone to lay my hand upon your venerable head. But I hear your command, Lord, and in obedience to your word I come to give you that baptism to which your own love impels you. Man of dust that I am, let deepest reverence enfold me when I behold the height to which I have been called—even to laying my hand on the head of my Maker!

See the hosts of heaven hushed and still, as the all-holy Bridegroom goes down into the Jordan. No sooner is he baptized than he comes up from the waters, his splendor shining forth over the earth.

The gates of heaven are opened, and the Father’s voice is heard: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” All who are present stand in awe as they watch the Spirit descend to bear witness to him.

O come, all you peoples, worship him! Praise to you, Lord, for your glorious epiphany which brings joy to us all! The whole world has become radiant with the light of your manifestation.

St Ephrem the Syrian

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