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CYRIL OF JERUSALEM - THE SIGNIFICANCE OF BAPTISM

 

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Catecheticae Orationes Quinque, Mystagogica Catechesis, 1. 1 - 3 (Catechetical Lecture 19)

Greek text from Migne PG,  Vol. 33, Cols 1065 - 1067

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Cyril was Bishop of Jerusalem from c 348. He had a difficult relationship with his superior Acacius of Caesarea (who had Arian tendencies) and experienced exile on a number of occasions. Of particular note are Cyril's Catechetical Lectures given during the period of Lent and Easter for baptismal candidates or the newly baptized. The extract below from the first Mystagogical Cathechesis was given during the week after Easter, following baptisms on Easter Eve . A translation of the whole lecture, which gives valuable information about baptismal practices in Jerusalem, can be found here. The passage given here sees the Exodus from Egypt as a forerunner of baptism.

 

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Ἐπόθουν ὑμῖν καὶ πάλαι 1, γνήσια καὶ περιπόθητα τῆς Ἐκκλησίας τέκνα, περὶ τῶν πνευματικῶν τούτων καὶ ἐπουρανίων διαλεχθῆναι μυστηρίων. Ἀλλ' ἐπειδὴ σαφῶς ἠπιστάμην, ὄψιν ἀκοῆς πολλῷ πιστοτέραν εἶναι, ἀνέμενον τὸν παρόντα καιρόν· ἵνα εὐπροσαγωγοτέρους ὑμᾶς περὶ τῶν λεγομένων ἐκ ταύτης λαβὼν τῆς πείρας 2 εἰς τὸν φωτεινότερον καὶ εὐωδέστερον λειμῶνα τοῦδε τοῦ παραδείσου χειραγωγήσω. Ἄλλως δὲ καὶ χωρητικοὶ τῶν θειοτέρων κατέστητε μυστηρίων, θείου καὶ ζωοποιοῦ βαπτίσματος ἀξιωθέντες. Ἐπεὶ τοίνυν λοιπὸν τῶν ἐντελεστέρων δεῖ μαθημάτων παρατιθέναι τράπεζαν, φέρε, ταῦτα ὑμᾶς ἀκριβῶς παιδεύσωμεν, ἵνα εἰδῆτε τὴν ἔμφασιν τὴν πρὸς ὑμῶν κατ' ἐκείνην γεγενημένην 3 τοῦ βαπτίσματος τὴν ἑσπέραν.

1. I have long been wishing, O true-born and dearly beloved children of the Church, to discourse to you concerning these spiritual and heavenly Mysteries; but since I well knew that seeing is far more persuasive than hearing, I waited for the present season; that finding you more open to the influence of my words from your present experience, I might lead you by the hand into the brighter and more fragrant meadow of the Paradise before us; especially as ye have been made fit to receive the more sacred Mysteries, after having been found worthy of divine and life-giving Baptism.1 Since therefore it remains to set before you a table of the more perfect instructions, let us now teach you these things exactly, that ye may know the effect2 wrought upon you on that evening of your baptism.

Εἰσῄειτε πρῶτον εἰς τὸν προαύλιον τοῦ βαπτιστηρίου 4 οἶκον, καὶ πρὸς τὰς δυσμὰς ἑστῶτες ἠκούσατε καὶ προσετάττεσθε ἐκτείνειν τὴν χεῖρα· καὶ ὡς παρόντι ἀπετάττεσθε τῷ Σατανᾷ. Χρὴ δὲ τοῦτο ὑμᾶς εἰδέναι, ὅτι ἐν παλαιᾷ* ἱστορίᾳ οὗτος κεῖται τύπος. Ὅτε γὰρ Φαραώ, πικρότατος καὶ ὠμότατος τύραννος, κατέθλιβε τῶν Ἑβραίων τὸν ἐλεύθερον λαόν καὶ εὐγενῆ, Θεὸς ἀπέστειλε τὸν Μωσῆν, ἐξαγαγεῖν αὐτοὺς ἐκ τῆς πονηρᾶς τῶν Αἰγυπτίων δουλείας. Καὶ αἵματι μὲν ἀμνοῦ ἐχρίοντο αἱ φλιαὶ, ἵνα φύγῃ ὀλοθρεύων τοὺς τὸ σημεῖον ἔχοντας τοῦ αἵματος οἴκους· παραδόξως δὲ ἠλευθεροῦτο τῶν Ἑβραίων λαός. Ἐπειδὴ δὲ καὶ ἐλευθερωθέντας ἐχθρὸς κατεδίωξε, καὶ παραδόξως εἶδε τὴν θάλασσαν αὐτοῖς τεμνομένην· ὅμως ἐχώρει 5, ἴχνη ἴχνεσι συμβάλλων, καὶ παραχρῆμα ὑποβρύχιος* ἐγίνετο, καταποντούμενος ἐν θαλάσσῃ Ἐρυθρᾷ 6.

2. First ye entered into the vestibule3 of the Baptistery, and there facing towards the West ye listened to the command to stretch forth your hand, and as in the presence of Satan ye renounced him. Now ye must know that this figure is found in ancient history. For when Pharaoh, that most bitter and cruel tyrant, was oppressing the free and high-born people of the Hebrews, God sent Moses to bring them out of the evil bondage of the Egyptians. Then the door posts were anointed with the blood of a lamb, that the destroyer might flee from the houses which had the sign of the blood; and the Hebrew people was marvellously delivered. The enemy, however, after their rescue, pursued after them4, and saw the sea wondrously parted for them; nevertheless he went on, following close in their footsteps, and was all at once overwhelmed and engulphed in the Red Sea.

Μετάβηθί μοι λοιπὸν ἀπὸ τῶν παλαιῶν ἐπὶ τὰ νέα, ἀπὸ τοῦ τύπου ἐπὶ τὴν ἀλήθειαν. Ἐκεῖ Μωσῆς εἰς Αἴγυπτον ἀπὸ τοῦ Θεοῦ πεμπόμενος· ἐνταῦθα Χριστὸς ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἀποστελλόμενος· * ὧδε Χριστός, ἵνα ῥύσηται τοὺς ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ὑπὸ τῆς ἁμαρτίας καταπονουμένους 7. Ἐκεῖ αἷμα ἀμνοῦ  ὀλοθρευτοῦ ἦν ἀποτρόπαιον· ἐνταῦθα τοῦ Ἀμνοῦ τοῦ ἀμώμου 8 Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τὸ αἷμα  9 δαιμόνων καθέστηκε φυγαδευτήριον. Ἐκεῖνος τύραννος κατεδίωκεν ἕως θαλάσσης τὸν παλαιὸν ἐκεῖνον λαόν· καὶ σοὶ ἰταμός ἀναίσχυντος καὶ ἀρχέκακος οὗτος δαίμων, ἕως αὐτῶν ἠκολούθει τῶν σωτηρίων ναμάτων. Ἐκεῖνος ὑποβρύχιος γέγονεν ἐν θαλάσσῃ· καὶ οὗτος ἐν τῷ σωτηρίῳ ὕδατι ἀφανίζεται.

3. Now turn from the old to the new, from the figure to the reality. There we have Moses sent from God to Egypt; here, Christ, sent forth from His Father into the world: there, that Moses might lead forth an afflicted people out of Egypt; here, that Christ might rescue those who are oppressed in the world under sin: there, the blood of a lamb was the spell against5 the destroyer; here, the blood of the Lamb without blemish Jesus Christ is made the charm to scare6 evil spirits: there, the tyrant was pursuing that ancient people even to the sea; and here the daring and shameless spirit, the author of evil, was following thee even to the very streams of salvation. The tyrant of old was drowned in the sea; and this present one disappears in the water of salvation.