Au In the beginning was the Word

1.-  In Jesus times the word immersion or baptism is applied to all type of ablutions (Mk 7,4; Hb 9,10), to the baptism of proselytes (Mt 23,15), to the baptism of the jewish sects, to John’s baptism (Mk 1,4), to Jesus baptism (Mk 1,9-11; see Jn 3,22;4,2) and, specially, to the christian baptism that incorporates Christ Resurrected. In this sense we speak of baptizing in the name of Christ (Acts 2,38), in Christ (Gal 3,27; Rom 6,3), in Jesus the Lord or even in the Holy Spirit (Acts 19,3.5; Mk 1,8; Jn 1,32-33). Due to its special interest (they really are different reference aspects) we will consider each one of these baptisms that belong to the religious frame in which the christian baptism appears.

2.-  In first place, the baptism of the proselytes (The Misná, Pesachin VIII,8). Any pagan converting to the Judaism should submit himself to a triple rite: circumcision, baptism and offering (see Num 15, 14-16). They were required to follow a preparatory catechesis, and they were interrogates beforehand upon the conversion motives. In the Talmud baptism liturgy an interrogatory to the candidate and an answer on his part is established, with a meaning of a faith confession. The witnesses guarantee the faith of the baptized. While the proselytes immerse in the pool, the rabbies were reciting some law mandates, recalling the candidate the fundamental doctrine points. It looks like, in some cases, they used the formula in the name of heaven or by love to heaven. Baptism should be practiced, whenever possible, with living water (current) that possessed the best qualities (see Didajé VII, 1-4). The proselyte, once baptized, was like a newborn, a neophyte, who began a new life.

3.-  It also existed the baptism of the jewish sects, for instance, between the Qumran essenes. Flavius Joseph (De bello iudaico II, 8,7) talks about a long test to which all new members were submitted. A first examination decides the admission of the candidate, like postulant. The candidate should exercise in the essenian life for one year. If the test was favourable, he was admitted into the community (conventual), but he still couldn’t participate in its privileges or in the common practice of the purity baths. At the end of the second year he entered the saint waters of purification and joined the sacred banquet. The baptized compromised himself to follow Moses law, and began a new life to deliver conversion fruits. In the Union Rule it is said: “God will then purify in his truth all man´s actions and will depurate for himself the body of each one of them, in order to eliminate all iniquity spirit of his flesh and to clean him by the Holy Spirit of all impiety acts. And He will pour the Spirit of truth over the man like lustral water, to absolve him of any fraudulent abominations” (4, 19-22).

4.-  John’s baptism is addressed to all men without exception: sinners, pagans, Pharisees, Sadducees (Mt 3, 7-10; Lk 3, 12-14). It denounces the false illusion of an ownership simply carnal. It is not enough to have Abraham like father. It will be useless if justice is not the normal practice (Mt 3,8). It is a conversion baptism for the forgiveness of sins (Mk 1,4). It pretends to prepare to the Lord a well fit people (Lk 1,17). John testimonies that the Messiah is already present: I myself did not know him but God who sent me to baptize told me: “You will see the Spirit coming down and resting on the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. Yes, I have seen! And I declare that this is the Chosen On e of God” (John 1,33.34). John´s community is provisional: it serves to prepare the way to that who will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire (Mt 3,11).

5.-  Jesus´ baptism marks the end of John´s mission and opens Jesus mission. The baptism manifests that Jesus is possessed by the Spirit. Not many details are given, but the experience is described with these images: the heavens opened (Ezk 1,1; Is 63,19), the Spirit comes down (Is 42, 1; Ezk 36,5; Jl 3,1), a Word is listened (Ps 2,7, Is 42,1-3; Mt 3,17). God’s Spirit comes to Jesus, his loved Son, and rests upon him (Is 11,2), because in him he founds himself like in his nest (Mt 3,16). And he has affection to the nest.

6.-  Christian baptism is an immersion in the Spirit: John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit within a few days. (Acts 1,5). The Spirit is a God’s gift that is given that who is baptized (Acts 2,38; Rom 5,5). It is besides the sign of the Christ resurrected in the believer. Jesus said it: If any one is thirsty, let him come to me; and let him who believes in me drink, for the Scripture says: Out of him shall flow rivers of living water. Jesus was referring to the Spirit that those who believe in him were to receive; the Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet entered his Glory (Jn 7,37-39). Baptism in the Spirit is the regeneration immersion by the man who is born from above (Jn 3,3), the effusion that pour from Jesus open those who believe in him, the Gospel’s grace: One Lord, one faith, one baptism, only one Lord and Father of all, who is above all and works through all and is in all. (Eph 4,5-6; see 1 Co 6.11). And also: For this is eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and the One who sent you, Jesus Christ (Jn 17,3).

7.-  The Spirit appears in the Scripture like a God’s gift (Acts 8,29; Jn 4,10), which communication only God can make, since he is really delivering himself. It is then said that the Spirit is given or poured (Acts 5,32;8,18;Jn3,34;14,16;1Jn3,24;Rom5,5; 2Co 1,22;2Tim1,7;1Thes4,8). All that happens from God happens in the Spirit. The faith Symbol literally says, according to the original greek text: I believe in the holy spirit. Here, like in several texts of the New Testament (Jn 1m33;Mk 1,8), the word holy spirit appears without any article to refer to the God’s gift delivered to those who believe in Christ. Because of that gift the glorified Lord continues present between those who belong to him, like the Father. Jesus said it: If anyone loves me, he will keep my word and my Father will love him; and we will come to him and make our home with him (Jn 1,33; Mk 1,8). According to Jesus words (Lk 24,49) in the sending of the Holy Spirit both the Father and the Son are involved: the Spirit is a spirit from both and is sent by both.

8.-  The baptism means purification (1Co 6,11; Eph 5,25-26), new birth (Jn 3,3-5;Gal 4,29), regeneration (Tit 3,5-8), illumination (Eph 5, 8-14). Saint Peter says: Like newborn children, eagerly for pure milk of the word which will help you grow and reach salvation (1P2,2). The baptism means growing and, also, good works (2,12), a new life (Rom 6,4). Clement of Alexandria (about 215) expresses the deepnes of the mystery in this way: Baptized, are illuminated; illuminated, are adopted like sons; adopted like sons, they become perfect; being perfect, they receive immortality….. This operation receive several names; gift or charisma, illumination, perfection,  immersion. (Paedagogus 1,6) And Saint Gregory Naciancene (cent. VI): “All these names come from the merriness procured by the baptism (since we enjoy giving different names to all we passionately love) and from the plurality of benefits that the baptism brings to us. And that is why we call it gift, grace, illumination, immortality dress, regeneration water, God´s stamp and all honorific terms we can find. Gift and grace, because it is completely free; immersion, because the sin rests sunk in the water; illumination, because it is the light that transforms the soul; stamp, because it keeps and protects us, meaning at the same time God´s sovereignty upon us” (Oratio XL,4).

9.-  Baptized in Christ Jesus, we are marked by an indelible chrism, like Jesus himself, and “this chrism is the Holy Spirit”, says Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (Mystagogica 3,1). In the same epoch (cent. IV) Saint Hilarious says: “The Lord command us to baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, id est, in the confession of the origin (author), of the only Son and of the gift. One is the origin of everything, since only one is God the Father from whom everything comes; and one is the only son our Lord Jesus Christ, due to whom everything is; and one is the Spirit, the gift in everything”” (Adversus Arrianos 2,1). Nevertheless, says Tertulian, during the III century the three baptismal answers were developed more than was determined by the Lord (De corona 3). And even more in the following centuries.