The word of the day is “baptized.” If we have any doubt that the glorious events of our salvation apply to us, we should reread today’s reading of Romans 6:3-11. If we observe the events of these holy days as a spectator, then, of course, they do not happen to us. But the Lord calls us to participate in His sufferings and death so that we might also share in His resurrected life. This is Paul’s proclamation when he writes, “Therefore, we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so, we also should walk in newness of life (NKJV Romans 6:4).
The Old Self Crucified: the New Self Made Alive
Are you baptized? Have you been drowned three times in the baptismal font? Have you come up out of the waters to put on the new robe of Christ’s righteousness? Then by the will and work of God, the Cross and the resurrection apply to you. Your “old self” has been crucified with Christ so that you are no longer enslaved to sin and corruption (vs. 6). Thus the apostle writes that you should reckon yourself “to be dead to sin.” Moreover, you should consider yourself “alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (NKJV vs. 11). Like, the Risen Christ, death no longer reigns over you (vs. 9).
The Connection between Pascha and Baptism
The connection between Pascha (Easter) and baptism is crucial to our faith. It is made clear this morning when we celebrate the Vesperal Liturgy of St. Basil the Great. On this day, in past times, the catechumens who had been instructed in Great Lent were baptized and entered the church. Then, for the first time, they participated in the complete liturgy and received the Precious and Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
Fr. Alexander Schmemann said that this service still reflects the theme of that original liturgy: our dying and rising with Christ in Holy Baptism (Lazor, 5-6). In this service, today’s passage from Romans 5 is read just before the priest changes from the dark vestments of Lent to the brilliant white vestments of Pascha. According to Fr. Schmemann, this text proclaims that “Christ’s death and resurrection become the source of the death in us of the “old man,” the resurrection of the new whose life is in the Risen Lord” (Lazor, 6).
Thus our baptism is our own personal Pascha, a sign and guarantee that all that Christ has done for us by His crucifixion and resurrection applies to us individually. The soaring exultation of our own dying and rising with Christ is renewed in the Mystery of Confession and, today, in our celebration of the Feast of Feasts.
Lazor, Paul. Great and Holy Saturday: Vespers and the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great. Yonkers, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press.