One the key parts of the Great Fast is attending to Baptism. Do we realize the import of Baptism and its roots?
St. John Damascene lists eight baptisms:
1) the Flood, which was the eradication of sin;
2) the sea and the cloud, the baptism of Moses;
3) the baptism of the Law, in which every unclean person washed himself with water (Leviticus 14:8);
4) the baptism of John;
5) the baptism of our Lord;
6) the baptism of repentance and tears;
7) martyrdom, the baptism of blood;
8) the last baptism in hell, which is not saving, but which destroys the soul.
One common theme in all of this is that baptism is a fire, a death, a purification, as we say in the Creed, “I profess one baptism for the remission of sins.”
In this third week of the Great Fast, we remember the first of these, the flood. We are reminded that the Great Fast is a journey, but also a preparation for baptism. It is our weakness today that we do not evangelize people to come into the faith. We no longer see the connection between baptism and the passion and resurrection, as St. Paul did, and which is proclaimed in the Great Paschal Vigil, “Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4). Our goal in Pascha is to renew our baptisms, renouncing the evil of Satan and committing ourselves again to Christ, so that “We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin. (Romans 6:6)”
The flood is a foretelling of the true baptism of our Lord. In both the power of sin is destroyed. The ark represents the loving providence of God; it represents the strength of his grace, working in our human weakness; it represents our faith that life is found in God’s creative wisdom. We must hear last Sunday’s reading, “we must attend all the more to what we have heard, so that we may not be carried away. For if the word announced through angels proved firm, and every transgression and disobedience received its just recompense, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?” (Hebrews 2:1-3)