devotional

Baptismal unction

From St Cyril of Jerusalem

Having been ‘baptized into Christ,’ and ‘put on Christ,’ you have been made conformable to the Son of God; for God having ‘predestined us to the adoption of heirs’ made us share the fashion of Christ’s glorious body’ Being therefore made ‘partakers of Christ,’ you are properly called Christs, and of you God said, ‘Touch not my Christ,’ or anointed. Now you were made Christs, by receiving the emblem of the Holy Spirit and all things were in a figure wrought in you, because you are figures of Christ.

He also bathed himself in the river Jordan, andhavingimparted the fragrance of his Godhead to the waters, he came up from them; and the Holy Spirit lighted on him, like resting upon like. In the same manner to you also, after you had come up from the pool of the sacred streams, was given the unction, the emblem of that wherewith Christ was anointed; and this is the Holy Spirit; of whom also the blessed Isaiah in his prophecy says in the person of the Lord: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach glad tidings to the poor.’

For Christ was not anointed by human hands with oil or material ointment, but the Father, having appointed him to be the Saviour of the whole world, anointed him with the Holy Spirit, as Peter says: ‘Jesus of Nazareth, whom God anointed with the Holy Spirit.’ And David the prophet cried, saying: ‘Your throne, O

God, is for ever and ever; a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of your kingdom; you have loved righteousness and hated iniquity; therefore God even your God has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows.’

As Christ was in truth crucified, buried and raised, and you in likeness are in baptism accounted worthy of being crucified, buried and raised together with him, so is it with the unction also. As he was anointed with the spiritual oil of gladness, the Holy Spirit, who is so called because he is the author of spiritual gladness, so you were anointed with ointment, having been made partakers and ‘fellows’ of Christ.

But beware of supposing this to be plain ointment. For as the bread of the Eucharist, after the invocation of the Holy Spirit, is mere bread no longer, but the Body of Christ, so also this body ointment is no more simple ointment, nor (so to say) common, after the invocation, but the gift of Christ; and by the presence of his Godhead, it causes in us the Holy Spirit. It is symbolically applied to your forehead and your other senses; and while your body is anointed with visible ointment, your soul is sanctified by the Holy and life-giving Spirit. [Mystagogical Catecheis 3.1-3]

O strange and inconceivable thing! We did not really die, we were not really buried, we were not really crucified and raised again, but our imitation was merely in a figure, while our salvation is in reality. Christ was actually crucified…and truly rose again; …we, by imitation communicating in his sufferings, gain salvation in reality… Christ received the nails… endured anguish; while to me without suffering.. .by the fellowship of his pain he vouchsafes salvation. [2.4-6]

2017-09-29T14:45:35+00:00 April 2007 Articles|