icon02I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

There is, in fact, a quantum leap from John’s baptism of water to Jesus’ baptism with fire and the Spirit. The former is a mere image or, at most, a preparation for the latter. John conveys the astounding newness of Jesus’ mission by using the verb baptize in a most unusual manner. While until now to “baptize” had always connoted repeated immersion in water, so as to cleanse or dye an object, Jesus’ baptism with fire and the Spirit suggests a leap to another dimension of being. This baptism will not only cleanse but will also destroy what cannot coexist with the fire of God’s holiness and love. It will not only destroy but will at the same time implant in man the Breath of God so that now fire will pulse in man’s veins instead of water, and the breathing of the Blessed Trinity will become the new vital principle of man’s own life. This is the purifying, regenerative, and deifying baptism that Jesus brings with him. And Jesus is himself ‘this baptism, because he is the fire of God’s love and the bearer of the divine Spirit. John baptized with water; Jesus is the baptism that the Father pours down upon the world from his dwelling in the heavens, and tins burning liquid from the Heart of the Father is so powerful that it penetrates into the very bone-marrow, the brain, and; the heart of man, transforming him from within into the image of the Son. God’s power is not limited to external persuasion. The Creator purifies and transforms from the center of man outward. Only Jesus, being God as well as the greatest of prophets, can baptize us by plunging us into the very life of God, which is the Breath and the Fire that drown us and purify us so as to make us one with himself. As Gregory Nazianzen declared magnificently: “Christians are heirs of fire.”

Leiva, Erasmo (2012-06-04). Fire Of Mercy, Vol. 1 (Kindle Locations 1746-1759). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.

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