St Caesarius of Arles: Are You Preserving the Sacrament of Baptism within You?

Feast of the All-Praised Olga, Equal-to-the-Apostles, Princess of Kiev

Caesarius_of_Arles_Square.jpgTHE PASSAGE of the holy Gospel which speaks about the pool of Siloe, beloved brethren, addresses us in particular, because we are freed from all the listlessness of sin through the grace of Baptism. Just as that paralytic whom the Lord cured was weak in all his members so that he could accomplish no good act, so before the coming of our Lord the entire human race was weakened interiorly in soul by the paralysis of sin. Before the coming of the Savior, the human race was so feeble that it could do nothing that was connected with faith and mercy or even justice. But just as that paralytic who was overwhelmed with weakness was lifted up at the word of the heavenly physician, so the entire human race which was sick interiorly in soul, almost even to the point of death, was recalled to its former state of health at the coming of our Lord and Savior. Now the couch on which that paralytic lay typified the human body, while the paralytic himself prefigured the soul. For just as that paralytic lay on the couch in a weakened condition, so also the soul of man reposed languid in his body. But what did our Lord, the physician and Savior, say to him? “Rise,” He said, “take up thy pallet and walk” (1 Jn. 5.8). What does this mean, take up thy pallet, except carry and govern your body? Conduct that which carried you: for when you were under the dominion of sin your flesh first carried you to evil, but now since grace is in control you conduct and direct your body to what is good. In the wrong and wicked order your flesh was first in control and the soul served, but now through the mercy of Christ the soul holds sway and the flesh is subject to it in servitude. “Rise, take up thy pallet and go into thy house” (Jn. 5.8). When you were thrown out of your house, that is, out of the land of paradise at the intervention of sin, your flesh hurled you down into the world. But now through the gift of divine mercy take up your pallet and in every good work govern your little body, and return to your house, that is, return to eternal life on the path of justice. Before sin our house was eternal life, and from it we were thrown into the exile of this world. Therefore, when you hear it said to the paralytic: “Take up thy pallet and go into thy house,” believe that it is said to you: govern your flesh in all chastity and return to paradise, as if to your own home and your original country.

In the fact that many people lay in those five porticoes and only one was cured, the unity of the Catholic Church is prefigured. That pool typified Baptism. Unity descended and was cured; only one came down and was healed in the Church. What does it mean to come down, except humbly to believe in Christ crucified? For the human race which fell down from paradise through pride rises again by humbly descending in Baptism.

Therefore, dearest brethren, preserve the sacrament of Baptism within you. Avoid drunkenness as a pit of hell; fear greatly pride, envy, and vanity as the sword of the devil. Do not speak ill of another, because it is written: “He who speaks ill of his brother shall be rooted up” (Prov. 20.13). Do not slander, because we read: “Nor the evil-tongued will possess the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6.10). Do not bear false witness, for it is written: “The false witness will not go unpunished” (Prov. 19.9). Do not lie to one another, because of what we read: “A lying mouth slays the soul” (Wisd. 1.1). Do not retain hatred for each other, because it is written: “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer” (1 Jn. 3.15). Do not commit theft, and do not practice deceit in any kind of business. Go to church rather frequently, respecting and loving your priests. Pay tithes even out of your poverty, and give alms according to your ability. By telling you these truths I absolve myself in the sight of God and His angels. Moreover, if you willingly listen to the things which we have said and, with God’s help, strive to fulfill them faithfully, you will both give me joy and prepare for yourselves a kingdom: with the help of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.

—St Caesarius of Arles, Sermon on the Pool of Siloe

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