The Holy Spirit renews us
in baptism through his godhead, which he shares with the Father and the
Son. Finding us in a state of deformity, the Spirit restores our original
beauty and fills us with his grace, leaving no room for anything unworthy
of our love. The Spirit frees us from sin and death, and changes us from
the earthly humans we were, men of dust and ashes, into spiritual humans,
sharers in the divine glory, sons and heirs of God the Father who bear
a likeness to the Son and are his co-heirs and brothers and sisters, destined
to reign with him and to share his glory. In place of earth the Spirit
reopens heaven to us and gladly admits us into paradise, giving us even
now greater honor than the angels, and by the holy waters of baptism extinguishing
the unquenchable fires of hell.
We humans are conceived twice: to
the human body we owe our first conception, to the divine Spirit, our second.
John says: To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power
to become children of God. These were born not by human generation, not
by the desire of the flesh, not by the will of man, but of God. All who
believed in Christ, he says, received power to become children of God,
that is, of the Holy Spirit, and to gain kinship with God. To show that
their parent was God the Holy Spirit, he adds these words of Christ: I
give you this solemn warning, that without being born of water and the
Spirit, no one can enter the kingdom of God.
Visibly, through the ministry of
priests, the font gives symbolic birth to our visible bodies. Invisibly,
through the ministry of angels, the Spirit of God, whom even the mind’s
eye cannot see, baptizes into himself both our souls and bodies, giving
them a new birth.
Speaking quite literally, and also
in harmony with the words of water and the Spirit, John the Baptist says
of Christ: He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
Since we are only vessels of clay, we must first be cleansed in water and
then hardened by spiritual fire – for God is a consuming fire. We need
the Holy Spirit to perfect and renew us, for spiritual fire can cleanse
us, and spiritual water can recast us as in a furnace and make us into
new men and women.
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Work of the Holy Spirit by Basil the Great