Gregory’s baptism

Daily Reading for March 23 • Gregory the Illuminator, Bishop and Missionary of Armenia, c. 332

In Agathangelos we find Gregory the Illuminator giving instruction, with fasting and prayer, leading up to “a new and wonderful birth in fatherly fashion, by his holy and liberal right hand; to give birth once again to everyone by baptism from water and the womb of the Spirit.” We read that he baptized the king and the people in the River Euphrates, and that the water stopped flowing:

“And a bright light appeared in the likeness of a shining pillar, and it stood over the waters of the river; and above it was the likeness of the Lord’s cross. And the light shone out so brightly that it obscured and weakened the rays of the sun. And the oil of anointing which Gregory poured over the people, floated around them in the river. Everyone was amazed and raised blessings to God’s glory. In the evening the sign disappeared, and they returned to the town. And those who were baptized on that day were more than one hundred and fifty thousand persons from the royal army.

“They went forth in great joy, in white garments, with psalms and blessings and lighted lamps and burning candles and blazing torches, with great rejoicing and happiness, illuminated and become like the angels. They had received the title of God’s adoption, had entered the heritage of the holy gospel, and being joined to the rank of the saints were flowing with sweet odor in Christ. So they went forth and returned to the Lord’s house. There he offered the blessed sacrifice and communicated them all with the blessed sacrament, distributing to all the holy body and precious blood of Christ the Savior of all, who vivifies and gives life to all men, the creator and fashioner of all creatures; and he liberally administered to all the divinely-given grace.”

From Early and Medieval Rituals and Theologies of Baptism: From the New Testament to the Council of Trent by Bryan D. Spinks (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Publishing, 2006).

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