Plough My Account Sign Out
My Account
    View Cart

    Subtotal: $

    painting of men escaping a sinking ship

    Repent and Be Baptized

    Run to the gift while you still can, a Church Father exhorts us, that you may not only flee the fire but also inherit the glory.

    By Gregory of Nazianzus

    January 28, 2024

    Let us be baptized, then, that we may be victorious. Let us participate in the purifying waters, which cleanse more than hyssop (Exod. 12:22, Num. 19:6, Ps. 51.7, Heb. 9:19), and purify more than blood prescribed by the Law. They are more holy than the ashes of a heifer that sprinkles the partakers (Num. 19:2–4, 9) and brings a temporary cleansing of the body (Heb. 9:13, 10:4) but not a complete removal of sin. For why did they need purification having once been purified? Let us be baptized today so that we are not forced into it tomorrow, let us not postpone the benefit, as if it were an injury, or wait to become more evil, that we may be forgiven more, or become marketers and traders of Christ, or become vessels laden with more than we can carry, lest we be sunk,footnote the ship and the whole crew, and be shipwrecked in regard to the gift, and instead of having great hope lose everything. While you are still in possession of your reason, run to the gift, while you are not yet sick in body and in mind, and you do not appear so to those with you, though you are of sound mind, while your good does not depend on others, but you are yourself in control of it. Run while your tongue is not stammering or parched or unable – to say no more – to speak the words of your initiation; while you can become a believer, not conjecturally, but confessedly, as one not pitied but deemed happy; while the gift is clear to you, and not doubtful, and the grace touches you to the depth instead of washing your body for burial, while no tears are around you announcing your departure, nor are they perhaps held back for your sake, while your wife and children delay your journey and search for your dying words. Run to baptism while the physician is not powerless to help you, giving you hours of which he is not master, and weighing your salvation in the balance by a nod, and lecturing about the illness after your death, or increasing his charges by withdrawals, or hinting at despair. Run while there is no conflict between the baptizer and the businessman, the one striving for a way to provide supplies for the journey, the other for a way to be inscribed as an heir, when time does not allow for both.

    painting of men escaping a sinking ship

    José Fernández Alvarado, Nuevo peligro, oil on canvas, 1897.

    Why do you await fever as a benefactor but not God? Why do you look to the occasion but not to reason? Why to a plotting friend and not to a saving desire? Why not by your own power but by force? Why not with freedom but with constraint? Why must you learn from another of your departure instead of understanding it as already present? Why do you search for medicines that are no help? Or the sweat decisive for recovery, which could equally bring near your departure? Heal yourself before the extremity, have mercy on yourself, for you are the true healer of your sickness. Apply to yourself the really saving medicine. While you sail with the fair winds, fear shipwreck, and you will have less risk of shipwreck if you use the fear as a helper. Let the gift bring feasting, not mourning. Let the talent be cultivated, not buried in the ground (Matt. 25:14–30). Let there be some time between the gift and the dissolution, that not only may the record of evils be wiped out, but better things may also be written, that you may not have only the gift but also the reward, that you may not only flee the fire but also inherit the glory, which is granted to those who cultivate the gift. For to those of small soul it is a great thing to flee torment, but those of great soul seek also to obtain a reward.

    From Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, Festal Orations (Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2008). Used by permission.


    1. Here the same Greek word can mean either “to be baptized” or “to be sunk.” Gregory is clearly playing with this ambiguity.
    Contributed By GregoryOfNazianzus Gregory of Nazianzus

    Saint Gregory of Nazianzus (329–390) was a theologian, author, and doctor of the church.

    Learn More
    You have ${x} free ${w} remaining. This is your last free article this month. We hope you've enjoyed your free articles. This article is reserved for subscribers.

      Already a subscriber? Sign in

    Try 3 months of unlimited access. Start your FREE TRIAL today. Cancel anytime.

    Start free trial now