A READING FROM THE SERMONS OF ST MAXIMUS OF TURIN
In the Gospels, Scripture reports that the Lord made his way to the Jordan to be baptized, and that he wished himself to be consecrated with heavenly mysteries in the same river.
Reason demands that after the birthday of the Lord, at the same period of the year, even though a space of years intervened, this festival should follow, which I think ought also to be called a festival of birth. Then he was born to men, today he is reborn in the sacraments; then he was born of a virgin, today he is generated through a mystery.
Then when he is born in human fashion, his mother Mary fondles him in her bosom; now when he is generated according to a mystery, God the Father embraces him with his voice; for he says: This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; hear him. The mother therefore cherishes her offspring in her soft lap, the Father attends on the Son with affectionate witness. The mother, I say, presents him to the Magi for adoration; the Father manifests him to the nations for worship.
Therefore the Lord Jesus came to baptism, and willed to have his body washed with water.
Perhaps some one will say: ‘He who is holy, why did he wish to be baptized?’ Pay attention therefore! Christ is baptized, not that he may be sanctified in the waters, but that he himself may sanctify the waters, and by his own purification may purify those streams which he touches. For the consecration of Christ is the greater consecration of another element.
For when the Saviour is washed, then already for our baptism all water is cleansed and the fount purified, that the grace of the laver may be administered to the peoples that come after. Christ therefore takes the lead in baptism, so that Christian peoples may follow after him with confidence.
I understand the mystery: for the column of fire went first through the Red Sea, that the children of Israel might tread the hazardous journey without fear; and it, itself, went first through the waters, so that for those coming after it, it might prepare a way to pass. Which event, as the Apostle says, was a symbol of baptism. Clearly baptism in some sort of way has been carried out when the cloud overshadowed the men, and the wave bore them.
But the one who performed all these things was still the same Lord Christ, who as he then went before the children of Israel in a pillar of fire, now by baptism goes before Christian peoples in the pillar of his body. This is the very pillar I maintain which then supplied light to the eyes of those who followed, and who now furnishes light to the hearts of believers; who then in the waves of the sea made firm the pathway, and now in the laver strengthens the footprints of faith.
St Maximus of Turin, Sermon 100, Epiphany, from The Divine Office Vol. I