On the Baptism of Christ by St. Hilary of Poitiers

January 22, 2015

Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew by St. Hilary of Poitiers

5. Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John in order to be baptized by him, and so on.  In Jesus Christ there was complete Manhood, and so, having assuming a body as a servant of the Spirit, He accomplished in Himself the entire Mystery of our salvation. In this way He came to John: born of a woman, fashioned under the Law, made flesh through the Word. There was no need for Him to be washed [baptized] since it was said concerning him: He committed no sin, and where there is no sin, remission of it is thereby superfluous. Nevertheless, He had assumed both the body and the name of our created condition, and although it was not necessary for Him to be cleansed, the purifying water that cleanses us had to be sanctified by Him. He then instructed John, who refused to baptize Him as God, that it was necessary for Him to be baptized as a Man. For all-righteousness had to be fulfilled by Him through Whom Alone the Law could be fulfilled. And thus, on the one hand, He had no need for washing according to the prophetic testimony, though, on the other hand, He perfected the Mysteries of human salvation by the precedent of His example, sanctifying humanity by His assumption and washing of it.

Moreover, the plan of the heavenly mystery is portrayed in Him. After He was baptized, the entrance of heaven was opened, the Holy Spirit came forth and is visibly recognized in the form of a dove. In this way Christ is imbued by the anointing of the Father’s affection. Then a voice from heaven spoke the following words: “You are My Son, today have I begotten you.”  He is revealed as the Son of God by sound and sight, as the testimony of His Lord by means of both an image and a voice; He is sent to an unfaithful people who were disobedient to their prophets. As these events happened with Christ, we should likewise know that following the waters of baptism, the Holy Spirit come upon us from the gates of heaven, imbuing us with the anointing of heavenly glory. We become the sons of God by the adoption expressed through the Father’s voice. These actual events prefigured an image of the Mysteries established for us.