St. Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church
Baptism and the Sweet Milk of the Word

 

Having just celebrated a new baptism of a child and looking forward to two more children to be baptized next week, let us take the opportunity to contemplate this great mystery of how a child is born and born again. The Holy Apostle Peter writes, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby to salvation; for ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” (1Pet 2:2,3)

See how “the great Apostle regards Christians as new-born babes. Baptism is a new birth, and a man reckons his new life from the time of his baptism. But a child new-born in the Spirit must be fed with mild food, as must a child new-born in the flesh. What food does the Apostle recommend for Christians? ‘The sincere milk of the word’. A natural baby is fed on ordinary milk, and this is an image of the ‘sincere milk of the word’ on which a spiritual child must be fed. What, then, is this milk on which Christians must be fed? The Apostle himself replies to this, when he says: ‘for you have tasted that the Lord is gracious’. That is, the Lord Jesus Himself, living and life-giving. Christ’s words are the sincere milk. It is well with you, my brethren, if your souls are fed with the words of Christ as with sweet milk, for your souls will be made to grow and be fruitful, and be ready for the Kingdom of God.

“Christ’s miracles are the sincere milk of the word. It is well with you, my brethren, if your souls are fed with this sweet milk, for you will be like the angels who, day and night, hymn the wonders of God.

“Christ’s Body and Blood are the sincere milk of the word. It is well with, my brethren, if your souls are fed with this sweet milk, for you will be made members of the living and immortal Body of Christ in the heavens.

“The victory over death of Christ’s Resurrection is the sincere milk of the word. It is well with you, my brethren, if your souls are fed with this sweet milk, for you will walk in the world as victors, and in the world to come will stand at the right hand of Christ the Victor.

“The whole of Christ, my brethren, is the sincere milk of the word. Let us desire this milk above all else, that we may grow thereby to salvation. This is the one food for salvation; all else is for decay and the grave.” (St Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic, The Prologue from Ochrid).

Our Lord Jesus Christ is indeed this sweet milk upon which we are all fed. And just as a babe receives milk from his mother, so also do we Christians receive this sweet milk of the word by which we are fed from our Holy Mother Church. Thus, from her, we hear the words of Christ, just as we heard today in the reading of the Epistle and Gospel. And we heard in these words of the Gospel how our Lord performed a great miracle – the healing of a man who was lame (Matt 9:1-8). Consider that this miracle occurred immediately following two other great miracles; the deliverance of the two demoniacs of which we heard last week and the calming of the wind and the waves which immediately precedes both of these miracles. From these three miracles we see the glory and majesty of our Lord as the all-powerful ruler of all creation. He rules over the natural forces of the wind and waves and calms them with but a word. He rules over the spiritual world, commanding the demons to depart from those whom they had possessed. He rules over even our own infirmities brought about by our sinfulness, healing both body and soul of the man who was paralyzed. There is no aspect of His Creation over which He is not the all-powerful ruler.
We are about to approach another source of this sweet milk, the great Mystery of our Lord’s Body and Blood through which we are united to Him. And we have just witnessed this baptism which is an image of the three day burial and resurrection from the dead of our Lord. Indeed we are well fed this day, having been surrounded with the ‘sweet milk of the word’ with which we are nourished.

Having been fed with this sweet food of our salvation, let us then endeavor to use it to our profit that we might grow as this newborn child will grow. She will not have to “try” to grow as something unnatural or uncommon, but rather her growth will occur naturally. It remains only for her parents and godparents to protect her and to guide and direct that growth, both physical and spiritual, so that she will mature into a young woman who will continue in her good growth to the glory of God. So also we do not have to “try” to grow spiritually, for such is within our nature as the children of God. As long as we remain within the care and guidance of our Holy Mother Church and within the providence of our loving God and Father, our growth will bring us to the full stature for which God has intended us. We only need to avoid stepping outside this protective and nurturing care by relying on our own ideas and opinions or upon the impulses and enticements of the fallen world, for this will warp us and alienate us from our God Who is the source of our sustenance and life. Let us remain, instead within the life of Christ, being fed upon the sweet milk of His word, held in the embrace of our loving Mother Church and growing into His image and likeness, living in union and communion with Him that we might be ready for the Kingdom of God.

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