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account ofChrist's baptism in the Jordan was itselfthe hermeneutical axis, the intersection of the biblical themes of creation, incarnation, redemptive death and eschatological paradise.23 An individual believer's baptism was to be an imitation of, and sacramental participation in, Christ's own immersion and anointment.

Such is conspicuous in the symbolically fertile liturgical and homiletical poetry of the Syriac tradition. Ephrem the Syrian links the Jordan, long identified by patristic authors with the 'cosmic waters' of creation and redemption, to the 'watery womb' of the Virgin, whence the New Adam, the one also acknowledged as eternal Son at his baptism, took the garment of the first Adam ('swaddling clothes') in order to bestow on him, not a garment of leaves but, with the cloak of sanctified water, an unprecedented garment of glory.24 'The nature of Adam's clay,' writes Narsai in the early fifth century, 'the Creator took and fashioned in water and heated in the Spirit; and it acquired beauty.'25 Baptismal and incarnational images from scripture are thus intimately connected in conveying the mystery of deification. Some writers connected Jesus' baptismal descent into the Jordan with his cross, burial, and descent to the dead to rescue Adam from the abyss, thereby aligning the individual Christian's baptism with the Lord's death (Romans 6.3-4).26 All of these were added to the well-established typologies of baptism as a saving Deluge (1 Peter 3.20-21) and a new Exodus (1 Corinthians 10.1-11).

Beyond the baptismal context, preaching in liturgical and festal settings reached out to draw the Christian faithful into the biblical drama. Gregory of Nazianzus in his Oration 38 (On the theophany of Christ), after waxing eloquent on the mystery of the incarnation, invokes his hearers to assume their role in Jesus' nativity:

Now then I pray you accept his conception [in the womb], and leap before him; if not like John from the womb, yet like David, because of the resting of the ark. Revere the enrolment on account of which you were written in heaven, and adore the birth by which you were loosed from the chains of your birth, and honour little Bethlehem, which has led you back to Paradise; and worship the manger through which you, being without sense, were fed by the Word .. .27

23 See Kilian McDonnell, The baptism of Jesus in the Jordan.

24 Ephrem, Hymns on the church 36.1, 3-6 (CSCO 198: 90-2); Hymns on Epiphany 12.1 (CSCO 187: 173).

25 Narsai, Homily on the Epiphany of Our Lord 370ff., trans. F. McLeod in T. Finn, Early Christian baptism and the catechumenate: West and East Syria, 182.

26 Narsai, Homily on the Epiphany of Our Lord, 250-69 (Finn, 179-80); Jacob ofSerugh, Memra 7,185-94 (Finn, 194); also Ephrem, Hymns on Epiphany 10.9 (CSCO 187:167).

27 Gregory of Nazianzus, Or. 38.17 (PG 36: 329-32); trans. NPNF 7: 351 (modified).

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