Wet naked people

Easter Sunday 2023

If you have seen the title and are looking for porn, I apologise for disappointing you. The title is about the practice in early Christianity to baptise people on Easter Sunday when those baptisms would have been done naked. After the baptism, they would be given white baptismal robes to wear, not before. Cyril of Jerusalem said, “Having stripped yourselves, you were naked; in this also imitating Christ, who was stripped naked on the Cross.” However, our cultural view of nudity, associating nudity and sex, has changed from that of the first century, or even of the Middle Ages, when the practice of naked baptism began to wane, so there will be no uncensored images of that here. In the earliest times, this would be public as well as early baptisms were conducted in running water, so therefore in a river or the sea.

The baptisms would have been mostly adults. There is something about the image of a load of wet naked people standing in front of a congregation that we can learn from.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

1 Peter 1:3

“What does the resurrection mean to you?” was a question asked a good number of Easters ago on the website Ship of Fools. I have looked but can’t find it in the archive. The replies were standard for a Christian site until the starter of the discussion said something like, “You are all talking of the meaning of the crucifixion, what does the resurrection mean?”

I can say what it traditionally means to the church, but even a quick look at the history of the church will see that tradition is an ever-changing pattern both reflecting and reacting against the culture of its time.

I can only say what the resurrection of Christ means to me, but even that is not static. I like to think of it as spiritual growth, but spiritual growth is one of those Christian compound verbs:

I am growing spiritually,
You are evolving,
They are overreacting.

So all I can say is what the resurrection means to me this Wednesday in Holy Week. (Yes, I’m writing on Wednesday.)

The resurrection means that what Jesus said about himself, God and the people is vindicated.
The resurrection gives us what we do not deserve, membership in God’s family.
The resurrection gives us new life. Christ is made alive and we are alive in Christ.

After the resurrection, Jesus referred to his disciples as his brothers. We are made brothers and sisters with each other and, importantly, with Jesus. This is more than the effects of the fall being put right, that is mercy in practice and God’s mercy continually, and continuously is still active to put people right. But the resurrection is about Grace: We get what we do not deserve, eternal life, membership of the family of God and becoming joint heirs with Jesus Christ of creation.

This is what those wet naked people represent.

Taking off all their clothes and jewellery shows taking off everything they have and symbolically trampling on it.
Being naked they are imitating Christ who was born naked, baptised naked, crucified naked and resurrected naked (the grave cloths were left behind).
Going down into the water and coming out they imitate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
They are then given new white clothes to show they are part of God’s family.

Christ is risen.
We rise.

4 thoughts on “Wet naked people

    1. Thanks John.

      Please note I am not suggesting we should bring the practice back. British people have difficulty separating nudity and sex, its our culture, and it’s far too cold to be naked and wet on a riverbank in Yorkshire in April.

      1. Yes. Not a good idea in this day and age. But the context was very helpful. You reminded us about what resurrection means. I think you blog deserves wider readership and I am wondering about how to do that.

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