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November 3, 2012

What Nicolae Steinhardt Wrote On the Day of His Baptism

By Nicolae Steinhardt
(The Happiness Diary)

March 15, 1960

Whoever was baptized as a child can't know or suspect what baptism means. More and more frequent assaults of happiness rush on me. You would say that each time the besiegers go higher and they strike with more power, with more precision. Therefore it is true: it is true that baptism is a holy mystery, that there are holy mysteries. Otherwise this happiness that surrounds me, embraces me, dresses me, vanquishes me couldn't be so unimaginably marvelous and whole. Silence. And an absolute lack of care. For everything. And a sweetness. In mouth, in veins, in muscles. Also a resignation, the feeling that I can do everything, the impulse to forgive everyone, a lenient smile that spreads everywhere, not localized on the lips. And a sort of gentle air layer around, an atmosphere resembling that of some childhood books. A feeling of absolute safety. A mescalinical union in everything and a complete detachment in serenity. A hand that is tended to me and an abode with guessed wisdom. 

And the novelty: I'm new, I'm a new man: from where so much freshness and renewal? It comes true, Revelation 21:5: "I am making all things new"; also Paul: "If someone is in Christ, he is a new being: the old things have passed, look, all things are new." New but unspeakable. I find only trite, stale words, those that I use all the time. I'm caught in the chalk circle of the known words and of the ideals subtracted from the daily d├ęcor. Madam Cottard of Proust, if asked what is her desire, would indicate the situation of a richer neighbor from the corner of the street: she wouldn't even think of becoming the duchess of Mortemart. Our ideal goes up to the very next circle or heaven. But there are others above, unsuspected, unspeakable, unthinkable. The thalassa* of Xenophone and the earth of Columbus. Baptism is a discovery.

* Ocean