August 27, 2016

Commemoration of the Baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch by Saint Philip

Baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch (Feast Day - August 27)


A Eunuch man questions the parable,
He is whitened, and the Ethiopian is born.

The Synaxarion of Constantinople designates that on August 27th we commemorate the Baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch by Saint Philip the Apostle, as recorded in Acts 8:26-40. This commemoration is probably due to the fact that on August 28th we celebrate the feast of the Venerable Moses the Ethiopian (330–405).

Saint Irenaeus of Lyons (180 AD) in his book Against Heresies (3:12:8), wrote regarding the Ethiopian Eunuch after his Baptism, "This man was also sent into the regions of Ethiopia, to preach what he had himself believed, that there was one God preached by the prophets, but that the Son of this God had already made His appearance in human flesh, and had been led as a sheep to the slaughter; and all the other statements which the prophets made regarding Him."

Acts 8:26-40 recounts the story of his Baptism:

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road — the desert road — that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

“How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”

The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.