“Quasimodogeniti: Like Newborn Infants” (1 Peter 1:3-9; 2:2-3)

Second Sunday of Easter
April 16, 2023

“Quasimodogeniti: Like Newborn Infants” (1 Peter 1:3-9; 2:2-3)

Today is the Second Sunday in the Easter season, which means it’s the first Sunday after Easter itself. Like many of the Sundays in the church year, this one has an old and traditional title. The name of this Sunday, in Latin, is Quasimodogeniti. Sounds like the character Quasimodo in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” doesn’t it? That’s because Quasimodo was named after the day he was adopted as a baby, Quasimodogeniti.

The word, Quasimodogeniti, is actually several words strung together: Quasi, meaning, “like” or “as”; modo, meaning, “just now”; and geniti, “those having been born.” Quasimodogeniti, “like those just now having been born.” These are the opening words of the traditional Introit for this Sunday, Quasimodogeniti infantes, “Like newborn infants.”

Why is this passage used on the first Sunday after Easter? Why is “like newborn infants” fitting on this day? Because this was the first Sunday a pastor would be speaking to the new Christians who had just been baptized and brought into the church on Easter Day. Now he addresses them as “newborn infants,” just recently having been born again in Holy Baptism. Often catechumens would be instructed during the time leading up to Easter. On Easter Eve they would be baptized, and on Easter morning they would partake of the Lord’s Supper for the first time. In that context, then, how appropriate it would be for them to hear these words the next Sunday: “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation–if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

You see? The new Christians are encouraged to grow up in their salvation. They have just been given the new birth in baptism. They have just tasted for the first time the goodness of the Lord at his Table. Now they are encouraged to grow–like the newborn Christians they are, to long for the pure milk of God’s word, and so grow up in Christ.

This verse is taken from 1 Peter, and that’s appropriate for this Easter season. This epistle reads like a pastoral letter to the newly baptized. It has that feel. Many biblical scholars think that may well have been its original purpose: an encouragement to grow for those who have been given the new birth in Holy Baptism. The first verses of 1 Peter 1, the Epistle reading for today, sound that note: “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.”

“God has caused us to be born again.” “Like newborn infants.” This is baptismal language that Peter uses. Newborn, new birth. Jesus speaks this way in John 3: “born again by water and the Spirit.” Paul, in his epistle to Titus, says that God saved us “through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” Baptism is that new birth, the washing of water with the word done by the Holy Spirit. Baptism washes away our sins. It gives us new life, the always-being-renewed life the Spirit works through the word. It joins us to the life of Christ. Baptism makes us children of the heavenly Father.

Peter says all this at the start of his epistle. “According to his great mercy” God has given us new birth. We didn’t earn it. We didn’t deserve it. God gave it, as a gift. As little as a baby decides to be born, so little do we decide to be born again. God does the birthing.

What is this a new birth into? It is a new birth “to a living hope.” Before we had no hope. Our lives were hope-less. We had no future to look forward to, only death and the grave. Our sins had wiped out any hope for the future. Only the grim prospect of an eternity spent under God’s judgment. No hope, according to our old birth into this life of sin and death.

But now we have been given a new birth, and it is a birth into hope. A living hope. A life of hope. The hope of the life to come. An always-alive hope, never flickering out. A lively hope, enlivening our days, quickening our steps, lifting our hearts. This is the living hope we have, that God has birthed us into.

It is a living hope “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Easter hope. Resurrection hope. Jesus hope. Our new birth into hope is through the resurrection of Christ. If Christ had not been raised, we would have no hope. But now has Christ arisen. He is risen from the dead. Proof that God has accepted his death as the sacrifice for our sins. Proof that it all has been paid for by his death on the cross, in our place. Christ is risen. Sin has been atoned for. Death has been defeated, once and for all. Christ is risen, and he is the sure hope of our resurrection. Because he lives, we shall live also.

Our baptism joined us to Jesus in his death and resurrection. Baptism is our tomb and our womb. “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Sin and death–buried with Christ in that watery tomb. Life and hope emerge from the waters, now that we’re connected to Christ. That’s what you’ve been given in baptism. Now we are Easter people, new-life people, living-hope people. We Christians crave the pure spiritual milk of God’s word, and we receive the life of Christ in the sacraments.

God has given us new birth to a living hope and “to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” There is no probate court where this inheritance will come into dispute. Your inheritance cannot be challenged. There is no death tax or estate tax on this inheritance. It’s being kept safe for you, in heaven.

And you are being kept safe, in preparation for that day–you, “who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” You have this inheritance waiting for you. You all are co-heirs with Christ. His inheritance is yours. You have God as your Father. You have the rights of sons. You will inherit the riches of heaven. All this is yours, baptized believers in Christ.

So this is the new birth you have been given. New birth to a living hope. New birth to an inheritance in heaven. Now, Peter tells us, as newborn infants in Christ, “long for the pure spiritual milk.”

But this milk–what is it? Our translation calls it “spiritual” milk, but the word “spiritual” doesn’t actually appear in the original text. The Greek word has the idea of “logical” or “reasonable” or “appropriate,” depending on the context of what’s being talked about. In this case, the milk is that which is appropriate for these newborns. And, since we were born again through the word of God, that is the milk that’s suitable for us–God’s word. His gospel word, which not only gave us birth, but also is the milk that nourishes us. The word of God is that “pure spiritual milk.” And so preaching, teaching, the sacraments–these are the means, this is the milk, we need in order to live and flourish. The good news of the mercy of our God–this is the refreshing milk that leaves such a good taste in our mouths. This is the milk that builds us up in the faith, growing us into strong Christians.

Do you remember those commercials by the milk industry that were on TV some years back? The commercial would open with a kid, maybe 10 or 12 years old, saying, “Now I may be short and scrawny, but I’m drinking my milk, and in a few short years. . . .” Then you would see the same kid at about the age of 18 or 20, tall and strong and healthy. And the tagline at the end would say, “Milk: It Does a Body Good.”

Well, the milk of God’s word will certainly do your body good, as well as your soul. With this milk, your soul will grow strong in the faith, and your body will receive the one thing it needs to have eternal health and salvation. And that is very good indeed.

“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation–if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” The milk of God’s word is what we need to grow up as strong and healthy Christians. Not that we will ever grow out of longing for the pure spiritual milk. No, we always will have that eager desire. But with that milk, constantly being nourished on God’s word, we will grow strong and healthy in our faith. Our lives as Christians will be enriched and strengthened in every way.

How we need the word and the sacraments–constantly, regularly–to keep us alive and healthy in our Christian faith and life! So, brothers and sisters, long for the milk! Long for God’s word! Eagerly desire it, earnestly long for it, crave the pure milk of God’s word. Don’t let anything stop you. Run after it. Seek it out. Your pastor is here to give you the pure milk of God’s word. Go for it! Go to the Bible classes–we’ve got a new one starting up this Tuesday on Romans. Go to the services of God’s house! Discover the riches in the liturgy. Listen carefully to the sermons. Take God’s word to heart, and let it reshape your life. Run to this altar! Be refreshed here in the Lord’s Supper, and taste that the Lord is good. Be strengthened in faith toward God and in fervent love toward one another. This kind of hunger and thirst is the healthiest craving you will ever have. So yes, milk does do a body good. The pure milk of God’s word will do this body, this congregation, more good than anything else you can imagine.

“Like newborn infants”: Quasimodogeniti. Does the name ring a bell? Sure it does. On this day we are encouraged, “like newborn infants,” to long for the pure spiritual milk of God’s word. And I have a hunch you’ll be back to do just that.

Published in: on April 15, 2023 at 10:14 am  Leave a Comment  
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