[posted on Orthodox-Lutheran dialog in response to some wise words by Fr. Alan Ludwig]
A bit of further meditation on Fr. Ludwig's wise words. I have operative within me two wills, not unlike our Lord. But in my case the two wills are not operating in perfect synergy. Rather, I have the will that strongly insists: "My will be done" and this will is ever seeking the gratification of the passions because it wants no part of communion with God. I have also within me the will that strongly insists: "Thy will be done" and this will is ever seeking the death of the passions because it desires to live in communion with God.
Baptism is the gift of death to the first will and the birth of the second will in me. The Baptismal life is the constant battle to live in both that death and that life, to live from the will that is in synergy with God and against the will that is not. So Baptism is both gift and unending battle.
And thinking about Baptism really leads me to wonder about the interminable arguments regarding free will in which I, at any rate, am convinced both traditions talk past each other. The Orthodox do not deny that God is at work saving in Baptism, no? Saving even the little children who are without the exercise of their will, enfolding them in His love and in His covenantal mercy. I am reminded of the words that Fr. Coniaris penned long ago in his little work on the sacraments, in which he provides the sample of a letter written by a Godparent to a godchild:
Today God has chosen you to be part of His family. Through your baptism, our Lord has come to you in the water and declared that you are His child and that He will be your God. A greater day than this shall never be for you, because today you have become one of God's saints.
As you grow in years, you will be assaulted on all sides by people who will want to change your faith in the God who has chosen you today. There will be unbelieving people who will tell you that God does not exist or that He has abandoned this world and left us to fend for ourselves. There also will be people who strongly profess Christianity and who try to persuade you that you must accept God into your life - as if you had never known Him or had ever been accepted by Him. They will urge God upon you as though He were some product you must possess before any of His mighty acts become effective for you.
Our dear Mary, because of what has happened in your life today, you will be able to tell these people: 'God does exist, and He has shown Himself to me by coming to me in my baptism and graciously claiming me as His own.'
Rejoice and be glad, Mary, for God has promised to love you always. Each day of your life, He will be with you through prayer and through the Sacraments of His Church. So we pray that God's Spirit will guide you as you grow in faith and live in hope.
Your Godparents" (p. 48,49 *These Are the Sacraments*)
When Lutherans object to the language of free will in the conversion of the sinner, they mean essentially what is objected to in that second paragraph; in Baptism (for children) or through His Word (for adults) God Himself is at work, imparting the gift of a freed will, planting within a person the "second will" spoken of above, the one that is truly freed because it is perfectly submitted to the will of God. What Orthodox and Lutheran Christians agree on is that the Christian life itself is the learning to live from that freed will which seeks ever greater union with God in Christ, and that the closer that union becomes the greater becomes the pain and consciousness of that "alien" will that still is active within us and from which we long to be completely freed. I think in that regard of the outstanding meditations of St. Ephraim the Syrian in *A Spiritual Psalter.*