11 I indeed baptize you in the water unto penance, but he that shall come after me, is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; he shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost and fire. 12 Whose fan is in his hand, . . .
Gregory: John baptizes not with the Spirit but with water, because he had no power to forgive sins; he washes the body with water, but not at the same time the soul with pardon of sin.
Rabanus: As though he had said, I indeed am mighty to invite to repentance, He to forgive sins; I to preach the kingdom of heaven, He to bestow it; I to baptize with water, He with the Spirit.
Jerome: The Holy Ghost Himself is a fire, as we learn from the Acts, when there sat as it were fire on the tongues of the believers. . . . Or, we are baptized now with the Spirit, hereafter with fire; as the Apostle speaks, “Fire shall try every man’s work, of what sort it is.” [1 Cor 3:13]
Chrysostom: By fire he signifies the strength of grace which cannot be overcome, and that it may be understood that He makes His own people at once like to the great and old prophets, most of the prophetic visions were by fire.
Pseudo-Chrysostom: John’s baptism does not include in it the baptism of Christ, because the less cannot include the greater. Thus the Apostle having found certain Ephesians baptized with John’s baptism, baptized them again in the name of Christ, because they had not been baptized in the Spirit: thus Christ baptized a second time those who had been baptized by John, as John himself declared he should, “I baptize you with water; but He shall baptize you with the Spirit.”
Rabanus: By the fan is signified the separation of a just trial.
Scripture from the Douay-Rheims Bible. Commentary from St. Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea, Vol. I (London: Rivington, 1842).