the Epiphany of the Baptism of Jesus by John

Standard

The feast the epiphany is such a powerful feast. Though Christmas is that big day that is celebrated commemorating the nativity, it many times is looked at as a birthday. If Christmas is that day of birth, it is the epiphany that marks the day of understanding who that Child in the manger was. That understanding is what makes the epiphany such a powerful day. Within the narrative of that day in conjunction with the nativity gospels, there is given so much information on discerning who that infant was. Though that  day frequently focuses on the magi, there are others who face their own epiphanies of who Christ is, and through the eyes of each of them, we too can get a glimpse of who the Christ child is. There are the eyes of Mary and Joseph, those of Anna and Simenon, the shepherds, and then also those magi. Each of those had their own epiphanies on who the Christ Child was based on their experiences and knowledge. To each of these God was manifested in an infant, they recognized God in a new life.

The next epiphany of who that child was, comes decades later at the baptism Of Jesus by John in the Jordan river. Here it is a crowd that hears “this is my beloved son whom I am well pleased.” With that thy don’t just see who Jesus is, but they also take an active part in Gods plan. With that voice of God, and the clouds parting, they truly know that God both recognizes them and is with them. At that baptism they are given that choice to listen and follow him. To think about Christ’s baptism in the Jordan, isn’t one also reminded just a bit of Moses at the red sea? Though God conversed with Moses, it was his followers that had to make the decision to follow him into the red sea, and emerge in a new freedom on the other side. That decision and commitment was as much about Moses followers as it was about Moses. The same is true when those Hebrews crossed the Jordan into the promised land; they could be led to that river but the decision was theirs to cross it. In looking at Jesus baptism, one can see Jesus taking on his ministry, and one can also see those in that crowd making a personal decision to follow him.

In the Baptism of the Lord, the epiphany that the disciples experienced is described in three events. They are the clouds opening, the spirit descending, and that voice of God speaking to them. With that they realized that God had not abandoned them, though with life as harsh as it was they had every reason to believe that he had. In that baptism their God had returned to them, and again spoke to them. That was a profound event that they were witness to. The baptism though is more than being witness. Johns baptism was also about repentance and returning to the Lord. These don’t simply speak of witness, but they speak of action. In witnessing that epiphany at the baptism they are called to change, and they are called to take action, and they are called to follow him.

In reading the accounts of this event, there is one other point that can  not be missed. In this scene there is the Father present as he says “this is my beloved Son”, there too is the spirit that descends in the form of a dove which is that same spirit that descends on creation, and then there is Jesus son of the Father. In this Epiphany the Trinity becomes manifest as one God with three distinct natures. It is the beginning of a new testament. The path that they are being called to follow is truly a new path. Epiphanies of God to the chosen people occur throughout the OT, the burning bush, in clouds, as a pillar of fire are a few examples. They are common enough that there is always the danger of glossing over the appearance of both the Spirit and the Father, while directing the focus on the Son. The danger of course is missing this appearance as an appearance of the trinity. It is so blatantly obvious, it might get lost in plain sight. To the writers, they were familiar with Gods presence in the clouds and heavens, and the spirit as a dove was equally common  to their faith. The revelation of Christ as Son of God, and the Son of God as flesh and bones was their epiphany. That is the Theophany. It is that Theophany which is the central teaching of Christian Faith, and this writing very much points towards that new faith and new direction. On one hand a person can think on a passage and meditate on all sorts of things. On the other hand these texts are the basis of a theology and dogma that is quite well-defined. Neither should be slighted. The catechism of the trinity, and of baptism do have their basis in the testament on the baptism of the Lord.

Theophany: a visible manifestation to humankind of God

>a repost from 2014

Monday of the First Week of Lent

Standard

The LORD said to Moses,
“Speak to the whole assembly of the children of Israel and tell them:
Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.

Lv 19:1-2, 11-18

In the Gospel reading Mt 25:31-46 Jesus tells His disciples that when He comes in Glory, He will separate the people, just from unjust, good from bad, the goats from the sheep. Moshe delivers the commandment’s, Jesus says:

For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.’ 

There are similarities between the law of Moses, and Jesus message. Moses is the thou shall not, and for Jesus it is more blessed are thou who do. Jesus emphasizes the blessing, not the sin. Its the reward and not the punishment.

Think a bit about that separation. The separation of good from bad. Think back to Moses time, isn’t that what happened at the crossing of the Red Sea? Were not the just separated from the unjust? The chosen from the unchosen? Think back even further to that garden of Eden, it was a separation. In all of those separations, where do I stand. Which side of the sea am I on? I often wonder. I think of that Red Sea, and wonder am I the slave or free? I wonder where I am, but I need not ponder on it for too long. It is not where I am that is important, but where I am going. I am not stuck in the mud, I can move. I can change direction, and that’s not because of what I do or don’t do for others. It is because of what Jesus did for me. It was baptismal water that set me free, it gave me forgiveness and choice. The choice of who to follow, where to stand, and who to be. It was those waters that separated me.

 

a baptismal epiphany

Standard

Its another Epiphany. How many can there be? The answer to that question is three, and the second is commemorated today according to the new liturgical calendar. While the feast of the Epiphany had historically been on 6January, more recently that has changed. Todays epiphany is the baptism of the Lord. It is his baptism by John, it is when the heavens open up, it is when a dove becomes visible, and it is the voice of God that says “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” With those actions , not only is Jesus’s divinity revealed as the Son of God, but the vision of that dove reveals the Trinity. An Epiphany.

This epiphany is about the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, and that baptism speaks to our own. Our baptism brings us into the fold. Jesus baptism marks the beginning of His public ministry, ours marks the beginning of our journey as disciples. Baptisms and water are an important part of this day. Traditionally the Feast of the Epiphany (6Jan) is commemorated by the blessing of the Epiphany Water. A Holy Water. Baptisms begin with holy water , and often begin with the reciting of the prayers blessing that water. It is an exorcism of the water, and of the person. Many are familiar with the pouring of water from a shell onto an infants head, some are familiar with the baptism of an adult, some are familiar with a baptismal pool. All baptisms involve both death and life, it is a death to sin and a resurrection in Jesus the Christ. Death and resurrection. There actually are three types of baptism; water, fire, and desire.

After all the people had been baptized
and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying,
heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him
in bodily form like a dove.
And a voice came from heaven,
“You are my beloved Son;
with you I am well pleased.”

Johns baptism was one of repentance, and that is the reason did not need to be baptized by John. Jesus was free from all sin, and through His baptism He sanctified that water for humanity. His baptism prepares the waters for us so we might follow him. So often Jesus first words to the apostles were “follow me.” What were John the Baptists baptism like? They took place in the Jordan river and carried a message of repentance. It has been said when a person was baptized by John, when their head left the water that person either saw salvation or damnation. Think of that Baptist, who was a fiery preacher and a man of strength. Visualize John grasping a persons head and plunging it into the river. A second, a minute? One minute or two, how long can a person hold their breath? I imagine John knew how long to submerge someone. I can also imagine that person grasping for their breath like a newborn infant. Death to sin and resurrected in Christ. Three minutes with a head submerged, and three days in a tomb. In those three days Christ descended into hell to reclaim those lives trapped there. Death and resurrection. Water is powerful, as proved by the flood. It also is essential to life. It kills, and it restores. Holy Water. Todays Epiphany commemorates the Baptism of the Lord, it also calls us to ponder our own. This epiphany takes place around water, and in the next that water will be turned into wine.

 

 

 

the Baptism of the Lord

Standard

The beginning of the preparation for Christmas began with John the Baptist proclaiming repent and make way for the Lord. Today Jesus is baptized by that fiery preacher. This same baptizer declarers that he must decrease so that Jesus might increase. John realizes that he had played his role in preparing for the Lord, and in his statement about how he must decrease so Jesus might increase is his introduction on how one begins their life in Christ.It is in baptism that  we die to ourselves and are reborn in Christ. I think this becomes vividly apparent when one thinks of John baptizing in the Jordan. When submerged in the water the person must hold their breath. Man can not live for long under water. As we rise from the water our first action is that gasp for air so necessary for life. One can hold their breath only for so long. How different is that first breath from the first breath of an infant just born? In dying to one self the Christian rises devoted to Christ. This feast of the baptism of the Lord is precisely the time to renew those baptismal vows, to remember what our own baptism asks of us. This feast begins Jesus’s public ministry where he asks us to follow him, and that is the journey we begin with our own baptism.

The story of the baptism of Jesus is important too. It tells that Jesus did not need to be baptized by John because he had no sin. His baptism was not for his sins, but for ours. Jesus was not cleansed by those waters, but instead sanctified those waters for mankind. It is our sins that he is taking away. Might this be a good time to let our sins go, to grant ourselves the forgiveness He has given us?  In that story it also is important to notice what happens during the baptism of the Lord. The first sign that happens is that the clouds part, and to rephrase that is to say that heaven opened up. That is an important event as it signifies that God has again entered into our lives. In ancient times people very much viewed the heavens as being the dominion of God separated by the firmament, and those clouds parting is the firmament of heaven opening up. That is something those ancients had not seen in a long time, and the reporting of it in the gospels is to signify a momentous event.That’s something worth remembering.

The other event that happens at Jesus baptism is that they hear the voice of God.” This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased.” Again, those ancients had not heard the word of God for a long time, and that is something they had prayed for years to hear. Their God is again speaking to them. Jesus is the word made flesh, and it is that word that nourishes us as we journey with Christ as we rise from those waters. That word is the good news recorded by those gospel writers as they journeyed with Christ. Jesus public ministry begins with his baptism in the Jordan by John. This Christmas season ends with this baptism, and marks the beginning of the liturgical Ordinary Time. It seems to me that Ordinary Time is where we live as we again walk with Christ. With words spoken comes the reminder to listen for that voice while on that walk.