the Epiphany of the Baptism of Jesus by John

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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

Holy Innocents

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At the time of the Nativity, they are those innocent children martyrs massacred by Herod, in his search and fear, of the Christ child. With them comes another Christmas revelation, and that is the Christian attitude towards Children. Herod’s actions two thousand plus years ago were nothing new, and in many parts of the world today similar mistreatment of children exist today. Might one of the messages of that first family be their attitude towards innocent children? Mary did after all say yes to that angel Gabriel and accepted her Son as the Savor. Joseph too decided against divorcing Mary, he listened to an angel and agreed to support her and her Child. Elizabeth accepted Jesus as Lord before birth. Jesus Christ in His teaching constantly asks that children come to him. While the Holy Family do see their Son uniquely as the son of God, Lord and Savior; I can’t help but wonder if that was not one of the characteristics of newborn Christians. Did they see hope and salvation through their children and the youth of the world. Was their view and attitude towards innocent children the exact opposite of those such as Herod? To look at today, is the Christian charism to raise children to their full potential as a  true means to give glory to God, and how does this contrast against those who view children as something to exploit? It is just one more thing to ponder while looking at that Nativity, when gazing on that Christ child. In looking at that Christ Child, can you see the promise of all children? That is part of the Christmas celebration, the celebration of children.

John, the beloved disciple

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Many of the icons of Saint John show him with a chalice, and frequently that chalice has a snake emerging from it. The imagery relates to a tale that the evangelist drank from a chalice poisoned by a snake yet was unharmed due to the blessing he gave that potion before drinking it.

The chalice is an important part of this apostles imagery, but I think only partially because of that story. It was John who was with Jesus at the agony of the garden when he said let this cup pass from me, but not my will but thy be done. John was one of the inner circle, witnessing the transfiguration. He stood at the foot of the cross with Mary when Jesus said behold your mother and behold your son. As that chalice held the suffering of Christ that John witnessed at the garden, he also held that vision of the transfiguration. He was in charge of protecting Mary, and of receiving her guidance and wisdom. Mary is that model of the Church, and the one who carried the Christ. Hers was the faith that proclaimed the greatness of the Lord at the incarnation, and the one who maintained that faith throughout Jesus ministry. Hers was the message of Gods joy, and when Jesus said behold your Mother; that joy was placed in charge of John. In a way that chalice that is associated with John is not simply the poisoned cup, but is also that cup of Christ’s suffering, and of the Joy signified through wine.
It is the chalice that contains the messages of Mary, as mother of the Church. It is a symbol, of apostolic succession as the priesthood, and can rightly be looked at as a combined symbol of the ministry Christ’s Church. Johns symbol, that chalice reminds one of that saints ministry role in the Church as a guardian of knowledge, and as teacher. In the Christmas narrative, Jesus is told of being laid in a manger. Later in the story, he will take wine and pour it in a chalice  and say this is my blood. That is the chalice that John holds. The Christmas narrative tells of the birth of Christ, Johns story reminds us of the reason. The manger held the body, and the chalice holds the blood.

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Gaudette (third Sunday, advent)

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Here is a lightly read post from several years back
Rejoice is the underlying theme of the third Sunday of Advent as it is the pivot of this season where the mood shifts from waiting to a joyful anticipation. To take from some of the earlier readings of the week; it is that joy of the lost sheep knowing that the Shepard is coming to free him from the thickets, and it is the Joyful knowledge announced to the flock that they have not been abandoned even though at times they feel alone. In John the Baptists asking if Christ is the one, or should they expect another; it is the Joy of Christ’s Yes! To feel the full power of the Rejoice though, one has to look at the sorrow of a lost sheep abandoned among the thorns and the flock abandoned without its Shepard. The rejoice is the knowledge that God has not abandoned creation, and that God does come to those in trouble. This third Sunday of Advent can highlight a joyful expectation when faced with a feeling of hopeless abandonment. An illustration comes with first verse of a popular hymn that begins to make its appearance on this Sunday:
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
R: Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel,
shall come to thee o Israel !

To the ancient Jews that exile was the Babylonian exile, though for anyone today exile is many things; from financial abandonment, to the exile of an outcast of society, to the battlefield solder and returning veteran, or a person struggling with illness and handicap, or those struggling through relationships, homelessness, drug addiction. The list is great. These or any of the many life struggles, often lead  to isolation; and a persons outlook indeed turns to Joy when those people know that someone cares. Perhaps one of the lessons of Christmas is to give someone abandoned in life a reason to rejoice? There is rejoicing in knowing that you are not abandoned, Christmas is that Joy in knowing that God does not abandon us. If God does not abandon us, should we abandon others? In this season of merchants gifts, here is one of Gods gifts to us, specifically Gods concern for us, and perhaps that gift should be passed on to others? Might a command of this third Sunday be to seek out one of the lost sheep of our society? Emmanuel after all means God is with us. God does not abandon us. Rejoice, and give another a reason to do the same.

Immaculate Mary (the Patroness of the United States), Juan Diego, and the Lost Sheep

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Here is a lightly read post from a few years back :

Sometimes what I find interesting is the clustering of readings, and saints, and seasons, memorials and feast days. It is looking at the liturgical calendar not as disconnected days, but as a continuous celebration. Yesterday it was the feast if the Immaculate Conception, today Juan Diego, and today the gospel of Jesus going for the lost sheep.

For the Immaculate Conception, I can ponder its teaching of Mary conceived without the stain of original sin, and I can think of Mary as the Patron of a new “immaculate world.” Mary, the model of the new Eve is also patron of a New World. Into that New World comes the European missionaries who carry Christ across the seas, as Mary carried Christ in her womb. The fruit of those missionaries is Juan Diego, and through Juan comes a new title for Mary that is Our Lady of Guadalupe.

It is Immaculate Mary that is the model for Church, and it is that Church brings her Son to this new world. In that lies a mission, the Churches evangelical mission, and a responsibility; to bring Christ as Mary did which is to serve God and not our individual selfish needs. Immaculate Mary is indeed born without sin.

In thinking of that Immaculate Mary and the journey to the new world, I can also ponder in the back of my mind Jesus going after the lost sheep. In His journey for these sheep, many times he too journeyed by boat across the Sea of Galilee where he cured many, and conquered many demons. To go back to the boats of Europe sailing to the new world, I think did their mission emulate Jesus’s and did they faithfully follow the guidance of Immaculate Mary? That’s a complicated question, but in many ways they did work under the guidance of Mary of that title and many times they did not. Man is sinful, and bears that burden of original sin. Many times they brought their demons rather than chase them out, it’s the sinful nature of man.

The counter argument then is this; was the New World Immaculate before those Christian explorers arrived? Again, one for the scholars but I would guess not; they too were human and bore that stain of original sin. And then there is Juan Diego, caught between both those worlds who discovers Mary, Immaculate Mary in Our Lady of Guadalupe. Jesus saved a sheep through the intercession of his Mother. I wonder then as those Europeans who entered this New World, I wonder how many of them were brought salvation anew through their encounters with people like Juan Diego? It’s a ramble, and a journey. The truth though is that Immaculate Mary does the journey with us. She is present in the Old and the New World, and ever Immaculate to guide us on our little rambles through life.