From pastor’s desk on the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord
From antiquity the solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord was celebrated right after the Feast of Epiphany. This feast is also considered another epiphany, that is, the manifestation of God in the person of Jesus Christ. It is God’s manifestation or revelation, for during Jesus’s baptism at the Jordan River something mysterious transpired. The evangelist relates on that (Mark 1:10-11):
“On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased’.”
It is the first reference in the Gospel to the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. The Triune God is present in the person of Christ during His baptism in the Jordan River.
The Baptism of the Lord also marks the beginning of Jesus’s public ministry. Our Lord Jesus comes to John the Baptist to be baptized together with all other people in the waters of the river. People, who considered themselves sinners, through public admittance of their sins and ritual washing by John, were made spiritually clean. All this was in preparation for the coming of God in the person of the Messiah and it was in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight his paths” (Isaiah 40:3), which John used for calling people to repentance.
The word ‘baptism,’ in Greek baptizein, means to be immersed or submerged under water. So John’s baptism occurred through submerging a penitent under water. It was not just pouring water, as we often imagine it, it was symbolic drowning as an outward sign of repentance. It really meant that the old self—the sinful one—had to die. So each man who came to John the Baptist had to experience the ritual of cleansing of his or her sins in order to pass from spiritual death to life in grace.
When our Lord Jesus came to John asking for baptism it was not that He needed the cleansing. On the contrary, as the fathers of the Church, early on observed, it was Christ who took upon Himself all the sins of humanity. St. Maximus of Turin comments on this:
Someone might ask, “Why would a holy man desire baptism?” Listen to the answer: Christ is baptized, not to be made holy by the water, but to make the water holy, and by his cleansing to purify the waters which he touched. For the consecration of Christ involves a more significant consecration of the water.
For when the Savior is washed all water for our baptism is made clean, purified at its source for the dispensing of baptismal grace to the people of future ages. Christ is the first to be baptized, then, so that Christians will follow after him with confidence.
As we meditate on the meaning of the Baptism of the Lord, let us recall our baptism and think what an amazing grace we have received. In the sacrament of baptism each one of us has been cleansed of the original sin and made part of God’s chosen people. However, we need to make sure that we do not waste this grace by our way of life. In order to grow spiritually we need to cherish the great gift of salvation, which the sacrament of baptism signifies. Indeed, we must cultivate the interior life by prayer and an ongoing repentance.
May the Most Holy Mary, the Mother of Mercy, help us to discover the true meaning of our baptism and to be faithful to baptismal promises.
Have a blessed week. Fr. Janusz Mocarski, pastor