a priest's musings on the journey

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Sermonette: God is with us: The Baptism of Jesus- January 07, 07

Luke 3:15-22

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. But Herod the ruler, who had been rebuked by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil things that Herod had done, added to them all by shutting up John in prison. Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the 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 Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

The remembrance of the Manifestation of God in Christ to the Magi and the Manifestation of the divinity of Christ at His baptism brings to a close the Christmas Season (although the “Christmas Cycle” will conclude with Candlemas in Feb). Although we in the West separate out the various events in our celebration of the Incarnation (the birth of God as a human being) and the Epiphanies (manifestations) of God in Christ to human beings, in the East they have been observed as one great Feast, called the Theophany, or the “shining forth of God to the world,” celebrated on January6/7 when God was manifested in Christ to all the world.

We celebrate today as the Baptism of Jesus; but, as the Fathers in the East reminds us, this feast day is much more than a remembrance of Jesus’ submission to baptism as an example for us. This day is a Feast of the Most Holy and Blessed Trinity; it recalls the first clear appearance of the Holy Trinity to humankind- the Son, clothed in flesh as the Incarnate God, stands in the waters of the Jordan, the Father speaks in an audible voice from Heaven, affirming His Son, and the Holy Spirit descends upon the Son “in bodily form like a dove” empowering the Son for the mission of God that is being inaugurated in the world through the Incarnate Son.

God’s mission in the world is grounded in God’s willingness, no God’s desire to be with us- to be one with us. The babe in the manger was born Immanuel- God with us, not only in becoming human, but also by living and knowing the human experience. In the baptismal waters of the Jordan, the Incarnate Son stands not only as God, but as one of us. As God, Christ sanctifies water and makes it the fount of our salvation. He enters the waters that have been filled with the pollution of our sins, and fills them with Himself- with His own holiness. He restores its ability to give life and transforms the waters of baptism, making the baptismal font the womb of the Spirit. As a human being, Christ enters the waters of baptism with us, as one of us. Although he is sinless, he stands there in solidarity with us- with sinners who God and willfully abandoned Him. In our stead, the second Adam submits to God and God’s will in obedience, and in Christ, to whom we are united in our own baptisms, we are all affirmed and approved by the Father.
More than that, Christ brings God to us, where we are, even at our lowest point. He stands shoulder to shoulder with us in our brokenness and woundedness. He stands next to us in our fears and sorrows, our pains and sufferings; He identifies with the poor and oppressed, the needy and the powerless and he announces that God is on the side of the oppressed, that God hears the cries of the poor, that today is the day of salvation “for all the people.”

So, today is one of the principal feasts of our salvation- surely as important as the Nativity and the Passion;

For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all , training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright and godly lives in this world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds (Titus 2:11-14).

Today the Morning Star has risen over all of us; the Eternal Light from Light has illuminated the entire universe, dispelling the darkness in our hearts and enabling us to see the very image of God right next to us, shoulder to shoulder with us, in the face of every person we see.
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 2:52 PM


i appreciate reading your insights on these very profound teachings of the Church. i understand your perspective though i am far from being a theologian myself.
indeed though our calendars may differ somewhat as may the theology at times, we share the same understanding about the nature of Christ's hypostasis which is essentially embodied traditionally in the icon of Christ. His divinity is clothed in his humanity, in icons it is portrayed traditionally as a red robe/tunic (signifying his divine nature)under a blue cloak (signifying his human nature). this is the essential understanding of the Holy Fathers regarding the incarnation.
in his Holy Theophany, the Orthodox church celebrates the hypostasis not only of Christ's nature in humbling himself in his human nature, yet revealing his divine nature through the manifestation of the Holy life-giving Trinity.
this is why in the Orthodox church the waters are blessed on Theophany/Epiphany to symbolise the bringing together of the natural and the divine, creation and the creator. Christ blesses his creation by humbling himself to become a part of the waters in baptism.
this is embodied in the troparion of the Church-
"When Thou, O Lord, wast baptized in the Jordan the worship of the Trinity was made manifest! For the voice of the Father bare witness to Thee, calling Thee his Beloved Son. And the Spirit, in the form of a dove, confirmed the truthfulness of his Word. O Christ our God, who hast revealed Thyself and hast enlightened the world, glory to Thee (Troparion).
Today Thou hast appeared to the universe, and Thy Light, O Lord, has shone on us, who with understanding praise Thee: Thou hast come and revealed Thyself, O Light Unapproachable! (Kontakion)."

thank you for your insight, i always appreciate it.
happy feast day to you and yours!
Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:36 PM  
I can't say more... But I'm very proud of you; you know I am.

Blogger Luiz Coelho, at 8:08 PM  
"...dispelling the darkness in our hearts.."

No doubt about it it, you got that one right!

Gracias Padre,

don Francisco Armondo Belize-Blanco de Ordonez Fuentes-Conjeo Jr.
Blogger Leonardo Ricardo, at 4:11 PM  

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