Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Baptism of Our Lord

And a voice came from the heavens, saying,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
We may oftentimes miss it, but aside from joy and gladness, another attitude which properly belongs to the season of Christmas is that of awe, awe and wonder at the long-awaited manifestation of the invisible God in ways which man had only seen veiled in the prophecies of old; amazement at the seeming audacity of how God could turn our human logic upside down by revealing himself not just through any emissary, prophet or king as at olden times, but in the naked reality of the humanity of Jesus of Nazareth. Before the Babe lying in the manger we stood in awe at how the Power which upholds the whole universe was held like a tiny package within the embrace of the Virgin Mother at Christmas; with the Wise Men of the east we prostrated ourselves in adoration and amazement before the Child whom Zechariah had prophesied to be the Light to the Nations; now, standing by the banks of the river Jordan, we gaze at amazement as the Father's voice himself resounds from the heavens, calling revealing Jesus to us as His beloved Son, in whom He was well pleased. 

In this great feast, with which we put to a close the season of Christmas, the revelation of Jesus' divine sonship is made to us. It is a relationship with the Father that is unique, since the Father has only begotten only one Son, the Eternal Word made Flesh. Only Jesus, because of this unique relationship with the Father whom we do not see, can call Him "Abba, Father" in the fullest sense that the word can convey. It is a relationship which also shows the equality of the divine nature that he shares with the Father: Jesus Christ is true God in the same way that His Father is God. Our profession of faith proclaims him to be God from God, Light from Light, true God from True God, begotten, not made, one in being with the Father..(Nicene Creed). This is one doctrinal truth that this singular event in the history of salvation shows to us. 

But for us and in reference to us this reveals another important truth: the fact of his taking our own human nature, of God being able to share our own humanity to the farthest consequences that his Divinity may allow, allows us to enter into this unique relationship that He enjoys with His Father. His entry into our human reality purifies us and makes it possible for us to enjoy this closeness with God whom we may call "Father" thanks to him.

Jesus enters into the waters of the Jordan, not to be cleansed by them, but to purify them in order that they may serve as a sign of our own conversion into the children of God, something which would be sealed with Jesus' baptism of blood on the Cross, the sacrifice which would send the gift of the Spirit in to our hearts, enabling us to cry out "Abba Father!" with the very same voice of the Son issuing from our throats. The Feast of the Lord's Baptism signifies the fact of our own sonship (or daughter-ship, as the case may be) in the only Son of God. 

Furthermore, the cleansing power of the baptismal waters of the Jordan point out to us the specific character of this sonship: to be a son or daughter of God means that we have to be holy as our Heavenly Father. Our baptism wasn't only meant to be an initiation, much less a mere social occasion. It was meant to be a sign for us that indicates which direction our life ought to take, and that is the direction to holiness of life. Nowadays we seem to regard the term with a certain negativity, either viewing as something strange to us, or impossible for us. This feast reminds us that it is far from being strange to us, much less impossible: for a Christian (and that is what we are) it is an inescapable demand of life. Let us bring back the sense that holiness has originally for us, that of an ideal, in fact, the primary ideal of all Christian life.

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