The crescendo of a symphony is its emotional peak. The crescendo of the Christmas Season is this weekend’s feast. It is one of the most significant epiphanies. The disciples of Jesus remember and celebrate his baptism. It opened up the significance of Jesus vocation to several major figures of our faith. There at the Jordan, John clarified his role as the herald of Jesus. The baptism given by John was preparatory for the baptism that Jesus would bring: John’s was with water, but Jesus would baptize with Holy Spirit. Imagine to be immersed in the Spirit of God. There at the Jordan, Jesus was identified as “my beloved” and “Son,” and from that moment on, he would be the living Word and Wisdom of God. In all his words and in all his works, Jesus would make known to sinners and saints, to Jews and the rest of the world’s God seekers, the love and mercy of God.
The “Winter Pasche,” was a second season for Baptism of adults for the 4th Century explosion of new Christian recruits after the great Roman persecutions. 300 years of violence ended, and new recruits came out of the woodwork. In our own season, reflecting on Jesus’ baptism invites us to reflect on our own. It was our first epiphany of who we were to become.
Most of us can remember our birthdays and celebrate them throughout the years. But how many of us celebrate, or even remember, the day of our baptism? Unless we received the sacrament as adults, few recall the details of that day when we, through water and the Holy Spirit, were incorporated into the life of Christ and his Church. But the church holds the memory, especially in the Eucharist and the immersion of our hands in Baptismal water when we enter the church’s doors.
The early Roman church to celebrate the “pascha annotinum” or the anniversary of baptism (Christening: The Making of Christians, Kevin Mayhew Pub., Essex, U.K.: 1977). A sort of a “class reunion” for the baptized, their sponsors and the bishop, at which they celebrated the Eucharist together on their Christian birthday. As we complete the remembrance of Jesus’ birth and baptism this year with the COVID pandemic about us and the violence witnessed in our nation’s capital over the past days, how might the memory of our Baptisms impact these challenging events? To be immersed in God’s Spirit impacts our thinking and our words. To think with the Spirit and the Gospel texts shapes words for which we are accountable. They can never diminish human dignity or incite to violence to accomplish their goals. We are after all the Beloved sons and daughters in whom the Creator is pleased.
Our annual celebration of Easter, with its renewal of baptismal vows, affords each member of the community a chance to remember and celebrate their belonging to Christ, their beloved-ness and son or daughter-ship.” Every time we pass the Baptism font at the great door of our Church and dip our hand into the blest water, we recall it. May it transform every day of our Christian lives … into an Epiphany. Not just for us, but for the nations and peoples about us. We long to have water fill the font again as the COVID virus declines.
Thanks again for all those who planned, decorated, ministered and cleaned up after our great Christmas celebration. Generosity and volunteerism mark this great community named after the mother of the Lord… as a community of the Beloved… all year long!
A gentle week!
Fr. Michael Weldon, OFM