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By Deacon Keith Fournier

1/9/2012 (3 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The Word descends and begins the re-creation of the universe.

We are invited on this great Feast to live our lives in the "Theophany" of the God who is a Trinitarian communion of Perfect love. The Christian vocation, no matter what our state in life, is to reveal the Love of the Trinity to the entire human race in order to bring them to the Waters of Baptism into New Life in the new humanity of the Church which is Christ's Body. There, joined in Him we participate in His ongoing redemptive mission until He returns to make all things new.

One of a myriad of beautiful Icons on the Eastern Christian churches depiction the 'Theophany' the revelation of the Trinity at the Baptism of the Lord

One of a myriad of beautiful Icons on the Eastern Christian churches depiction the "Theophany" the revelation of the Trinity at the Baptism of the Lord

Highlights

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

1/9/2012 (3 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: Epiphany, Baptism of the Lord, Theophany, Christian living, Prayer, discipleship, Orthodox Church, Catholic Church, breviary, Liturgy of the Hours, Deacon Keith Fournier


CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) - In the Western Church we end the Christmas season with the Feast of the Lord's "Baptism in the Jordan".This year, through an unusual application of liturgical calendaring, it occurs on the Monday right after the day when Catholics in the U.S. celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany because it was transferred to Sunday.

In some respects, that is unfortunate. Why? because too many will not be able to attend Mass and reflect on the connection of these two great Feasts of the Lord's "Epiphany" - his manifestation or revealing  - and consider their deeper implications in the life of every believer.

Some of the most beautiful readings in the Office of Readings found in the Liturgy of the Hours, the official prayer of the whole church. It was formerly called the Breviary and was seen more as the required prayer of all Clergy, Bishops, Priests and deacons, as well as those in the consecrated life. However, since the last Council, this official Prayer of the Church is recommended for all Christians - and understandable so - once one discovers it!

The readings between what is usually a week between the Feast of the Epiphany and the Feast of the baptism of the Lord are profound, touching the deeper meaning of these feasts. Here are a few sentences from an ancient homily given by the Bishop of Constantinople, St. Proclus:

"At Christmas we saw a weak baby, giving proof of our weakness. In today's feast, we see a perfect man, hinting at the perfect Son who proceeds from the all-perfect Father. At Christmas the King puts on the royal robe of his body; at Epiphany the very source enfolds and, as it were, clothes the river.Come then and see new and astounding miracles: the Sun of righteousness washing in the Jordan, fire immersed in water, God sanctified by the ministry of man..."

The last time I excerpted such a beautiful portion from the Office of Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours, many of my readers asked me to help them to find this wonderful means of prayer. This excerpt and others are available to all of us in the"Liturgy of the Hours" 

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord  marks the beginning of what is called the "public" ministry. of Jesus. He was thirty years old. He died His redemptive death at Golgotha when He was only thirty three.

However, He also spent thirty redemptive years of life in what writers have sometimes called His "hidden years" in Nazareth's school, "growing in wisdom and stature". (Luke 2:52) Those years were not "hidden" in the sense of unimportant. It simply means that we do not find much about them in the Gospel accounts. However, they are rich with meaning, revealing the deeper truths of our faith and its invitation to each one of us who bear the name Christian.

Jesus, Perfect God and Perfect Man, the Incarnate Word, Son of God and Son of Mary, gave the same glory to the Father when he was working with wood in the workshop of Nazareth as he would years later when he raised a friend named Lazarus from the dead. From the moment of His conception, the Son of God recapitulated (to use a favored word of the great Church father, Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons) the entire human experience, re-creating and beginning humanity anew.

During those years, in the hearth of a human family the Son of God sanctified and transformed every aspect of ordinary human life. His redemptive and transforming work began in the first home of the whole human race, His mothers womb. Jesus was a Redeemer in the Womb, beginning His Incarnation as an "Embryonic Person", to use the phrase from the Instruction from the Holy See entitled "On the Dignity of every Human Person". From within the Living tabernacle of the Womb of the All Holy Virgin, He began His redemptive mission.

This child of Mary's was born and heaven touched earth. We commemorated that Holy Nativity just days ago. Some of our brethren in the Eastern Church commemorated it this week. At the breast of his mother, He elevated the already holy wonder and dignity of the vocation of motherhood.

In His sacred humanity he was nurtured, a sign of the beauty of the human experience of love, growth and maturation. He was raised by a human mother and father; and parenting and family life forever took on a deeper meaning in the domestic church of the family. At the bench of Joseph the carpenter; he learned the carpenter's trade and sanctified all human work as a participation in the continuing work of both creation and redemption.

The word "Epiphany" means "manifestation", a making present, a revealing. There is no doubt that even during those so called "hidden" years the plan, purpose and redemptive implications of the entire saving life, death, and resurrection of Jesus were being manifested and revealed.

They reveal how the ordinary becomes "extraordinary" when lived in communion with the Father. The "Baptism of the Lord" is also called the "Theophany", the manifestation of God Himself. Our Gospel at the Liturgy will recount the wondrous revealing of the Holy Trinity. As the Incarnate Word of the Father was immersed in the Waters, the voice of the Father is heard and the Spirit descends. (Mark 1:7-11)

The "Theophany" has inspired extraordinary reflection in the Tradition. Here is another excerpt from an early homily: "Therefore the Lord Jesus came to baptism, and willed to have his body washed with water. Perhaps some one will say: "He who is holy, why did he wish to be baptized?" Pay attention therefore! Christ is baptized, not that he may be sanctified in the waters, but that he himself may sanctify the waters, and by his own purification may purify those streams which he touches.

"For the consecration of Christ is the greater consecration of another element. For when the Savior is washed, then already for our baptism all water is cleansed and the fount purified, that the grace of the laver may be administered to the peoples that come after. Christ therefore takes the lead in baptism, so that Christian peoples may follow after him with confidence." (St. Maximus of Turin, 423 AD)

Yesterday we reflected on the "wise men" from the East who followed the light to the fullness of Divinity who humbled Himself to share in our humanity. From antiquity, the Christian church has pointed to this "Manifestation" in the river of Jordan, this "Epiphany" in the waters, as the event wherein the full plan of God for His Church and the entire creation was manifested or revealed. We are called to become a "manifestation", an "epiphany" of God in a world stumbling along in the darkness of sin. That is what we celebrate today.

The Baptism of Jesus manifests the very life of the Holy Trinity to the whole world and opens the door, through Jesus Christ, into a "communion", a participation in the life of the Trinity through Baptism into His Body, the Church. The waters of the Jordan are sanctified by the Son and now all water is sanctified. Just as the Spirit hovered over the waters of the original creation, the Spirit hovers over the waters where the Son is immersed by John. This is the reason why in the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches, the clergy often lead the faithful to rivers and entire rivers are blessed!

One of the first elements of creation created by the Father through the Son, is now re-created through the Incarnate Son. The Word Incarnate stands in the waters of the earth which was created through Him. Into these waters, through which the people of Israel were once delivered, the entire human race is now invited to follow Jesus. What was once the means of God's judgment and purification at the time of Noah, fills the Baptismal fount where men and women are delivered from sin and made new!

The Church is given new waters for her saving and sanctifying mission. The Trinity, the Communion of Divine persons in perfect unity, is revealed. In the great liturgical prayer of the East the Church proclaims: "When Thou, O Lord was baptized in the Jordan, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest... O Christ our God who has appeared and enlightened the world, Glory to Thee." In his baptism in the Jordan, Jesus is not sanctified for He is without sin, we are capacitated now in Him to become "sons (and daughters) in the Son".

The Theophany also reminds us that all of creation will be redeemed! As Paul wrote to the Christians at Rome, creation itself "groans" for that full redemption (Romans 8:28). This belief in the full redemption of creation, of a new heaven and a new earth, is integral to the Christian faith. Christians are NOT anti-matter. We profess in our ancient creed that we will await the resurrection of our bodies and life in a "world to come."

The Feast of the "Theophany", the Baptism in the Jordan celebrates the full salvation and sanctification of all matter as well. The Greek word for "Baptism" means to be immersed. Before it is all over, the entire world will be "immersed" in God and transformed. It will be freed from sin and made new!

Descending into the waters of the Jordan, Jesus, who shares our humanity, makes that living water flow with healing mercy. His Divine Life is now mediated through the Sacraments in the life of the Church which is His Body. The Word descends and begins the re-creation of the universe.

This is an ongoing work which will only be complete when He returns. We who are baptized into Him are called to participate in this ongoing redemptive mission. The public mission and ministry of Jesus began at the waters of Jordan. However, it continues through His Church, of which we are made members through Baptism.

We are invited on this great Feast to live our lives in the "Theophany" of the God who is a Trinitarian communion of Perfect love. The Christian vocation, no matter what our state in life, is to reveal the Love of the Trinity to the entire human race in order to bring them to the Waters of Baptism into New Life in the new humanity of the Church which is Christ's Body. There, joined in Him we participate in His ongoing redemptive mission until He returns to make all things new.

---


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