Seasons of the Soul : The Mystical Journey Epiphany I The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan
The Voice of the Lord is heard above the waters. Psalm 29:3 And a voice came from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son, with thee I am well pleased.” Mark 1:11
This week we offer two prompts for personal meditation. Humility continues the Christmas theme of Word made Flesh: the Christ humbled in humanity to bring us toward divinity. We pray our way into this attribute: grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity.
The second prompt invites you to reflect upon baptismal water itself - as life, as death, as healing, refreshment. Many liturgical churches will have a ceremony of the renewal of Baptismal vows this Sunday.We hope your reflections may prove beneficial in personal preparation for Sunday’s Eucharist.
Meditation Prompts: HUMILITY Jesus and John the Baptist
And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy." Luke 1:41-4
Referring to John the Baptist and Jesus at the Baptism.
On both sides there is great humility … "Suffer it to be so now," says the Lord, "For thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness." John acquiesced and obeyed; he baptized the Lamb of God, and washed the waters.It was we who were cleansed, not He; for we know that the waters were cleansed in order that we might be washed by them. - Bernard of ClairveauxIn Epiphania Domini I.6-7
What was the life of Christ but a perpetual humiliation?Vincent de Paul
"Today the Lord comes to be baptized, so that humankind may be lifted up; today the one who never has to bow inclines himself before his servant so that he may release our chains; Today we have acquired the kingdom of heaven: indeed, the kingdom of heaven that has no end. excerpt, Orthodox Liturgy, Feast of the Theophany
Do you wish to rise?Begin by descending. Do you plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? First lay the foundation on humility. - Augustine
Lift up your heart to God with a humble impulse of love… - Cloud of Unknowing
O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature:Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (collect for the Second Sunday of Christmas)
Baptism, Unknown, Illustrator of Petrus Comestor's "Bible Historiale", France, 1372
Fourth Century Cappadocian Fathers on the Epiphany/Baptism and the Soul
The holy day of lights, to which we have come and which we are celebrating today, has for its origin the baptism of my Christ, the true Light that lightens everyone coming into the world, and effects my purification…. It is a season of new birth: let us be born again!We duly celebrated at his birth – I, the one who presided at the feast, and you, and all that is in the world and above the world.With the star we ran, with the magi we worshiped, with the shepherds we were enlightened, with the angels we glorified him with Simeon we took him up in his arms, and with the chaste and aged Anna we made our responsive confession…. Now we come to another of Christ’s acts and another mystery…. The Spirit bears witness to his Godhead, for he descends upon one that is like him, as does the voice from heaven…. Let us venerate today the baptism of Christ. - Gregory of Nazianzus (A Christmas Sourcebook p.138 Liturgy Training Publications)
Leave the desert, that is to say, sin.Cross the Jordan.Hasten toward life according to Christ, toward the earth which bears the fruits of joy, where run, according to the promise, streams of milk and honey.Overthrow Jericho, the old dwelling-place, do not leave it fortified.All these things are a figure (typos) of ourselves.All are prefigurations of realities which now are made manifest. -Gregory of Nyssa (quoted by Adrian Nocent O.S.B.The Liturgical Year: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany) p.279
Meditation Prompts: WATER
O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you, as in a barren and dry land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1
The Father is the Spring, the son is called the stream and we are said to drink the spirit. - AthanasiusAd Serapionem 1:9 Symbolism: Referencing the teachings of the Church Fathers – (Water) possessed of itself a cleansing property and for this further reason was regarded as holy: hence its use in ritual ablution, where its properties washed away all offences and all stain of guilt.The waters of baptism alone wash away sin, and baptism is only conferred once because it opens the way to a new state, that of the new person. … The cleansing properties possessed by water gave it the additional force of the power of redemption.Immersion was regenerative, it effected a rebirth in the sense of its being simultaneously alive and dead.Water wipes out what has gone before, since it restores the individual to a fresh condition.Immersion is like Christ’s entombment.He came to life again after descending into the bowels of the Earth.Water is the symbol of regeneration and the waters of baptism lead explicitly to being ‘born again’ (John 3:3-7).They are the means of initiation.The Shepherd of Hermes speaks of those ‘who go down into the waters dead and come up again alive.’ - The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols, Chevalier & Gheerbrant p.1084
Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking.Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” Mark 10:38
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. - Paul, Letter to the Romans 6:3-4
Short Tour of Icon Jesus immersed in water; naked, humble, vulnerable in his humanity, but he is also the new Adam. The water as tomb and womb pre-figures the crucifixion and resurrection. Sometimes the chasm-look of the water is interpreted as the descent into hell. John the Baptist, at one with the landscape of the desert, completely dependant upon God, humbles himself to baptize the Messiah. Angels, reminiscent of the Trinity (often there are three rather than four in this template), but postures also suggest receiving Christ, as in the Eucharist, hands veiled in respect.
Collect for the First Sunday after the Epiphany: The Baptism of our Lord
Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.