Sunday 11 January 2009

The Baptism of the Lord

Today the Christmas season concludes with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Although we are baptised to cleanse us of our sins and bring us to new life in Christ, the Preface of John the Baptist reminds us that something very different is happening here: "He (John) baptised Christ, the giver of baptism, in waters made holy by the One who was baptised." Today the Lord lines up with the sinners who hope for cleansing - a wonderful expression of His solidarity with us, despite our sinfulness. This day also prefigures the day of His death, when He will line up with sinners not to share their baptism but to share their fate - and thereby offer them His life. The image here is from the altar in the Cathedral baptistery. The Holy Spirit can be seen above Jesus and John the Baptist, radiating light upon the Lord. At the sides can be seen the banks of the river Jordan, perhaps designed to look like rocks. In the eastern tradition, icons of the Lord's baptism show the river banks to look like rocks, thereby implying not just the river Jordan but also the tomb in which Christ was buried. Perhaps something similar is being suggested here.