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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

The Mystery of Christ's Baptism

To celebrate the Baptism of Christ is to participate in a salvific theophany. It is a surprising manifestation of hidden power. The heavens are torn in a display of divine gentleness and piety. The Word that creates and sustains creation, enters into baptism to save. The mystery that brought forth the world is revealed as the mystery that the baptized existence of faith leads. Christ's baptism is the archetype of all Christian baptism, a saving mystery in which the mystery of Christian life is revealed. The Eternal Word who transcends all time and space, and who as Alpha and Omega constantly fills every height and depth with eternal meaning, humbly embraces the limitations of our flesh in time and space, and desires to be plunged into the ambiguities of our existence. He has entered into a world of relationships that He does not surmount but makes perfect by accepting and submitting Himself, leaving space for imperfect recognition and misunderstanding, but only to protect human dignity and freedom. Into these earthly waters He obediently descends through the ministry of a reluctant prophet, not to be changed by them, but to purify and order them to heavenly things. When He raises up from those waters that He sanctified, the Spirit of heaven descends, not in a display of overwhelming and sensational power, but with the surprising gentleness of a dove. The Love of Heaven is descending on earth through every baptism ever after, not only onto the fortunate soul that has said yes to this unfathomable grace, but through that soul onto the whole world. All the such a soul needs to do for this to happen is to follow in the obedient footsteps of his crucified Master. Every baptism is this beginning of creation, the birth of a new heaven and new earth in which the dignity and freedom of human existence is re-established in the God who is Love. The voice of the Almighty echoes over this magnificence with exquisite tenderness. Not the voice of an angry deity impatient with a fallen world and not threatening to violently crush treacherous mankind in a display of hostility. It is not a voice of overbearing cultural and political power that is eager to put humanity under foot. Instead, in a moment that is pregnant with hushed adoration, the Father voice rejoices in this revelation of His Son: the Word who sews obedience into the difficult uncertainties of life to make them holy, the only Begotten into whose eternal sonship we are plunged when we enter these same waters with faith, the promised One whose appearance surpasses the hopes and dreams of every prophet who has ever dared foretell and prepare for His coming. Up from these waters into which Divinity plunges itself, Humanity is implicated in the joy of the Father.

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