Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord


The feast of the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ commemorates Christ’s baptism in the river Jordan by Saint John the Baptist.

When Jesus reached the Jordan River, he joined the multitude and asked baptism of Saint John. The Baptist knew Him and, falling at his feet, hesitated, saying: "I have need of being baptized, and Thou, Lord, askest Baptism of me?" But the Savior answered: "Suffer it to be so now. For so it becometh us to fulfill all justice" (Matth. 3, 14). By thus prostrating himself at the feet of the Savior and hesitating to baptize Christ his Lord and instead asking Him for Baptism, he gave evidence that he recognized Jesus as the true Redeemer.

When Saint John had finished baptizing our Lord, the heavens opened and the Holy Ghost descended visibly in the form of a dove upon his head and the voice of his Father was heard: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matth. 3, 17). Many of the bystanders heard this voice, namely, those who were not unworthy of such a wonderful favor; they also saw the Holy Ghost descending upon the Savior. This was the most convincing proof which could ever be given of the Divinity of the Savior, as well on the part of the Father, who acknowledged Him his Son, as also in regard to the nature of the testimony given; for without any reserve was Christ manifested as the true God, equal to his eternal Father in substance and in perfection. The Father Himself wished to be the first to testify to the Divinity of Christ in order that by virtue of his testimony all the other witnesses might be ratified.

Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord


There was also another mystery in this voice of the eternal Father: it was as it were a restoration of the honor of his Son before the world and a recompense for his having thus humiliated Himself by receiving the Baptism of the remission of sins, though He was entirely free from fault and never could have upon Him the guilt of sin (Heb. 7, 26). This act of humiliation in receiving Baptism in the company of those who were sinners, Christ our Redeemer offered up to the eternal Father as an act of acknowledgment of the inferiority of his human nature, which, in common with all the rest of the children of men, He had derived from Adam. By it He also instituted the sacrament of Baptism, which was to wash away the sins of the world through his merits. By thus humiliating Himself in this baptism of sins, He sought and obtained from the eternal Father a general pardon for all those who were to receive it; He freed them from the power of the demon and of sin, and regenerated them to a new existence, spiritual and supernatural as adopted sons of the Most High, brethren of their Redeemer and Lord. The past, present and future sins of men always remaining in the sight of the eternal Father, had prevented the effects of this Baptism; but Christ our Lord merited the application of this so easy and delightful remedy so that the eternal Father was obliged to accept it in justice as a complete satisfaction according to all the requirements of his equity.

Christ was also not deterred from thus securing this remedy by his foreknowledge of the abuse of holy Baptism by so many mortals in all ages and of its neglect by innumerable others. All these impediments and hindrances Christ our Lord removed by satisfying for their offenses, humiliating Himself and assuming the form of a sinner in his Baptism (Rom. 8, 3). This is the meaning of the words: suffer it to be so now for so it becometh us to fulfill all justice.

Then, in order to honor the incarnate Word and in recompense for his humiliation, and in order to approve of Baptism and establish its wonderful efficacy, the eternal Father gave forth his voice and the Holy Ghost descended. Thus was Christ proclaimed as the true Son of God, and all three Persons of the Holy Trinity ratified the sacramental rite of Baptism.

The great Baptist was the one who reaped the greatest fruit from these wonders of holy Baptism; for he not only baptized his Redeemer and Master, saw the Holy Ghost and the celestial light descending upon the Lord together with innumerable angels, heard the voice of the Father and saw many other mysteries by divine revelation: but besides all this, he himself was baptized by the Redeemer. The Gospel indeed says no more than that he asked for baptism, but at the same time it also does not say that it was denied him; for, without a doubt, Christ after his own Baptism, conferred it also on his Precursor and Baptist. It was He that instituted this Sacrament afterward as He made it a general law and enjoined the public ministration of it upon the Apostles after the Resurrection. It was also the Lord who baptized his most holy Mother before its general promulgation, and He, on that occasion, established the form in which Baptism was to be administered.

Saint John was the first fruit of the Baptism of Christ our Lord and of the new Church, which He founded in this Sacrament. Through it the Baptist received the character of a Christian together with a great plenitude of grace, since he had not upon him original sin; for he had been justified by the Redeemer before he was born. By the answer of the Savior: "Suffer it to be so now, that all justice be fulfilled," He deferred Saint John’s Baptism until He himself should have been baptized and fulfilled the requirements of God’s justice. Immediately after He baptized Saint John, gave him his blessing, and betook Himself to the desert.

*Text from City of God by Mary of Agreda

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