Friday, January 8, 2010


Coming as we are to the end of the liturgical season of Christmas, the final celebration is that of the Baptism of the Lord (traditionally celebrated on 13 Jan but moved to the Sunday after Epiphany—itself moved from 6 Jan to the nearest Sunday). The day after this celebration “Ordinary Time” and green vestments take over.

The liturgy on this day focuses us (via the reading from Isaiah and the allusion to it in Luke) on Jesus’ ministry as “Servant of the Lord,” the chosen one with whom [God] is well-pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit. Jesus is described in Acts (though not in this day’s excerpt) and in early Christian literature (for example, the Didache) as God’s pais, a Greek word that can be translated either as servant or child. This word picks up the dual nature of Jesus nicely, hinting at the later theological development of Jesus as 2 natures in one Person (what is technically called, in theology, ‘the hypostatic union,’ and which is affirmed more devotionally in “The Divine Praises” when we pray “Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true man”).

This is our Faith—the event of Jesus’ baptism marks the beginning of a ministry of doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him (Acts 10, this day’s 2nd reading). This ministry of healing and forgiveness is what we crave today, for ourselves and for the world. As we celebrate the start of that gift, here are a couple of short excerpts from Messiah, set to texts from chapter 1 of the Letter to the Hebrews but capturing the spirit of this day.

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