Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Nativity and the Baptism of the Lord

Following my most recent blog, I had another awe-inspiring thought...this time about the wisdom of Holy Mother Church and the way she has ordered the celebration of the Church’s Feasts...
Christmas Season officially begins with the Solemnity of the Nativity (that’s right folks, Christmas doesn’t begin until the celebration of Vigil of Christmas on 24 December). And it continues up until the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord (which we have just celebrated this past Sunday). I didn’t realise it before, but these two “bookends” of the Christmas Season are actually deeply connected and ultimately speak to the same Mystery.

Allow me to elaborate...
The Solemnity of Christmas is ultimately about the celebration of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ through the Blessed Virgin. That much is obvious.

But what of the Solemnity of Our Lord’s Baptism? Well, to understand, we first need to ask why it was necessary that Our Lord be baptised. As I noted in another recent post, Baptism is our new birth into the family of God – our regeneration, or being born from above (see Jn 3:5). Furthermore, through Baptism, our sins are washed away (Acts 2:38; Tit 3:5). As noted previously, the Church Fathers taught that the baptismal waters were able to accomplish this awesome spiritual reality purely because the waters of Baptism were consecrated at the Baptism of Our Lord e.g.:
“From the moment that Christ is immersed in water, from that moment water washes away all sins." - St. Augustine

“The Lord is baptised, not having occasion to be cleansed, but that, purifying the waters by the contact of His pure flesh, they may have the power of cleansing.” – St. Augustine

“The water of baptism, had it not been sanctified by contact with the body of our Lord, could not purge the sins of believers.” – St. John Chrysostom

So, the Solemnity of the Nativity celebrates the birth of Our Lord into this world; and the Solemnity of the Lord’s Baptism celebrates the consecration of the water by which we are born into the Kingdom of God.

But wait...there’s more...in fact there’s a lot more. But, I want to share just a couple more brief points with the hope that they will inspire within us a desire to meditate more deeply, so that we can offer even more praise to God for His Infinite Goodness!!!
Why was Jesus born? The answer is to die...As the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen often said “Most men are born to live; but the Lord Jesus was born to die”. So the Solemnity of the Nativity also speaks to us of Calvary. And the Solemnity of the Baptism of Our Lord does the same thing. St. Paul reminds us that it is through baptism that we are crucified with the Lord Jesus Christ and raised again to new life in Him (Rom 6:3-4).

And finally...

At His birth, the Mother of Our Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, would no doubt have exclaimed “This is my beloved Son!” What did the Father of Our Lord proclaim at His Baptism? “This is my beloved Son”!
Oh the depths of the riches of wisdom with which the Lord has blessed His Holy and Glorious Bride!


  1. But as an Evangelical, a chunk of this would have been incomprehensible to me, since to my mind baptism was just a "symbol" of what had already happened to me when I believed. Therefore, Jesus did not "sanctify the waters of baptism" - He merely underwent baptism as an example for us.

    So hollow, especially when compared to Catholic teaching on this subject! No wonder that as an Evangelical I spent no appreciable time contemplating the Baptism of the Lord. When you've explained everything away as an empty symbol, there isn't much left to chew on!

    Thank you, Justin - once again, you have given us much to chew on! :)

  2. Thanks Renee...and you are welcome! :)

    You are right though, there is so much depth to the Catholic faith - a depth that doesn't exist to the same degree within Protestant Christianity. Of course, Protestants are not completely alien to truth; but they don't have the fullness of truth so they are not able to search the depths of God's truth until they come home to the Holy Catholic Church.