The Theophany After the Baptism of the Lord, Conclusion 3

By Fr Jason Smith

Today we conclude our reflection on this event as found in the Gospel of Luke, 3, 21-22, which offers powerful insights into the life of Christ and our faith in the Triune God.

“When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

In the grammatical structure of Luke’s version of the baptism of Jesus, the baptism itself is pushed aside, and the narration moves rapidly to the public presentation of Jesus as Son of God, full of the Spirit. This was indeed the day when Jesus began to act with the power of one publicly anointed; that is, as the Son of God. It is evident that Jesus’ baptism and anointing is in view of his mission bound for the cross. He accepts the role of the suffering servant and humbles himself, becoming obedient unto death, even death on a cross.

The coming of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus, accompanied by the voice, moves us to contemplate the divine mystery of the Trinity. The activity of the entire Godhead is made manifest. The Father speaks, the Spirit descends, and the beloved Son is the recipient of the Father’s voice and the Spirit’s anointing.
Having been baptized and strengthened, Jesus is ready to embark upon his mission to bear the sins of the world and open the doors heaven, revealing the Father’s love.

To end, this passage from Luke can be seen from many angles, as one would study a painting. Indeed, it is a masterpiece created by the Father, each “brush stroke” illuminating an aspect of the mystery of his Son.

The different shades and colours, carefully chosen from the pallet of the Old Testament, reveal how Christ’s coming is the fulfilment of Yahweh’s promises to his people.

Contemplating the event of the theophany can help to form a spiritual life centred on the Trinity. St Catherine of Siena, in her Dialogues , presents us with an image using the same elements as the baptism of our Lord. The spiritual life is compared to crossing a bridge, erected between earth and heaven. The bridge is our Lord who, perfect God and perfect man, is our way to heaven. The water flowing under the bridge is the waters of baptism and purification; however, it is also symbolic of the strong current of the world, whose force bears the danger of carrying us away in its surge. Through baptism, we step out of the perilous river, onto the safety of Christ. It is the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, who enlightens us along the way.

Fr Jason Smith

Fr Jason Smith

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