Sunday, January 10, 2010

Meditation on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord


The Christmas Season draws to a close with the Feast of the Lord’s Baptism. Aside from being the start of the Lord’s public life, his Baptism at the Jordan portrays for us the very purpose of the Incarnation of our Lord. John the Baptist preached a baptism of repentance in order to prepare a people worthy of the Lord. Although he was without sin, the Lord Jesus subjected himself to John’s baptism at the end of which the Holy Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove and the Father’s voice was heard addressing him: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Some questions need to be asked at this point: Did Jesus receive the Holy Spirit only when he was baptized? Did he become God’s Son at the river Jordan? The answer to both questions would be negative. From the very beginning, the person of Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit. This is due to the fact that he is God’s only begotten Son and the incarnation took place by the power of the Holy Spirit. From the very beginning, Jesus has always been God’s Son. The angel Gabriel said of him to Mary: “He will be called Son of the most High.” If this were so, then why did the Holy Spirit descend upon him at the River Jordan? Why did God the Father publicly call him His beloved Son?

The Bishop St. Cyril of Alexandria teaches us that in the divine design for restoring human nature to its original condition, the Holy Spirit will be poured into our human nature “for otherwise our nature could not enter once more into the peaceful and secure possession of those gifts.” Christ’s coming into the flesh will be the appointed time for the Holy Spirit to come upon us. When this time came, the Father gave his Spirit once again and “Christ, as the firstfruits of our restored nature, was the first to receive the Spirit”. “Christ received the Spirit in so far as he was man, and in so far as man could receive the Spirit. He did so in such a way that, though he is the Son of God the Father, begotten of his substance, even before the incarnation and before all ages, yet he was not offended at hearing the Father say to him: You are my Son; today I have begotten you.

“The Father says of Christ …that he has been ‘begotten today,’ for the Father is to accept us in Christ as his adopted children. The whole of our nature is present in Christ, in so far as he is man. So the Father can be said to give the Spirit again to the Son, though the Son possesses the Spirit as his own, in order that we may receive the Spirit in Christ. The Son took to himself the seed of Abraham…and became like his brothers in all things.

“The only begotten Son receives the Spirit, but not for his own advantage, for the Spirit is his and is given in him and through him. He receives it to renew our nature in its entirety and to make it whole again, for in becoming man, he took our entire nature to himself. Christ did not receive the Spirit for himself, but rather for us in him; for it is through Christ that all gifts come down to us.” (Thursday after Baptism, Office of Readings) This is the reason why John the Baptist says of Jesus: He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. The mystery of the Incarnation leads us to Pentecost. He became man in order to restore to us the indwelling of the Holy Spirit by which we are saved: “He saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us…” The coming of the Holy Spirit shall mean that “(our) service is at an end; (our) guilt is expiated; (we have) received from the Lord double for all (our) sins.”

Christmas, which shall conclude today, means more than revelry and good cheer. It is the beginning of the renewal of all creation. God is creating the world anew. In Christ, he is sending to us his Spirit to renew the face of the earth. And so, the end of Christmas should find us not just sporting new clothes and appearances. It should not find us drunk with the spirit of worldliness. Rather, the end of Christmas should find us cleansed of sin and renewed in the Holy Spirit. According to St. Paul, this appearance of the grace of God “saves all and trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires, and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ…”

2 comments:

  1. Father Jojo can you comment on the so called baptism of the holy spirit that charismatic groups seek to persuade as necessary. They do this by 'praying over' the person to receive the baptism of holy spirit as well as charismatic gifts.

    I can name YFC as an example.

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