Tuesday, January 12, 2010

On the Baptism of the Lord

On the Baptism of the Lord, which is commemorated by the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite on January 13, 2010, our thoughts are assisted by Psalm 29:

O give the Lord, you sons of God, give the Lord glory and power; give the Lord the glory of his name. Adore the Lord in his holy court.

The Lord's voice resounding on the waters, the Lord on the immensity of waters; the voice of the Lord, full of power, the voice of the Lord, full of splendor.

The Lord's voice shattering the cedars, the Lord shatters the cedars of Lebanon; he makes Lebanon leap like a calf and Sirion like a young wild ox.

The Lord's voice flashes flames of fire.

The Lord's voice shaking the wilderness, the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh; the Lord's voice rending the oak tree and stripping the forest bare.

The God of glory thunders. In his temple they all cry: "Glory!" The Lord sat enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits as king for ever.

The Lord will give strength to his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace.

When I was a student of liturgy in San Beda College, I joined a field trip which brought us to a synagogue in which we attended a Sabbath service. At a certain part of the service, everybody rose as the scrolls of Sacred Scripture were taken out of their revered receptacle to be placed in the lectern. As the scrolls were carried, the assembly began to sing Psalm 29. This ritual left a deep impression on me as I realized how God's voice, God's Word is very powerful.

Obviously, the Psalm speaks of how God's Word hovered the waters of the Red Sea on that night of the Exodus. He manifested His great power as he divided the waters in two so that the People of God may cross as they walked on dry land.

However, at the River Jordan, the Word of God, the Lord Jesus, emerged from the waters. Truly, the Lord's Voice resounded on the waters, the Lord on the immensity of waters; the Voice of the Lord full of power, the Voice of the Lord full of splendor.

Icons of the Baptism of the Lord would show Jesus immersed in water wherein images of sea monsters are shown departing from Him. On the eve of Epiphany, water is solemnly blessed in the Extraordinary form. This solemn blessing, which is influenced by the Eastern rites, includes two solemn prayers of exorcism, the first is a more general one and the second referring to the water being blessed. This exorcism expresses in ritual language what the icons express: Christ, the Holy One, went into the waters not to be purified by it but to purify it! He is the Lord's Voice on the immensity of waters, the Voice of the Lord, full of power, the Voice of the Lord, full of splendor.

Indeed, He comes to renew the face of the earth. He came to shatter the hold of Satan upon the created universe. He sanctifies creation with His presence. He is full of power and full of splendor. We have seen His glory, the glory of an only Son, full of grace and truth!

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