Sunday, January 11, 2004

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
is today.
"You know that God had appointed John, the son of Zachary and Elizabeth, as the Forerunner charged to announce to the Jews the coming of the Incarnate Word.

After a life given up to austerity and when in about his thirtieth year, John, urged by divine inspiration, had begun his teaching upon the banks of the Jordan. All his teaching was summed up in these words: 'Do penance; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand' (Matth. III, 2). To these urgent exhortations he joined baptism in the river, thereby to show his hearers the necessity of purifying their souls in order to render them less unworthy of the Saviour’s coming. This baptism was only conferred on those who acknowledged themselves to be sinners and confessed their faults.

Now, one day when the Precursor administered 'baptism for the remission of sins' (Marc. I, 4; Luc. III, 2), Christ Jesus, Whose hour had come to leave the obscurity of the Hidden Life and manifest the Divine secrets to the world, mingled with the multitude of sinners and came with them to receive from John the purifying ablution.

When we ponder on this thought that He Who thus proclaims Himself a sinner and voluntarily presents Himself to receive the baptism of penance, is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, before Whom the Angels veil their faces, singing, “Holy, holy, holy" (Isa. VI, 3), we are confounded at such a prodigious abasement.

The Apostle tells us that Christ is “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners” (Hebr. VII, 26), and here Jesus Himself comes asking baptism for the remission of sins! What is this mystery?

It is that in all His states, the Word Incarnate fills a double office: that of the Son of God, in virtue of His Eternal generation, and that of the head of a fallen race whose nature He has taken, and this race He has come to redeem.

As Son of God, He can claim to sit on the right hand of His Father and enjoy the glory and splendour of heaven.

But as Head of fallen humanity, having taken flesh, guilty in the rest of the human race, although wholly pure in Him, In similitudinem carnis peccati (Rom. VIII, 3), He can enter Heaven at the head of this mystical body only after having passed through the humiliations of His life and the sufferings of His Passion: Nonne haec oportuit pati Christum, et ita intrare in gloriam suam (Luc. XXIV, 26)?

Possessing the Divine nature, says St. Paul, Christ thought it not robbery to declare Himself equal to God in perfection (Cf. Philipp. II, 6.); but for us, for our salvation, He descended into the depths of humiliation; and, on this account, the Father exalted Him, giving Him the name of Jesus which signifies our redemption; in exalting His Son, the Father has raised us up together with Him to the heights of heaven: Consedere fecit [nos] in caelestibus (Ephes. II, 6). It is truly to prepare the way before us that Christ enters into heaven: Ubi praecursor pro nobis introivit Jesus (Hebr. VI, 20).

However He will enter there only after having, by His Blood, paid off all our debt to Divine Justice: Per proprium sanguinem introivit... in sancta, aeterna redemptione inventa (Ibid. IX, 12). " - Blessed Dom Columba Marmion, O.S.B. , Christ in His Mysteries


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