The Christmas season ends and Ordinary Time begins with a celebration of the Baptism of the Lord. The rich decorations and hymns of Christmas cheer give way to a celebration of the adult Christ entering the Jordan River to be called “my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” by a voice from heaven.
It should be noted that “Ordinary Time” is a rough translation of a designation given to this liturgical season in Latin, which prefers “tempus per annum,” or, “time through the year.” This is the part of the liturgical calendar that does not celebrate any particular mystery of the life of the Lord such as Easter or Christmas. The color of the evergreen is used, to show the eternity of Christ.
This provides a good transition into consideration of the Baptism of the Lord. His baptism was the beginning of His public ministry. Although we may not think much about our own baptism, it is part of our ordinary, or ever-green lives as Christians and it sets the foundation for the public part of our lives as disciples.
When Our Lord was plunged into and underneath the waters of the Jordan River to come up again in the baptism of John the Baptist, it could hardly have been known by those who witnessed it that in a short time Jesus would be plunged into and underneath the earth in His tomb only to rise in the Resurrection.
Although John the Baptist cited the voice he heard from heaven as proof that Jesus is the Christ, he couldn’t have known at that time how signifi cant the rite of baptism would become in the life of Jesus, or in the lives of those who would follow Him.
Not only was the voice heard, but the dove was seen as a visible manifestation of the descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus. Traditionally the dove has been viewed as a symbol of hope for love, life, and union with God. All of this was realized in the life of Jesus.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life,” says the Gospel of St. John. God loves us so much that He became lower than the angels, taking on humanity in Christ. He did this to give us true life, not here in this world, but in the world to come, which is where true union with God is to be found.
Baptism is a rich symbol for all of us. We too enter underneath the waters, albeit symbolically by the pouring of water over the head, and we come up again three times. Jesus taught His Apostles to baptize in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Three outpourings of water symbolize the three ways in which God has revealed Himself and the three days that God the Son rested in the tomb before rising again.
The dove of the Holy Spirit flies over the head of all of the baptized throughout their lives. It is the presence of the peace of Christ which gives us the assurance that, despite the difficulties of ordinary life, we are called to an extraordinary life of plenty with the blessed in heaven.
That is true love!