The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is the end of the Catholic Church’s Christmas Season. At Christmas, the Church celebrates the human birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, the “Word made Flesh,” to Mary in Bethlehem. She is the Mother of God and, so, we honor her with a feast celebrating her maternity. Christ the Lord is made manifest to the nations, represented by the adoring Wise Men, in the Solemnity of the Epiphany. The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is a “second epiphany” revealing his divinity and mission, the “theophany” highlighted by the Eastern Catholic Church.
Although celebrated within the Christmas liturgical cycle, the event commemorated in this feast is separated from Christ’s Birth in Bethlehem by many years. Jesus is an adult at this point, meeting John the Baptist and submitting himself to John’s baptism in the Jordan River. Here, in dramatic fashion, Jesus is revealed again as the Son of God the Father whose voice could be heard identifying him as such with the Holy Spirit descending upon him in the form of a dove. At his baptism, we witness God’s nature as the Holy Trinity before our very eyes. God made man, plunges into the waters of the Jordan and emerges – the “Beloved Son” – commencing his Divine Mission and his journey to Jerusalem where that Mission would be fulfilled on the Cross. As his baptism completes the true meaning and revelation of Christmas, it is fitting that the Church sees this feast as the completion of the Christmas Season.
Let us pray: Almighty and ever-living God, who, when Christ had been baptized in the River Jordan and as the Holy Spirit descended upon him, solemnly declared him your Beloved Son, grant that your children by adoption, reborn of water and the Holy Spirit, may always be pleasing to you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who, lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.