THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD
The Christophany of the Epiphany is continued in the celebration of the Baptism. Luke’s account of the Baptism of Jesus is distinguished by his mention that Jesus was at prayer, a consistent theme of the gospel and that the Holy Spirit descended on him ‘in bodily shape like a dove’. He leaves no room for doubting that this is an external manifestation (Luke 3:15-6.21-22). The magnificent opening of the second section of Isaiah has at its heart the proclamation that the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and visible to all. The Lord will lead the punished exiles back to Jerusalem (Isaiah 40:1-5.9-11). Titus talks of the revelation of God’s grace as we await in hope for the Appearing of Christ (Titus 2:11-14). The pericope that is tacked onto this is about the power of Baptism – the cleansing water and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:4-7).
Chapter IV of Dei Verbum on the Old Testament is followed by one on the New Testament. Chapter V begins, reversing the opening two words of the Constitution- Verbum Dei, by stating that the Word of God ‘is set forth and displays its power in a most wonderful way in the writings of the New Testament…the Mystery was not made known to other generations has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Holy Spirit [cf. Eph 3:4-6]’ (DV 17). The Church has always understood the New Testament to reveal fully what is in the Old Testament. The famous dictum of St. Augustine is quoted in the last paragraph of Chapter IV – ‘Quod in Vetero latet in Novo patet’ (DV 16). The books of the Old Testament ‘are caught up in the Gospel message, attain and show forth their full meaning in the New Testament and, in their turn, shed light on it and explain it.’ (DV 16). The Christophanies of the Epiphany and the Baptism are not fully understood without the revelation of the Old Testament. The choice of God of a specific people through whom he reveals himself and through them teaching that salvation is for all is embodied in the person of the Messiah.
Canon Mervyn Tower