Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Friday, October 12, 2018

October Rosary: The Lord's Baptism ~ The First Luminous Mystery



Our Father...

These Luminous Mysteries are a more recent gift to us. Mysteries of Light. We need more light, don't we? But the word mystery; what does it mean? "Oh, it's a mystery - something we can't explain - just believe it." That was the answer given to an inquiring mind years ago - or maybe still. No, we shouldn't just accept it, because that's soul-deadening. It stifles wonder! Like brushing off one's hands to be done with a project.

Hail Mary...

This old idea of mystery is like entering a pitch black room and we pat down the walls looking for the light switch. Rather, there is so much light in this room, I can't see. I might even be blinded by the light. That's the spiritually mature Christian understanding. "I can't answer that; just accept it," is spiritually lazy. We can do better.

Hail Mary...

"And the Spirit, like a dove, descended upon him." So from the start there are TWO divine visitations! Not only has the Son come to earth, but so has God's own Spirit. And this Spirit is creative, as the Spirit hovered over the watery abyss in Genesis. Let's ask the Spirit to create clean hearts in us.

Hail Mary...

"You are my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased." Of course, the heavenly voice said this of Jesus. But do I believe God would also say this of me? "Oh, I don't do enough. Oh, I don't pray enough. I'm not patient enough. I'm not...I'm not...I'm not." Some Christians think the Christian life is like a giant classroom and God is the big teacher who eeks out gold, silver, blue, green and red sticky stars for good, better and best behavior. Childish, heh?

Hail Mary...

At Christmas, Christ-God was made known only to a few shepherd-guests. But at Epiphany-Baptism (the two go together) Christ is revealed to all! He became known to the world at the River. And Christ and I have met - were introduced - in the River of Baptism. How wonderful is that!

Hail Mary...

The Holy Trinity is revealed as well in this River Jordan scene. God is not some mountaintop loner, all isolated from us. Here, the Father's voice is heard, the Spirit descends and the Son stands in the waters that wind around the planet. A community of persons. The most basic insight of Christianity is shared: God is One, but within God, in God's own inner life, there is a society of persons: community, relationship, friendship, family. And we're each soaked to the bone with that at Baptism. This is not a private religion.

Hail Mary...

Why the descending dove? After our fruit-tree power grab in Genesis, things went badly and God got pretty fed up with it all. Regret really. So God washed things clean, except for the righteous Noah and his family and two of every animal - to begin again. After the flood, the dove with the olive branch signaled it was time to enter a new heart-to-heart with God. Here, at Christ's baptism, the heavens were opened and God offered us the olive branch anew. No more flooding us away because of sin. Now the flood is God's kind mercy.

Hail Mary...

The river in this icon seems strangely placed. It suggests Christ having gone down into the water as he will go down fully into death. Here, Jesus seems to be stepping out of a cave into the birth of the new life he offers. "Make love your aim." 1 Corinthians 14:1

Hail Mary...

Western religious art is often very sensuous: voluptuous Madonnas, swooning nun-saints in mystical unions, pumped up Jesus. But icons never show human bodies in any kind of sensual or worldly way. In the Baptism icon it is clear that Jesus was quite naked. God has stripped himself of glory. This self-lowering is call kenosis. God has joined us in our sameness, without all the distinctions we create and fight over. It's a lesson humankind stubbornly refuses to learn.

Hail Mary...

The Scriptural text says nothing about angels being present at the Lord's Baptism. Though ancient liturgical texts do. This icon places four angels along the shore. Sometimes the angels are shown with a covering for the shivering Jesus. Their bowing from the waist, their covered hands signifies deep reverence. Father Rahner speaks simply of the New Testament angels - at Christmas, in the Wilderness, at Gethsemane, at Easter morning - as Christ's entourage. What a lovely insight.

Hail Mary...

Glory be to the Father...




4 comments:

  1. I love that you explain the icon through the meditations. It makes so much sense to look at it piece by piece. Thanks for keeping these going all month. I think it is important to pray together.

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    1. By the end of October there'll have been (God-willing) meditations on all Twenty Mysteries. I thank Holy Father Francis for the prayer invitation. And you, for joining the prayer.

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    2. Father, we look forward to the complete set of meditations. We are a small group of men and women from a parish outside of Baltimore, MD. And these meditations are spot on for what we need for Pope Francis' request for Catholics to participate in his world wide Rosary invitation. We have used your reflections before, but these daily posts are truly helping us to pray for the people who need it today. I pray that God continues to bless you and keep you well. Amen.

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    3. Greetings to you and your parish outside of Baltimore. Sometimes I wonder how the blog makes its way to folks - one person tells another, and another. Or maybe some just stumble on it. And thank you for your good wishes. I'll have you in mind as we continue to make our way. Tell others how we've joined the Pope's holy project.

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