Baptism of Christ, Sunday, January 9, Eucharist at 11 a.m., followed by refreshments, which will have to be taken outside because of the risk posed by the Omicron variant.
The 11 am Eucharist at Holy Trinity Nice will as usual be broadcast. To join the broadcast service click here to go to the website page where you can access it live or later.
The service booklet can also be downloaded by clicking here.
Friday, January 14, Study Group at 3 pm. This meets via Zoom. Please email Fr Peter to join.
Baptism of Christ
When you want to be married in a Church of England parish church you have to complete a banns application form, which includes a question about whether you have been baptised. I remember doing this with a couple and the groom wasn’t sure that he had been baptised. When he asked his parents he was shocked to discover that he hadn’t been, although he had been a member of our church choir as a boy.
As it happened, this discovery had a happy outcome as he decided to be prepared for baptism and confirmation before his wedding. So, an omission in childhood led to a significant adult journey. Also, unlike most adults, he can say that he remembers his baptism.
Generally, it is our parents who remember our baptisms. However, they will probably remember the exhausting months with a new baby, the effort to provide hospitality after the baptism, as much as the baptism itself.
The practice of baptism is modelled on the Baptism of Jesus, which Sunday’s reading from Luke’s Gospel describes. It appears that John the Baptist took a Jewish custom and adapted it in a novel way. Baptism was a ritual used by the Jews to initiate a Gentile into Judaism; it wasn’t used by Jews themselves.
Perhaps, John the Baptist’s use of baptism derived from the washing rituals of the Qumran community, with which he may have been connected. We may never know for certain. However, ritual washing was important among the general Jewish community at the time of Jesus. Men practised it weekly and women monthly, as a means of removing spiritual impurity and sin. Orthodox Jews continue this to the present day and when a new synagogue is built it must include a special pool (mikveh) for ritual washing.
So, we should conclude that when the Gospels describe the baptism of Jesus, they are referring to an adaptation of existing practices. However, the gospel accounts vary in their detail. Although John the Baptist is mentioned at the beginning of the baptism account in Luke’s gospel, telling the crowd that someone more important than he will come to baptise them with the Holy Spirit and fire, Luke does not actually refer to John baptising Jesus. Neither does Luke say that Jesus came up out of the water, nor that Jesus was baptised to fulfil all righteousness, which is how Matthew’s Gospel describes it.
The distinctive angle of Luke’s account of Jesus’ baptism is the way he draws us into Jesus’ experience. While Jesus is praying, the heavens open, the Holy Spirit descends, and the voice of God tells Jesus that he is God’s Beloved Son in whom God is well pleased.
Luke helps us to see that for Jesus his baptism marks the point when Jesus fully realises his relationship to God and receives God’s approval. And it is at this point that Jesus is equipped with the gift of the Holy Spirit to enable him to begin his work.
Since all three persons of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – are present, Orthodox Christians see the significance of Jesus’ baptism as being a revelation and manifestation of the Trinity (which they refer to as the Theophany).
If Jesus’ baptism is the model – the prototype – of all baptisms, we should recognise that realising relationship with God, knowing God’s approval and being equipped with the Spirit are true of everyone’s baptism.