Along with honoring Saint Balthazar, the church also celebrates one of its moveable feasts today: The Baptism of Our Lord.
Falling on the first Sunday after The Epiphany, The Baptism of Our Lord honors the first recorded calling into ministry that the Gospel accounts have for Jesus. I say “first recorded” because, well, who knows what was going on in that head and heart that led him to the waters of the Jordan that day.
Water rituals are pervasive across religions. Judaism, Islam, Hinduism…all of them involve some sort of washing.
Christianity’s baptismal practice is a riff off of the Jewish cleansing baths. John (who, though Luke claims was Jesus’ cousin, was probably a rival street preacher and wandering prophet, of which there were many in those ancient days) changes the washing practice a bit, invoking repentance as an integral part of it all. The fact that Jesus takes John’s invitation has confounded Christians for thousands of years.
Why does someone who is thought to be sinless need to be baptized?
Rather than give an answer to that question (there are lots of thought trails you could follow there), perhaps it is enough to just say that Jesus, who is made of mostly water and trace elements (like all humanity) needs to wash like the rest of us.
The scene, though, is striking: the source of all creation bathed in the stuff of all creation.
On this Feast the church honors water, forgiveness, a golden thread through all faiths, and the humble bath as being holy.
It’s enough to make you think that, perhaps, all water is holy…
-art by Vladimir Zunuzin