Christ's Baptism Foreshadows Our Own

At first glance, the Baptism of the Lord might seem an odd feast. Since our Catholic Church teaches that the Sacrament of Baptism is necessary for the remission of sins, particularly Original Sin, why was Christ baptized? After all, He was born without Original Sin, and He lived His entire life without sinning. Therefore, He had no need of the sacrament, as we do.

In submitting Himself humbly to the baptism of St. John the Baptist, however, Christ provided the example for the rest of us. If even He should be baptized, though He had no need of it, how much more should the rest of us be thankful for this sacrament, which frees us from the darkness of sin and incorporates us into the Church, the life of Christ on earth! His Baptism, therefore, was necessary--not for Him, but for us.

Many of the Fathers of the Church, as well as the medieval Scholastics, saw Christ's Baptism as the institution of the sacrament.

His Flesh blessed the water, and the descent of the Holy Spirit (in the form of a dove) and the voice of God the Father announcing that this was His Son, in Whom He was well pleased, marked the beginning of Christ's public ministry.

Date:

The Sunday after January 6. In most countries and dioceses, however, the celebration of Epiphany is transferred to the Sunday between January 2 and January 8, inclusive. When the celebration of Epiphany is transferred to January 7 or January 8, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is transferred to the next day (Monday, January 8 or 9).
 

Time of the Year:

January 6

 

Type of Holiday:

 Feast.

 

Duration:

One Day
 

Symbol:

 

Alternate Names:

The Baptism of Christ, The Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ

 

Reading:

Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7, or Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11; Psalm 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10, or Psalm 104:1b-2, 3-4, 24-25, 27-28, 29-30; Acts 10:34-38 or Titus 2:11-14; 
 

History

The Baptism of the Lord has historically been associated with the celebration of Epiphany. Even today, the Eastern Christian feast of Theophany, celebrated on January 6 as a counterpart to the Western feast of Epiphany, focuses primarily on the Baptism of the Lord as the revelation of God to man.

After the Nativity of Christ (Christmas) was separated out from Epiphany, the Church in the West continued the process and dedicated a celebration to each of the major epiphanies (revelations) or theophanies (the revelation of God to man): the Birth of Christ at Christmas, which revealed Christ to Israel; the revelation of Christ to the Gentiles, in the visit of the Wise Men at Epiphany; the Baptism of the Lord, which revealed the Trinity; and the miracle at the wedding at Cana, which revealed Christ's transformation of the world.

Thus, the Baptism of the Lord began to be celebrated on the octave (eighth day) of Epiphany, with the miracle at Cana celebrated on the Sunday after that. In the current liturgical calendar, the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated on the Sunday after January 6, and, a week later, on the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, we hear the Gospel of the Wedding at Cana.

Traditions, Customs, Symbols and Typology

 
 

Frequently Asked Questions

 
Prayer:
Collect for the Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ (from the Mass of St. Pius V): "O God, Who by the guidance of a star didst this day reveal Thine only-begotten Son to the Gentiles, mercifully grant that we, who know Thee now by faith, may be so led as to behold with our eyes the beauty of Thy majesty. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen."


 

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