Patristic Lectionary – The Baptism of the Lord – 9 January 2023
[Consonant with both Anglicanism’s and monasticism’s love of patristic theology-spirituality, this is a series of occasional selections from a two-year lectionary for the Divine Office that draws mostly from patristic writings. The lectionary was initially edited by Stephen Mark Holmes (University of Edinburgh School of Divinity) and subsequently re-edited and formatted by Michele Freyhauf (Durham University). Click here for the link to the lectionary. R. M. Healey’s edition is also used if there are lacunae in the Durham edition. Click here for the link to Healey’s formatting of the lectionary.]
[ Image: Daniel Bonnell, Baptism of the Christ – Bonnellart.com ]
Isaiah 42:1-9; 49:1-19
Meek Servant of God, Light of the Nations
Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not fail or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.
Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread forth the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: “I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. I am the LORD, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to graven images. Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.”
Listen to me, O coastlands, and hearken, you peoples from afar. The LORD called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away. And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” But I said, “I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the LORD, and my recompense with my God.”
And now the LORD says, who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honoured in the eyes of the LORD, and my God has become my strength – he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the servant of rulers: “Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”
Thus says the LORD: “In a time of favour I have answered you, in a day of salvation I have helped you; I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages; saying to the prisoners, ‘Come forth’, to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear’. They shall feed along the ways, on all bare heights shall be their pasture.”
St. Gregory Nazianzen
Oration On the Holy Lights – Oration 39: 14-16, 20
[St. Gregory Nazianzen preached the Oration on the Holy Lights on Epiphany 381, and delivered, the next day, the oration on Baptism. The Eastern Church regards Epiphany as more particularly the commemoration of our Lord’s Baptism, making the Epiphany one of the great days for the solemn ministration of baptism. The Sunday in the octave is called μετὰ τὰ φῶτα (After The Lights), pointing to a time when the Feast was known as the Holy Lights, as seems to have been the case in S. Gregory’s day. This name is derived from baptism, which was often in ancient days called Illumination, in reference to which name (derived from the spiritual grace of the sacrament), lighted torches or candles were carried by the neophytes. It seems the solemnities of the feast lasted two days, the second when baptism was conferred. Thus Gregory’s two orations: the first dwells especially on the feast and the mystery of our Lord’s baptism therein commemorated; and proceeds to speak of different kinds of baptism, listing five: Moses’s figurative baptism of Israel in the cloud and in the sea; the preparatory baptism of repentance ministered by S. John the Baptist; the spiritual baptism of water and the Holy Ghost given us by our Lord; the glorious baptism of martyrdom; the painful baptism of penance. (Modified from vol. 7 of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series and taken from this source).]
Christ is illumined, let us shine forth with him; Christ is baptized, let us descend with him, that we may also ascend with him.
John baptizes, Jesus comes to him; perhaps to sanctify the Baptist himself, but certainly to bury the whole of the old Adam in the water; and before this and for the sake of this, to sanctify Jordan. As he is Spirit and flesh, so he consecrates us by Spirit and water.
John will not receive him: Jesus contends. I have need to be baptized by you, says the lamp to the Sun, the voice to the Word, the friend to the Bridegroom; he that is above all those who are born of women to him who is the First-born of every creature; he that leaped in the womb to him who was adored in the womb; he who was and is the Forerunner to him who was and is to be manifested. I have need to be baptized by you; add to this and for you; for he that he would be baptized by martyrdom, or, like Peter, that he would be cleansed not only as to his feet.
But further – Jesus goes up out of the water; for with himself he carries up the world and sees the heaven split open which Adam had shut against himself and all his posterity, as the gates of Paradise by the flaming sword.
And the Spirit bears witness to his Godhead, for he descends upon One that is like him, as does the Voice from heaven (for he to whom witness is borne comes from thence) and like a dove seen in bodily form it bestows honour on his body, since this is also God by being deified. And moreover, the dove has from distant ages been wont to proclaim the end of the Deluge.
Let us however today venerate the Baptism of Christ, and let us celebrate the feast honourably.
Wash yourselves and keep yourselves clean. God rejoices in nothing so much as in the amendment and salvation of men, on whose behalf is every word and all the sacraments. Be cleansed so that you may be like lights in the world, a life-giving force to all other men, and stand as perfect lights beside that great Light, and learn the mystery of the illumination of heaven, enlightened by the Trinity more purely and clearly, of which even now you are receiving in a measure the One Ray from the one Godhead in Christ Jesus our Lord; to whom be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.