The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord ends the Church’s liturgical season of Christmas. This event is depicted in the bottom two panes of the God the Son rosette window. On the left is John the Baptist, and Jesus is on the right.
John, the cousin of Jesus, had a ministry of calling people to repentance and baptizing them in the Jordan River. In his preaching he was always pointing to One who would come after him, who “…is more powerful than I. I am not even fit to carry his sandals. He it is who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matt 3:11)
In the window, John is wearing a tunic of camel’s hair. When Jesus came to be baptized, John recognized him as this One with the words, “Look! There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29) John is holding a banner with the Latin inscription, “Ecce Agnus Dei”, Behold the Lamb of God. He is pouring water on Jesus from a shell, a common attribute of John, held in his left hand over his head.
The Holy Trinity was present in a powerful way at this event. After Jesus was baptized, “…the skies opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in visible form like a dove. A voice from heaven was heard to say: ‘You are my beloved Son. On you my favor rests.’” (Lk 3:21-22) Above Jesus’ head we see the Holy Spirit and above John’s head is a triangle, a symbol of the Trinity and of God the Father, whose voice was heard. The action of God is also suggested by the strong sense of movement in the water of the Jordan and also the water being poured from John’s shell.
This event might also foreshadow Jesus’ Passion, death and resurrection. John’s banner suggests Jesus’ sacrificial death for the forgiveness of sins. After His death a soldier pierced His side with a lance and “…immediately blood and water flowed out.” (Jn19:34) The water that flowed from the side of Jesus at his death is the origin of our Baptism into unity with Jesus and with one another in the Mystical Body of Christ. Our Baptism is often recalled in the liturgy on this feast day.
As we reflect on this feast and the Scriptures about this event, may we ask God for the grace to truly recognize who Jesus is, and conform our lives more and more to that truth.