Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Wednesday 22 September |
Saint of the Day: St. Maurice and the Theban Legion
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

Today, “What child is this?” becomes “What man is this?”


Fr. Aquinas Guilbeau, OP - published on 01/08/18

On understanding today's feast as a Christmas mystery

While the Church celebrates our baptism as an Easter mystery, she celebrates the Lord’s baptism as a Christmas one.

The reason is easy to grasp. Whereas our baptism included a cleansing from sin, Christ’s baptism did not. He who did not know sin had no need of such cleansing. Accordingly, Christ’s baptism in the Jordan accomplished something different, something less to do less with Calvary and more to do with Bethlehem.

As when lying in the manger Christ was revealed as God and savior to the Magi, so when standing in the Jordan he was revealed as Messiah and Lord to Israel. The heavens opened, the Father spoke, and the Spirit appeared so that Christ himself would appear in what the Catechism calls a new “Epiphany” (par. 535).

Thus at his baptism the Lord turns to Jerusalem by recapitulating Bethlehem, where he first manifested his nature as light from light. Christ sets out for Jerusalem not by leaving Bethlehem behind but by drawing its mystery forward. The revelation of the child is now the revelation of the man, who sets out from home to fulfill his Father’s will.

Although the light of Bethlehem shines brightly at the Jordan, the shadows of Calvary are not completely dispersed by it. Light mixes with shadow to create the scene of today’s mystery, much as light mixed with shadow in Bethlehem before. As the myrrh given to the Christ child foreshadowed his death and burial, Christ’s descent into the waters prefigured the same, and with greater efficacy, for his presence in the waters made of them a sacramental representation of his tomb, into which all would be lowered in baptism, not to be left there but from which to be raised as fellow victors with Christ, inheritors of risen life. The Spirit’s anointing of Christ’s sacred humanity at the Jordan passes to us not only through these same waters, but also as the Catechism notes through the anointing of Confirmation (par. 1286). Christ aims the manifestation of his divinity in his adult flesh at rendering us mature witnesses of his person and work.

Today, the Christmas season closes with the commemoration of Christ’s epiphany at the Jordan. As we prayerfully consider this mystery, the question “What child is this?” becomes “What man is this?” Let us ask for the grace to answer confidently: “It is the Lord!” (cf. Jn 21:7).

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Domitille Farret d'Astiès
Attacked with acid as a baby, Anmol Rodriguez overcomes and inspi...
Esteban Pittaro
Argentine “Mother Teresa” was a former model and actress who embr...
Philip Kosloski
Your body is not a “shell” for your spirit
Our Lady of La Salette
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady of La Salette can give us hope in darkness
Philip Kosloski
Pray this Psalm when you successfully recover from an illness
Philip Kosloski
An alternative Hail Mary to Our Lady of Sorrows
Cerith Gardiner
12 Habits of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati that every young adult...
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.