Monday, January 14, 2008

Can you imagine being baptized in these waters? Talk about your "Polar Bear Club!"
This photo shows the Orthodox and Eastern-Rite practice of blessing the waters on the Feast of Theophany (our January 6 or Epiphany). While I'm told that actual baptisms are rarely celebrated on this date, it is not unheard of. They do, however, bless water on this date, and I know from experience that it takes at least one-half hour to bless the water. These Eastern-rite priests, bishops, and deacons pictured here are blessing the waters to be used in baptisms, blessings, and in other ways. This photo, more than others I've found, images the forbidding depths to which the Cross leads and yet it is on the occasion of remembering the Lord's baptism, the beginning of his public ministry, that this custom is observed.

I think of the the words of Romans 6:3-5:

Are you unaware
that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death?
We were indeed buried with him
through baptism into death, so that,
just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father,
we too might live in newness of life.
For if we have grown into union with him
through a death like his,
we shall also be united with him
in the resurrection.
The scene above of death dealing waters, seen through the sign of the Cross, images how we share in the death of Christ, marked and claimed by the sign of his Cross and how, through the power of the Spirit, we are lifted to new life with him through baptism.

What we call the beginning is often the end.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.

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