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Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Baptism of Christ

Francesco di Bosio Zaganelli (b. 1470/80 - 1532)
The Baptism of Christ 1514
Oil on wood
200.7 x 190.5 cm.
The National Gallery, London


"We have just heard the account of the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan.

It was a different Baptism from that which these babies are about to receive but is deeply connected with it.

Basically, the whole mystery of Christ in the world can be summed up in this term: "baptism", which in Greek means "immersion".

The Son of God, who from eternity shares the fullness of life with the Father and the Holy Spirit, was "immersed" in our reality as sinners to make us share in his own life: he was incarnate, he was born like us, he grew up like us and, on reaching adulthood, manifested his mission which began precisely with the "baptism of conversion" administered by John the Baptist. Jesus' first public act, as we have just heard, was to go down into the Jordan, mingling among repentant sinners, in order to receive this baptism. John was naturally reluctant to baptize him, but because this was the Father's will, Jesus insisted (cf. Mt 3: 13-15).

Why, therefore, did the Father desire this? Was it because he had sent his Only-Begotten Son into the world as the Lamb to take upon himself the sins of the world (cf. Jn 1: 29)?

The Evangelist recounts that when Jesus emerged from the waters, the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove, while the Father's voice from Heaven proclaimed him "my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" (Mt 3: 17).

From that very moment, therefore, Jesus was revealed as the One who came to baptize humanity in the Holy Spirit: he came to give men and women life in abundance (cf. Jn 10: 10), eternal life, which brings the human being back to life and heals him entirely, in body and in spirit, restoring him to the original plan for which he was created.

The purpose of Christ's existence was precisely to give humanity God's life and his Spirit of love so that every person might be able to draw from this inexhaustible source of salvation. This is why St Paul wrote to the Romans that we were baptized into the death of Christ in order to have his same life as the Risen One (cf.Rom 6: 3-4).

For this reason Christian parents, such as you today, bring their children to the baptismal font as soon as possible, knowing that life which they have communicated calls for a fullness, a salvation that God alone can give. And parents thus become collaborators of God, transmitting to their children not only physical but also spiritual life.

MASS IN THE SISTINE CHAPEL AND ADMINISTRATION OF THE SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM: From the HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Sunday, 13 January 2008




Francesco di Bosio Zaganelli (b. 1470/80 - 1532) also called Francesco da Cotignola studied Ferrarese painting

He shared a workshop in Cotignola with his brother Bernardino Zaganelli. Both were much influenced by the Ferrarese painter Erocole de' Roberti and the Bolognese painter Lorenzo Costa.

Francesco is documented in Ravenna from 1513, with his wife and orphaned niece, and from this period dates the Baptism (signed and dated 1514; London, National Gallery), painted for part of an altarpiece from the Laderchi chapel in S. Domenico, Faenza.

The painting is Inscribed: HIC/ EST FILIVS/ MEVS DILECTVS [This is my beloved son [in whom I am well pleased]]; and, ECCE/ AGNVS/ DEI [Behold the lamb of God].

His treatment of subjects was imaginative and could possibly be described sometimes as "eccentric". Some of the figures in the above painting are not the usual ones depicted in this theme.