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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Baptism



Domenico Theotokópulos, called El Greco (1541-1614)
El Bautismo de Cristo /The Baptism of Christ
1596-1600
Oil on canvas, 350 x 127 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

El Greco was commissioned in December 1596 to produce the main retable on The Life of Christ for the church of the Augustinian seminary that became known as the Colegio de Doña Maria de Aragon in Madrid

In July 1601 the finished altar-piece was transported in parts from Toledo to Madrid and assembled.

The altarpiece consisted of at least six religious images from The Life of Christ: The Resurrection, The Crucifixion, The Pentecost, The Baptism of Christ (see above), The Annunciation, and The Adoration of the Shepherds.

After the invasion of the French Napoleonic army in 1808, the paintings were confiscated, removed from the monastery and separated.

Five of the paintings are today in the Prado; the sixth, The Adoration of the Shepherds, is in Bucharest.

It is thought that there may have been a seventh which is now lost.

"[I]t is clear that, through Baptism, the mysterious words spoken by Jesus at the Last Supper become present for you once more. In Baptism, the Lord enters your life through the door of your heart. We no longer stand alongside or in opposition to one another. He passes through all these doors.

This is the reality of Baptism: he, the Risen One, comes; he comes to you and joins his life with yours, drawing you into the open fire of his love. You become one, one with him, and thus one among yourselves. At first this can sound rather abstract and unrealistic. But the more you live the life of the baptized, the more you can experience the truth of these words.

Believers – the baptized – are never truly cut off from one another. Continents, cultures, social structures or even historical distances may separate us. But when we meet, we know one another on the basis of the same Lord, the same faith, the same hope, the same love, which form us. Then we experience that the foundation of our lives is the same. We experience that in our inmost depths we are anchored in the same identity, on the basis of which all our outward differences, however great they may be, become secondary.

Believers are never totally cut off from one another. We are in communion because of our deepest identity: Christ within us. Thus faith is a force for peace and reconciliation in the world: distances between people are overcome, in the Lord we have become close (cf. Eph 2:13).

The Church expresses the inner reality of Baptism as the gift of a new identity through the tangible elements used in the administration of the sacrament.

The fundamental element in Baptism is water; next, in second place, is light, which is used to great effect in the Liturgy of the Easter Vigil....

[I]n the early Church, Baptism was also called the Sacrament of Illumination: God’s light enters into us; thus we ourselves become children of light.

We must not allow this light of truth, that shows us the path, to be extinguished. We must protect it from all the forces that seek to eliminate it so as to cast us back into darkness regarding God and ourselves.

Darkness, at times, can seem comfortable. I can hide, and spend my life asleep. Yet we are not called to darkness, but to light. "

Pope Benedict XVI in his Homily at the Easter Vigil at Saint Peter's Basilica on Holy Saturday, 22 March 2008