Pages

Thursday, January 09, 2014

The Baptism of Jesus


Benjamin F Long IV (b.1945)
Episodes of the Life of St John the Baptist: The Baptism of Jesus Christ
1975
Fresco
Left nave, Chapel of St John the Baptist, The Abbey of Montecassino, Italy

The talent of the American artist Benjamin F Long IV is recognised internationally

A pupil of Annigoni, he was selected as the only non-Italian to complete a number of frescoes in the devastated Abbey of Montecassino

His three frescoes were on the life of St John the Baptist for the chapel of St John the Baptist in the abbey

He has been commissioned for many works of religious art in Europe and the United States


The Feast of the Baptism of Jesus by St John the Baptist concludes the Christmas festival

The event in the Jordan did not institute the sacrament of Baptism. The sacraments were only instituted with the death and Resurrection of Christ

It was a penitential act, an act of humility, an invitation to a new beginning

Christ did it, against the protestations of St John, “to fulfil all righteousness”

He stands in the crowd of sinners and takes his turn with the others to be baptised by the Baptist

It is an act of that overworked phrase solidarity, but in the proper sense of the term

Unlike other depictions of this act where Christ is shown standing, the Christ is shown kneeling in an act of humility and abasement. In the same way as in the Nativity we saw a mewking puking baby utterly at the mercy of and totally dependent on others

It is obedience to the Father and total humility that causes the Spirit of God to reveal His love and delight in His Son and exclaim and reveal to all: 
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3:17)
The event occurs at the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus and Christ reveals himself to John and to the people of Israel. It is another epiphany

The accounts in the four Gospels all have differing accounts of this self same event

But in this account by Long we see that John the forerunner is perfectly aware of the reality of the situation and his subsidiary role in the drama being enacted and which caused him to say to the crowds following in his footsteps:
"I baptise you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming... he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire" (Lk 3: 16). 
For the first time since the expulsion of Adam and Eve, the heavens have opened and the fullness of the Triune God was again revealed to his people

Like John depicted in Long`s fresco, the remembrance of the great event should be for us an occasion of joy, penitence, wonderment and conversion