Saturday, January 30, 2010

Lectinary Notes and More

The Week of Epiphany 4, 31 January 2010

Two-and-a-half weeks till Lent
In the old Calendar January 31 2010 is the Sunday called Septuagesima. The old season of pre-Lent, or the “gesimas” probably reflects the fact that the fast in preparation for Easter varied in length at different times and in different places before it settled down to the pattern we know. The names of the three pre-Lent Sundays were modelled on that of Lent I, Quadragesima, which means “fortieth”; Septuagesima is roughly seventy days before Easter.
It is not too early to start planning how one is going to keep this Lent. Usually the first question that comes to mind is what one will give up, or what extra thing one might take up. That has to be done sometime, but might I suggest that it is not the first thing to consider? The Prayer Book’s “Penitential Service for use on Ash Wednesday and at other times” speaks about the purpose of Lent and suggests how it is to be observed. The Exhortation to be said by the priest ends with the words:
"I invite you, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination, and repentance, by prayer, fasting, and self-denial, and by reading and meditating upon God’s holy Word." [p. 612]
The BAS improves on this by adding almsgiving after fasting.
We have then seven things to take into account when planning how to keep Lent. Under the first heading, self-examination, comes a discipline best taken up before Lent begins. This is not an examination of conscience as much as it is an examination of practice. The Catechism in the Prayer Book concludes with this recommendation [p. 555]
“Every Christian man or woman should from time to time frame for himself a RULE OF LIFE in accordance with the precepts of the Gospel and the faith and order of the Church …”
It them goes on to suggest several things to consider in framing such a rule.
We could do far worse in preparing to keep a holy Lent than to consider or reconsider our Rule of Life, and make of Lent a time to put it into practice with particular care and intention.
There will be more to say on keeping a holy Lent next week.
Notes on the Readings for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
The First Reading: Jeremiah 1.4-10
These verses tell of the call of Jeremiah to be a prophet. He objects that he is ‘only a boy’, but God reminds him that he will not be relying on himself, or speaking his own words. The word translated ‘boy’ here properly seems to mean a youth or young man.
Oddly enough, Jeremiah’s sense of unworthiness, which we find expressed by other prophets [see Ex 4.10-15, Isa 3.4, 1 Kgs 3.7], is a clear sign of the reality of the call. Those who are really called of God are such as have been brought to a deep acquaintance with themselves, feel their own ignorance, and know their own weakness. They know also the awful responsibility that attaches to the work; and nothing but the authority of God can induce them to undertake it. It is those whom God never called who hasten to declare themselves prophets or take up the work of ministry for worldly honour and emolument: the others hear the call with fear and trembling, and can go only in the strength of Jehovah. Charles Wesley wrote: "How ready is the man to go, Whom God hath never sent! How timorous, diffident, and slow, God's chosen instrument!"
In God’s call to Jeremiah to be ‘a prophet to the nations’ we have a foreshadowing of the “universalizing” of Isaiah’s message in Jesus’ sermon in Nazareth (see NJBC 43:62), and when the Lord says “Do not fear them” a hint of the rejected prophet theme in today’s Gospel reading (see also Lk 6.22-23; 11.49-51; 13.34-35; Acts 7.35, 51-52)..
The Psalm
Psalm 71 is cases by scholars as an individual lament. Today we read the first six verses, in which the psalmist appeals to the Lord for deliverance, apparently from sickness. The words of the final verse, “I relied on You from birth; from my mother's womb You drew me” link the psalm to the reading from Jeremiah.

The Epistle: 1 Corinthians 13.1-13
There can be little doubt that this passage is one of the best-loved in the New Testament. Partly because modern translations render ἀγάπη by the rather indefinite word ‘love’ instead of the more correct (but now somewhat misleading) ‘charity’ it is a very popular lection for at weddings. It is read today because the lectionary is currently following the course of 1 Corinthians; in the Prayer Book it was the Epistle for Quinquagesima.
It is a great pity that the word ‘charity’ has in the minds of most people come to be limited to alms-giving and works for the public benefit, for all we have is that battered old word ‘love’ and an endless struggle to teach people to distinguish between love as an emotion and the love we are commanded to have for God, our neighbours and our enemies. This is particularly annoying: it isn’t as though people are so stupid that they can’t learn that a words can often have several meanings. But there you are, and if you will forgive me, I am going to carry on using ‘charity’..
It is perhaps unfortunate that the lectionary divides the readings for last Sunday and this as it does. The last passage ended at 12:31a, “But strive for the greater gifts”, and the rest of the verse, which is the introduction to this reading is omitted. So as we hear the passage read, it is helpful to remember the end of Chapter 12: “And I will show you a still more wonderful way”. This reminds us that in this passage St Paul is showing the excellence of charity.
This is one of the places where a good commentary is your best friend, as we simply do not have the space to give the attention, verse by verse, that this passage requires. IN addition to the usual places I recommend, there is also available a series of homilies on the letters to the Corinthians by St John Chrysostom. They may be found at
The Holy Gospel: Luke 4.21-30
This passage is the continuation of the one read last Sunday. In the synagogue at Nazareth on the sabbath Jesus has a passage from Isaiah, and now tells the congregation that these words have been fulfilled in their hearing, that God’s promise of rescue and the year of Jubilee is true in him. At first everyone speaks well of him (the original is “gave witness to him” and wondered about his words.
We should note the suggestion in the NJBC that parallels in Acts (14.3 and 20.24, 332 suggest that the meaning is ‘words of salvation’. rather than ‘gracious words’. It is not so much that he spoke well, but that his words conveyed grace, that is, God’s freely given gift of love. Deut 8.3 suggests that the expression, ‘proceeded out of his mouth’ means that the “words” are the word of God.
The reaction of the townsfolk of Nazareth grows. At first they seem reluctant to accept Jesus as the fulfilment of God’s promises simply because they know him, and cannot believe that the words of salvation can come from him. But when he reacts angrily, and reminds them of God’s work among foreigners to the neglect of the chosen people in the time of Elijah and Elisha, they take real offense and are enraged.
I am sorry to say that I have run out of time for preparing these notes.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Lectinary Notes and More

On the Week of the Third Sunday after Epiphany
24 January, AD 2010
Proper 3, Year C

Some Resources

The reflections that appear in this blog are distilled from a much fuller set of notes of every comment on the Sunday readings that seems in any way interesting, useful, or amusing. The notes also include the texts themselves in several versions, and are too unwieldy to be posted as they stand. For example, the notes for this Sunday currently run to 13 pages (but so far I have almost no comments on the Epistle, and I have not examined any of the readings in Greek). It is sometimes a little difficult to make a sensible set of notes for you kind readers each week. This week was full of incident, and has left me a little rushed, of which I apologize.
This is why I really do hope you also make use of some of the other references that are so easily available, especially the RCL site, the Catena Aurea (noteded last week), and some articles in Wikipedia (although it is to be used with caution). Another useful site for Bible study is the Parallel Bible, which is found at :

This not only provides access to many versions of the Bible which can be searched by chapter or verse, for comparison two versions at a time, but links to a number of commentaries and notes. Another source I find useful is the Judaica Press Complete Jewish Bible with the Rashi Commentary at
As well, everyone should have a good Reference Bible; those by Oxford and Harper Collins are good.
I am most pleased if my comments spark a hunt for further information about and deeper knowledge of the Sunday readings. They are an inexhaustible mine of riches.
This week’s Readings
The first reading: Nehemiah 8:1-3,5-6,8-10
The first reading this Sunday is apparently the only selection from the Book of Nehemiah appointed to be read on Sundays in the Revised Common Lectionary (I haven’t really checked, but that’s what the archive at the RCL site suggests).
The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah are really one book, which was prepared as a supplement to 1 and 2 Chronicles. For further information on the relation of these two books, see the RCL Commentary for this Sunday; the articles on Ezra and Nehemiah in Wikipedia are useful as a basic introduction. The division into two books seems to have resulted in some material belonging properly to Ezra being inserted in Nehemiah. It is likely that today’s passage is one such, and that the name “Nehemiah” in v. 9 is a later insertion.
A very interesting point in this reading is that while Ezra solemnly read the book of the Law in Hebrew, the Levites had to translate it into Aramaic so that the people could understand it. On verse 7 which is inexplicably omitted from the lectionary, they are said to have “explained the Law to the people,” Rashi commented, “that is, “they would translate the words of the Torah to the people.”
One wonders whether such explanations were part of the beginnings of preaching, as translation moves so easily into paraphrase, and paraphrase into outright explanation.
Reflection on translation, explanation, and preaching links this passage to the Gospel reading. In the time of Jesus, the synagogue service seems to have consisted of the singing of a psalm, the recitation of the Shema [Hear, O Israel] and the Eighteen Benedictions, a reading from the Torah and a reading from the prophets, a sermon on the meaning of the readings, a blessing by the president, and the priestly blessing of Num 6.24-27 [NJBC]. Our Lord declared the meaning of Isaiah’s words and their application in his sermon at the synagogue in Nazareth.
Psalm 19
According to NJBC, this Psalm falls into two distinct parts: 1-6, a creation hymn, and 7-14, a wisdom hymn. The second part, which is in praise of the Lord’s gift of the Law, serves as a reflection on the first reading.

We have no comment to make on the Epistle, I Corinthians 12.12-31a. It is quite straightforward.
The Holy Gospel. Luke 4.14-21.
This reading follows immediately after the account of the temptation in the wilderness (4.1-13) and is linked to it by the opening statement that Jesus returned to Galilee “in the power of the Spirit” (4.14); the Spirit had led him into the wilderness and now, having overcome the Devil, he returns in power. We read the account of the Temptation on the First Sunday in Lent (February 21).
The passage itself has two parts. In verses 14-15 St Luke gives a summary account of Jesus’ preaching in Galilee after his return from the wilderness. Verses 16-21 are the first part of an account of Jesus’ preaching in Nazareth which ends in his rejection by the people of his home town (cf. John 1.11). The remainder of this account is read next Sunday. It would be worthwhile to read through the whole of Luke 14.16-30 and ask what effect, if any, the division into two Sunday readings at v. 21 has on the way we hear and understand it.
St Luke places the account of Jesus’ preaching in Nazareth close to the beginning of his ministry, where it stands as a declaration of his programme: to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord (the Jubilee Year, see Lev 25:8-24). St Luke has arranged the material to stress important points. Remember, however, that vv. 14-15 report preaching over an unspecified period of time.
The description of Jesus’ standing up to read from the scroll of Isaiah and sitting down to preach is vivid. Sitting to preach is the posture of a teacher; it was the custom in the early church for a bishop to preach from the teacheer's chair or cathedra, hence the name for the bishop's church. Throughout the Gospel St Luke stresses Jesus’ status as teacher. That Jesus taught regularly in the synagogues emphasizes the continuity between the old and the new. The NJBC also points out that
“This is the first of six incidents dealing with Jesus’ activity on the sabbath, see 4.31-37; 6.1-5; 6.6-11; 13.10-17; 14.1-6. This account is programmatic for interpreting Jesus’ activities on the sabbath: the sabbath is subordinate to Jesus because he is the eschatological fulfilment of God’s promises for the hungry, the sick and the imprisoned.”
Older commentators more often stressed that it was Jesus’ custom to attend the synagogue on the Sabbath day and that “From this we may learn that it is our duty regularly to attend public worship.” Another put it more bluntly: “If anyone ‘didn't need to go to church,’ it was Jesus - yet, it was His custom to do so.”
We do not have time now to comment adequately on Jesus’ use of the text from Isaiah. It should however, be noted that, despite the vivid description of Jesus unrolling the scroll and finding the place where his text was found, “this Isaiah text is not to be found on a synagogue scroll. It is an artistic text, woven from Isaiah 61.1-2 and 58.6, and resplendent with the colours of Luke’s christology.” having thrown that out for you to chew on, I find I have met, and really passed, my deadline.

We read of the Temptation by the Devil on the First Sunday in Lent. In case there is no time to comment on it then, and lest I forget to do it, I’ll comment on the word “devil” now.
The name ‘Satan’, which we meet in both Testaments, means ‘Adversary’. When the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek, ‘Satan’ was rendered by διάβολος, diabolos, which means “accuser, slanderer”. This in turn became Diabolus in Latin (hence diabolical), and was worn down to deofol in Old English and so our ‘devil’.
Strictly speaking, there is only one ‘devil’, whose fallen angels are usually called ‘demons’. They are sometimes known as ‘imps’, which is short for ‘imps of Satan’, ‘imp’ being an old word for offspring, from the Old English impe, ‘young shoot, graft’. I was terribly dissapointed to learn that an explanation I read years ago, that imps were so called because they were impious, is not true. We must beware of plausible explanations.

More Words:
Explosions and the Plausible
Just the other day in the SCR one of my learned colleagues surprised us all by explaining the origin of the word “explode”. I am ashamed to say that I had never looked it up, for it is very interesting and I am glad to have a chance to make it avialable. My colleague had thought, as I suppose many of us do, that we say that a theory proved false that it has been exploded, and that this meant it had been blown up, as by a bomb. In fact, he said, there is quite a different metaphor at work.
‘Explode’ is from the Latin explodere, originally a theatrical expression meaning ‘to drive off the stage by clapping’ [plaudere, to clap] hence, ‘to drive out, reject’. This came to mean ‘to drive out with violence and sudden noise’ and then ‘to go off with a loud noise’. So the essence of an explosion now is the bang.
Another word we get from plaudere is ‘plausible’, which originally meant ‘worthy of applause’ and then ‘acceptable, agreeable’, and at last, ‘having the appearance of truth’. Many plausible ideas are easily exploded.
Recommended Reading for Canadians
Forsey on the Constitution
With all the brouhaha over the Prime Minister’s proroguing of Pariament, it seems as good a time as any to recommend the late Senator Eugene Forsey’s booklet “How Canadians Govern Themselves”. I had a naïve belief that we all learned this stuff in school. Apparently not. Forsey's book is available on line at:

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Lectionary Notes

Some Reflections for the Second Sunday after Epiphany
(Readings of Proper 2, Year C)
Sunday, 17 January AD 2010

The Collect for this Sunday, praying that as Christ is the light of the world, we his people “may shine with the radiance of his glory,” continues the advent theme of manifestation, the shining forth of glory.
The First Reading: Isaiah 62.1-5
In order to understand a passage of Scripture read in the liturgy it is helpful to know something of its context and original meaning. Some books of the Bible present more difficulty than others for this study: the Book of Isaiah is one of them. It is generally accepted nowadays that differences in literary style and theological emphasis, as well as historical background, show that Chapters 40-66 of the Isaiah are a later composition than Chapters 1-39 and come from the time when Cyrus of Persia allowed the exiles from Judaea to return from Babylon, that is, about 539 BC. These chapters are referred to as the work of Second Isaiah. Further, a notable body of scholars holds that Chapters 55-66 represent yet a later prophet (or prophets), who wrote between 530 and 510 BC, and is called Third Isaiah. The New Oxford Annotated Bible has a good introductory note on the Book of Isaiah and the questions of its authorship and unity; another maybe found in the the RCL Commentary of the Diocese of Montreal [] As always, I recommend that site for the technical notes on the reading: once there, scroll to the bottom of the page and go to “Clippings”.
In the last chapters of the book one is confronted “by the sober realities of life in the restored community” in which the prophet proclaims the coming vindication of Zion. Today’s passage opens with a song of ‘splendid impatience’: the Lord himself will not wait to declare the end of his people’s shame and ignominy.
Verse 3 declares that Zion will be “a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord”; the NJBC notes on this the “the ancient practice of a god’s wearing a crown patterned after the city walls.”
The vindication of Zion is complete in the Lord’s declaration of his delight in her, as great as that of a bridegroom for his bride: although past infidelity had been punished [see Hosea, especially cap 1], God forgives and takes his people back as his spouse. This wedding theme comes to new meaning in the image of the Bride, the wife of the Lamb, Jerusalem coming down our heaven from God [Rev 21.9-11]. This in turn suggests that the Gospel’s wedding at Cana is not merely a suitable background for the Lord’s first sign, but in itself part of that sign.
Here, by the way, is a question of context different from, but no less important than, that of where passage fits in its book and in its historical setting: that is, the question of the context of the Sunday or feast on which it is read and the other passages read with it.

Psalm 36.5-10
The commentators tell us that this psalm contains the elements of many styles of psalm and defies simple classification, but they are agreed that the portion we use today is a hymn praising God for the steadfast love he has toward his people. our experience of his love is described in the language of a banquet. Here again, the meaning is deepened by the Gospel, for it in turn moves us to think about the parables of the Kingdom as a wedding-banquet.
There is an interesting comment in Rashi, a great Rabbi of mediaeval France, on the words “you save both man and beast, O Lord” (verse 6): “People who are as astute as Adam, but who make themselves as humble as beasts, You save, O Lord.”
The Epistle: 1 Corinthians 12.1-11
The epistle readings of the Sundays after Epiphany are selected in order from 1 Corinthians and were not chosen to fit the theme of the Gospel reading. In this passage, St Paul turns to address the first of a series of questions the Church at Corinth had addressed to him. For the others, see 7:25; 8:1; 16:1; 16:12. For comments, see the RCL Clippings
The Holy Gospel: John 2.1-11
The Gospel reading for this Sunday in Year C keeps us firmly in the theme of Epiphany: this first sign that Jesus performed is not only declared by the Evangelist to be a manifestation of Jesus’ glory, it is one of the triad of epiphany moments traditionally commemorated on the feast (see notes for last Sunday). With this in mind it would be useful to consider importance of signs in the Fourth Gospel.
In Readings in St John’s Gospel, William Temple introduces Chapter 2 and the sign at Cana of Galilee by setting out the seven signs recorded in the Fourth Gospel. He writes:
“‘Sign’ is the word chosen by St John to describe them, and he thus warns us that their meaning is something beyond themselves. Moreover, the fact that he selects seven is a way of telling his readers that they are not to be read as mere episodes but as conveying a special truth which finds expression only in the whole series taken together. we may thus set out the signs and their significance in parallel columns thus;
1. The turning of water into wine: 2.1-11 - The difference that Christ makes
2. The healing of the nobleman’s son: 4.46-54 - Faith the only requisite
3. The healing of the impotent man: 5.2-9 - Christ the restorer of lost powers
4. The feeding of the five thousand: 6.4-13 - Christ the Food by which we live
5. The walking on the water: 6.16-21 - Christ our Guide
6. The healing of the man born blind: 9.1-7 - Christ our Light
7. The raising of Lazarus: 11,1-44 - Christ our Life”
We can make a few points in addition to the notes in the RCL “Clippings” and Archbishop Temple’s book.
First, a point of translation. In verses 8 and 9 the original architriclinus is rendered by “chief steward” or “steward” in our version; the AV had “governor of the feast”. While “steward” is not incorrect, it seems to me that it implies a servant, if one of some high rank, and that this might be misleading. Alcuin’s note is instructive: “The Triclinium is a circle of three couches, cline signifying couch: the ancients used to recline upon couches. And the Architriclinus is the one at the head of the Triclinium, i.e. the chief of the guests.” Now the Greek Lexicon of Liddell and Scott, however, gives for architriclinus, the very general sense of “president of a banquet” with “head-waiter” as a secondary definition. Unlike the RCL, I would suggest that “master of ceremonies” might be a good translation, and that if we use “steward” it should be understood as an honorary post held by a guest – rather as great nobles held such posts as cupbearer, steward, or constable to their sovereigns.
We cannot stress too greatly the abundance of the wine. Six water pots of “two or three measures apiece” is usually worked out to the 20 or 30 gallons given in the NRSV with its usual bad habit of explaining rather than translating. It is however not an exact measure. Some commentators of a parsimonious mind insist that the water only became wine as it was ladled out. The only reason for this seems to be a desire to avoid thinking of so much wine. Changing a ladle-full of water into wine is no less a miracle than changing nearly 200 gallons. The point of this passage is the superabundance of God’s grace : infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. That is what should control our understanding. After all, all the world was created with the same gracious abandon and extravagance.
The water made wine does not only stand for a new Judaism (see RCL notes), though it does that: it stands also for the inner change of one who comes to know Christ. William Temple notes:

“Our first intercourse with Christ—such as we have watched in the typical instances recorded in Chapter I —brings about a change like that from water to wine. Christ is not a grim task-master in obedience to whom life becomes gloomy. He compared himself to children playing at weddings in contrast with John the Baptists whom He compared to children playing at funerals (Lk 7.31-35; Mt 1.16-19). Joy is one of the fruits of His Spirit. We wholly fail to represent Him to men if we fail to make men see this in our lives.”
Of greater importance than the quantity of the wine is its quality. I shall quote again from Archbishop Temple.
On “Every man first setteth on the good wine, and when men have well drunk, the less good, but thou hast kept the good wine until now,” Temple notes that there is “a trace of emphasis” on the word man. The word is introduced even though it is not necessary in the Greek, to make an implicit contrast between man and God. This point important point is obscured by the NRSV’s Everyone.
“For here we come to a secondary meaning of this sign. The first is the change effected by the touch of Christ upon our life; the second is the reminder that there is always more and better to come. Every man puts forward first what is best about him. When people first meet us, they find us civil, friendly, considerate; but as they come to know us, especially if they have to live with us, they have to put up with the less good — that which is worse. But in our communion with God it is not so; as we deepen our fellowship with Him, made known in Christ, at every stage we may say, Thou hast kept the good wine until now.”
This sign was an Epiphany, an act in whichChrist manifested his glory, and his disciples believed in him. Here we will end with a final comment from the Archbishop:

“They are first called ‘disciples’ at the beginning of this narrative; and by that name they are designated throughout this Gospel. It is as learners that we are to think of them, and $to take our place among them.

“His disciples believed on him. It is the phrase expressive of personal trust. They are not said to believe Him, in the sense of believing what he said was true, but to commit themselves to Him in personal trust.
“This is the faith which justifies.”

With that we must close for now.

PS: Another Resource for Studying the Gospels

The Catena Aurea of St Thomas Aquinas

The Catena Aura or Golden Chain is a commentary on of the Gospels by the Early Church Fathers compiled together. Catechetics Online includes it in what appears to be the version translated in 1841 by Newman.
The link for today's Gospel is:

Friday, January 8, 2010

Lectionary Notes

Some Thoughts on
The First Sunday after Epiphany:
The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

That the Epiphany is a celebration of all the mysteries of the manifestation of Jesus Christ to the world as the Incarnate Son of God is made clear in the antiphons of the divine office. At Matins the antiphon on the Benedictus in the modern Roman use is
Today the Bridegroom claims his bride, the Church, since Christ has washed her sins away in Jordan’s waters; the Magi hasten with their gifts to the royal wedding;a nd the wedding guests rejoice, for Christ has changed water into wine.
The antiphon on the Magnificat is:
Three mysteries mark this holy day: today the star leads the Magi to the infant Christ; today water is changed into wine for the wedding feast; today Christ wills to be baptized by John in the river Jordan to bring us salvation.
The western church traditionally keeps the day of the Epiphany as the commemoration of the visit of the Magi, with the result that while the other mysteries have indeed been marked in the lectionaries of the Office and Mass, they have not captured the popular imagination as “epiphanies”. The most important of them, the Baptism of Christ, has now been restored to a prominent place in the Calendar on the Sunday after Epiphany, or within the Octave, if you prefer the older way of speaking.
In the Canadian Prayer Book of 1959, provision was made to commemorate the Lord’s baptism on any day in the Epiphany Octave or at a second service on the Epiphany (see page 119). There was no commemoration of the Lord’s Baptism in the earlier versions of the Prayer Book in England or the United States. The new Roman Missal keeps the Baptism on the Sunday after Epiphany; we have rightly followed this practice in our revised liturgies.
The Collect
The Collect in the BAS is very similar to that in the Roman Missal:
Almighty, eternal God, when the Spirit descended upon Jesus at his baptism in te Jordan, you revealed him as your own beloved Son. Keep us. your children born of water and the Spirit, faithful to our calling. We ask this through our Lord ….
So it is Englished in the St Joseph Daily Missal: the original is somewhat more elegant:
Omnípotens sempitérne Deus, qui Christum, in Iordáne flúmine baptizátum, Spíritu Sancto super eum descendénte, diléctum Fílium tuum sollémniter declarásti, concéde fíliis adoptiónis tuae, ex aqua et Spíritu Sancto renátis, ut in beneplácito tuo iúgiter persevérent. Per Dóminum.
The Readings
In the Roman Missal the first and second readings and the psalm are the same in all three years [Isa 42.1-4.6-76; Psalm 29; Acts 10.34-48), while the Gospel readings differ each year. In our lectionary there are proper readings for each year. This shows a richer variety of Old Testament types and images at play in the Lord’s Baptism.

The First Reading: Isaiah 43.1-7
This is a hymn of the return from the exile in Babylon, interpreting it as “as a new creation, performed from the obligations of blood relationship” (New Jerome Biblical Commentary, which see for a detailed discussion of this point). This passage forms the basis of the well-known hymn How Firm a Foundation (527 in the new Common Praise; 499 in the old hymn Book).
The promise of this oracle, that God will be with his people in all danger (of water and fire) because they are precious in his sight and glorious and he loves them, is surely fulfilled when the Incarnate Son undergoes the baptism to which his people are called. Here God is surely standing on our side.
That the water imagery of this oracle is another link to the celebration of Christ’s Baptism is obvious. The Easter Liturgy makes clear that the Crossing of the Red Sea is a type of Baptism but we shoud also notice that Isaiah speaks of rivers.

Psalm 29

In its origins Psalm 29 seems to predate Israel’s coming to true monotheism: so it invokes “gods” to ascribe glory and strength to the Lord. It is widely held that this was at first a hymn to the Canaanite god of storms. The imagery is of the inexorable thunderstorm coming in might and fury off the Mediterranean onto the mountains; the ‘voice of the Lord” ( a phrase repeated seven times) is the rolling peals of thunder. That “The voice of the LORD is over the waters” is echoed in the voice which came from heaven when Jesus was baptized.

The Second Reading: Acts 8.13-17

When persecution has started against the young Church in Jerusalem, Philip, of Caesarea Maritima (21.8), who was one of the seven chosen to serve tables (6.1-6), has travelled to Samaria to preach the good news there (8.4-13): the first known evangelism outside Jewish areas. The Samaritans “listened eagerly” (v. 6) to what Philip told them, “hearing and seeing the signs that he did”. Even Simon, a well-known magician, told them that Philip spoke and acted through God’s power. Those who believed, including Simon, were baptised.
The story of Simon Magus is important in the original context of today’s lection, but it is not included because the excerpt was chosen to speak of Baptism and the gift of the Spirit and thereby relating to the Gospel for the day.
Now that the baptism of the Samaritans by Philip was not accompanied by the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is an anomaly. Usually in Acts, the Holy Spirit is received at baptism (see 2:38 and 19:5-6) or before it (see 10:44); here the gift is not only removed in time but comes only with the laying in of the apostles’ hands. This is why this passage is appointed to be read in the Order for Confirmation in the Canadian Book of Common Prayer (p. 557). Luke’s intention is to show how the new community is bonded to the mother church by the visitation of her delegates (11.22). The apostles, as “witnesses of his resurrection” (1,22) certify the risen One’s continued activity on earth

The Gospel : Luke 3.

That the Baptism of Jesus is an Epiphany, a revelation of Jesus as the Christ of God, is clear and does not need much comment. It is enough to note that the details of the story open rich depths of meaning. Note, for example, the parallel between the scene in the wilderness where the Spirit of God descends over the waters of the Jordan as the Voice of the Father says, “You are my beloved Son”, and the scene over the formless and empty world at the creation, when the Spirit of God moves over the waters and the Voice of God commands that there be light. In this parallel we see that the beginning of Jesus’ ministry is as the beginning of a new world into which we are invited. Again, that the baptism is in the Jordan recalls the entry into the Promised Land through the Jordan river, made dry land as the Red Sea had been [Joshua 3-4]. We should recall here that the name Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua. Even more, in the scene at the Jordan we see the three persons of God: as Jesus the Saviour comes up from the water, the Spirit descends on him from the Father in heaven, who declares him to be the chosen, the beloved Son. Thus, while this is indeed the Epiphany of Christ the Son of God, but it is also the Epiphany of God the Holy Trinity — we might even coin the word Triadophany.
Luke’s special addition is the note that when Jesus had come up from the waters of Jordan he was praying. there is a very helpful comment on this in NJBC:
Although many of the details of Jesus baptism do not provide a basis for the view that Luke is presenting “Jesus as a model for Christians undergoing baptism, the detail of Jesus’ praying is patient of this interpretation. In Luke Jesus’ ministry begins with prayer and ends with prayer (22.46). Jesus prays in connection with healings (5,16), before his prediction of the passion (9.18), before his transfiguration (9. 28-9), and before he teaches his disciples how to pray (11.1-2). He prays for Peter (2.32). he prays to His Father once on the Mt of Olives (22.39-46) and twice from the Cross (23.34, 46). As 11.13 makes clear, the Holy Spirit wil be given in response to prayer. But Jesus at prayer is not only the model for Christians, but also the mediator of salvation. The figure of Jesus at prayer is a symbol that Jesus’ power to effect salvation stems from God. In this instance the power comes through God’s gift of the Spirit. Furthermore, Jesus at prayer as he prepares to embark on his mission in the Spirit is paralleled in Luke’s description of the missionary Church in Acts 1.14, 2.1-13.”
Unlike Matthew, Luke does not raise the question of why Jesus should be baptized by John. Rather he establishes John’s arrest and disappearance from the scene before he reports that “Jesus was baptized” (note the passive construction). Too much should not be made of this (see note in NJBC). Some things the Fathers have said about Jesus’ baptism are interesting and valuable seeds of reflection for this feast, and with them we will close for today.
Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, said The Lord was baptized, not because he desired to be cleansed, but because he wanted to cleanse the waters, so that that washed by the flesh of Christ who knew no sin, the waters might have the power of Baptism, and so that he might leave the waters sanctified for those who were to be baptized afterwards.
St John Chrysostom, the Archbishop of Constantinople, said that.
although Jesus was not a sinner, he had still assumed the sinful nature, and the likeness of sinful flesh; therefore although he did not need to be baptized for himself, yet the carnal nature in others had need of it; that is, he was baptized because we need it.
In a beautiful image, St Gregory of Nazianzus said,
Christ was baptized, so that he might immerse the whole old Adam in water.
St Augustine of Hippo said that
Jesus was baptized because he wished to do what he commanded that all should do.
Ambrose said, This is justice, that what you wish another to do, you first do yourself, to exhort by your example