Benedict XVI Explains Icon of Jesus' Baptism

I’ve been reading Pope Benedict XVI’s book Jesus of Nazareth and I must say that I’ve enjoyed it very much.

Something that I did not know before was how to read the icon of Jesus’ Baptism but thanks to the wisdom and knowledge of the Holy Father now I do.

Basically, I just want to share the Holy Father’s explanation of the icon of Jesus’ Baptism with you all. I hope that you will find it as interesting as I did. Enjoy.

The icon of Jesus’ Baptism depicts the water as a liquid tomb having the form of a dark cavern, which is in turn the iconographic sign of Hades, the underworld, or hell. Jesus’ descent into this watery tomb, into this inferno that envelops him from every side, is thus an anticipation of his act of descending into the underworld: “When he went down into the waters, he bound the strong man” (cf. Lk 11:22), says Cyril of Jerusalem. John Chrysostom writes: “Going down into the water and emerging again are the image of the descent into hell and the Resurrection.” The troparia of the Byzantine Liturgy add yet another symbolic connection: “The Jordan was turned back by Elisha’s coat, and the waters were divided leaving a dry path. This is a true image of Baptism by which we pass through life” (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, p. 19).

Jesus’ baptism is one of the major feasts in the Eastern Catholic Churches.

I don’t remember how Theophany came to be the arrival of the three wise men in the west, but January 6 is the date we celebrate Jesus’ baptism in the Jordon in the east.

The water is blessed and all drink from the Jordon waters. The priest traditionally blesses all the homes of the parishioners each year with this water, making the rounds between Theophany and the beginning of Lent.

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