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"Hymn of the Week" Meditations

A weekly devotional based on the great hymn-texts of the Church

Epiphany of Our Lord

Gregory of Nazianzus, a fourth century Christian Bishop and theologian, summarized well the message of Christ’s baptism by John in the Jordan River:

Jesus rises from the waters; the world rises with him. The heavens like Paradise with its flaming sword, closed by Adam for himself and his descendants, are rent open. The Spirit comes to him as to an equal, bearing witness to his Godhead. A voice bears witness to him from heaven, his place of origin. The Spirit descends in bodily form like the dove that so long ago announced the ending of the flood and so gives honor to the body that is one with God.

(The full sermon can be found at Oratio 39 in Sancta Lumina, 14-16, 20: p. 36, 350-351, 354, 358-359).

"To Jordan came our Lord the Christ,
To do God’s pleasure willing,
And there was by Saint John baptized,
All righteousness fulfilling;
There did He consecrate a bath
To wash away transgression,
And quench the bitterness of death
By His own blood and passion;
He would a new life give us.

So hear ye all, and well perceive
What God doth call baptism,
And what a Christian should believe
Who error shuns and schism:
That we should water use, the Lord
Declareth it His pleasure;
Not simple water, but the Word
And Spirit without measure;
He is the true Baptizer.

To show us this, He hath His Word
With signs and symbols given;
On Jordan’s banks was plainly heard
The Father’s voice from Heaven:
“This is My well-beloved Son,
In whom My soul delighteth;
Hear Him.” Yea, hear Him every one
Whom He Himself inviteth,
Hear and obey His teaching.

In tender manhood Jesus straight
To holy Jordan wendeth;
The Holy Ghost from Heaven’s gate
In dovelike shape descendeth;
That thus the truth be not denied,
Nor should our faith e’er waver,
That the Three Persons all preside,
At baptism’s holy laver,
And dwell with the believer.

Thus Jesus His disciples sent:
Go teach ye every nation,
That lost in sin they must repent;
And flee from condemnation:
He that believes and is baptized,
Obtains a mighty blessing;
A new-born man, no more he dies,
Eternal life possessing,
A joyful heir of Heaven.

Who in this mercy hath not faith,
Nor aught therein discerneth,
Is yet in sin, condemned to death,
And fire that ever burneth;
His holiness avails him not,
Nor aught which he is doing;
His inborn sin brings all to naught,
And maketh sure his ruin;
Himself he cannot succor.

The eye of sense alone is dim,
And nothing sees but water;
Faith sees Christ Jesus, and in Him
The Lamb ordained for slaughter;
She sees the cleansing fountain red
With the dear blood of Jesus,
Which from the sins inherited
From fallen Adam frees us,
And from our own misdoings.

Text: Martin Luther, 1483-1546; tr. Richard Massie, 1800-1887
Tune: Geystliche gesangk Buchleyn, Wittenberg, 1524, ed. Johann Walter
Text and Tune: Public domain

 

 

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