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Baptism of the Lord

Let us pray (in silence) [that we will be faithful to our baptism]

Eternal Father,
you have given us your only-begotten Son
to take our nature upon him,
and revealed him to us
at his baptism in the River Jordan,
grant that we, who have been born again of water and the Holy Spirit,
and made your children by adoption and grace,
may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit,
through Jesus Christ, our Saviour,
who is alive with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Amen.

This is my reworking of one of Thomas Cranmer’s deeply theological collects.

Although possibly drawing from the Gelasian Sacramentary for Christmas Day (17) and the Gregorian Sacramentary for “other prayers for the birthday of the Lord” (58), this collect is Cranmer’s composition for the 1549 Prayer Book for the second communion on Christmas day:

ALMYGHTYE God, whiche haste geuen us thy onlye begotten sonne to take our nature upon hym, and this daye to bee borne of a pure Vyrgyn; Graunte that we beyng regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace, maye dailye be renued by thy holy spirite, through the same our Lorde Jesus Christe who lyueth and reygneth &c.

It became the only Christmas Day collect in the 1662 revision where “this day” became “as at this time.” This collect is notable for its theological density: the purpose of the incarnation is that we, through adoption and grace, might become what Christ is by nature, and this incarnation at one time is renewed in us daily. See also 2 Cor 4:16, Col 3:10, Eph 3:16.

The Book of Common Prayer 1959 Canada revised this as the collect for The Baptism of Our Lord:

O Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ did take our nature upon him, and was baptized for our sakes in the river Jordan: Mercifully grant that we being regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace, may also be partakers of thy Holy Spirit; through him whom thou didst send to be our Saviour and Redeemer, even the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The 2010 RC translation for the collect for the Baptism of the Lord is:

Almighty ever-living God,
who, when Christ had been baptized in the River Jordan,
and as the Holy Spirit descended upon him,
solemnly declared him your beloved Son,
grant that your children by adoption,
reborn of water and the Holy Spirit,
may always be well pleasing to you.

A Roman Catholic bishop asked an Anglican bishop if the rumour was true that some Anglican clergy were baptising “in the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Giver of life” – and if so, they would not be able to accept such a baptism as valid.

Whilst in the chaos (diversity?) of contemporary Anglican practice I do not believe anyone could assure the bishop that this has never happened, and while, when my advice has been sought (as it has) I have (for the very reason of not wanting to put at risk painfully-achieved ecumenical agreement) always advocated staying with a baptismal formula of “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”. Nonetheless, if this is the requirement for validity, then many early church baptisms were invalid.

Our early liturgies ask the candidate, “Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth?” and upon the candidate saying, “I do”, immersing them once. Then the next question of what we now refer to as the Apostles’ Creed, again “I do” again immersed. And finally the question of belief in the Holy Spirit and immersion upon the affirmation.

When we do something “in the name of someone” we do it on his or her behalf. We baptise on behalf of God – in God’s name.

Selectively biblically literal communities seeking a verbal formula for baptism in the scriptures find baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt 28:19), in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 19:5) and in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38; 10:48). Failing to see my above point, and seeking to be faithful to their understanding of the scriptures (which note, never mentions baptism “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ”) they baptise “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; even in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” They then go on to a complex theologisation relating “Lord” to “Father”, “Jesus” to “Son”, and “Christ” to “Holy Spirit”.

There is also another understanding of “in the name of”. As well as being on behalf of, “name” in the scriptural world is often associated with “nature”. We are baptised, immersed, into the nature of Christ.

No little sprinkling and quick wiping, however valid, adequately symbolically expresses this profound reality. Generous pouring, immersion (in), or submersion (under) is needed.

As in all sacraments, what is true in Christ, and true for all, is now a reality for this one. The vocation and revelation true for Jesus this day at the Jordan, is through our baptism true for me and you. May we give up our lives to God’s service and be found worthy of our calling.

*****

The Church of South India in its The Book of Common Worship for the fourth Sunday after Christmas with its theme the baptism of Jesus produced this new collect:

O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst humble thyself to take the baptism of sinful men, and wast forthwith declared to be the Son of God: Grant that we who have been baptized into thee may rejoice to be the sons of God and servants of all; for thy name’s sake, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest ever one God, world without end. Amen.

The Church of England Liturgical Commission revised it, adding the reference to the Holy Spirit and addressing it to God the Father. It was revised again by the Revision Committee of CofE’s General Synod and again by the NZ Prayer Book Commission which also provided two alternatives addressed to the Holy Spirit. This site holds as much as possible to the great Christian liturgical tradition of addressing central prayers such as the collect and the eucharistic prayer to God, through Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Almighty God,
you anointed Jesus at his baptism
with the Holy Spirit,
and revealed him as your beloved Son;
grant that we who are baptised into his name
may give up our lives to your service,
and be found worthy of our calling;

through Jesus Christ our Lord
who is alive with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.
Amen.

NZPB The Baptism of the Lord p. 561

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Rev. Bosco Peters

Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

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