Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies

Baptism of the Lord: Missale Romanum 1970

For this week's meditation on the Collects of the Roman Missal, we consider today’s Collect for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (MR '70). Below is the official ICEL translation of this Collect in the third typical edition of the Roman Missal (2010):

"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. Through our Lord, etc. Amen.”

Our Collect’s petition affirms that the faithful have become God’s adopted children by His divine action in Baptism. As St. John tells us in his First Epistle, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (cf. 1 Jn. 3:1, RSV). Consequently, the baptized truly share in the very same benediction which the Father gave to Christ at the Jordan: “This is My beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased” (cf. Mt. 3:17, RSV).

Accordingly, our petition begs God for the grace of always abiding in this benediction. How does this come about? Fortunately, it is God Himself who has already (and permanently) rooted us in this filial identity. Our principal vocation, then, is simply to cooperate with this grace (this is the correct sense of the petition).

The Sacrament of Baptism imprints upon the soul an indelible character, a seal, or a mark. In Biblical terms, sacramental character indicates that we are related to God in an eternal and irrevocable covenant (this is wondrously good news!). The principle Old Testament prototype of baptismal character is circumcision, the permanent mark in the flesh that indicated Israel’s belonging to God in the Abrahamic covenant.

Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on the subject of sacramental character:

1272: “Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, the person baptized is configured to Christ. Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation. Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated.”

1273: “Incorporated into the Church by Baptism, the faithful have received the sacramental character that consecrates them for Christian religious worship. The baptismal seal enables and commits Christians to serve God by a vital participation in the holy liturgy of the Church and to exercise their baptismal priesthood by the witness of holy lives and practical charity.”

1274: “The Holy Spirit has marked us with the seal of the Lord (‘Dominicus character’) ‘for the day of redemption.’ ‘Baptism indeed is the seal of eternal life.’ The faithful Christian who has ‘kept the seal’ until the end, remaining faithful to the demands of his Baptism, will be able to depart this life ‘marked with the sign of faith,’ with his baptismal faith, in expectation of the blessed vision of God - the consummation of faith - and in the hope of resurrection.”

1121: “...This configuration to Christ and to the Church, brought about by the Spirit, is indelible, it remains for ever in the Christian as a positive disposition for grace, a promise and guarantee of divine protection, and as a vocation to divine worship and to the service of the Church...” 

Of chief importance in these paragraphs is the point that the sacramental character of Baptism is ordered to divine worship. In other words, Baptism gives the children of God the supernatural power to participate in the Sacrifice of the Mass, and so, to offer to God the divinely revealed worship that He desires and commands of His creatures, i.e., the Holy Eucharist (cf. Lk. 22:19-20; Jn. 4 and 6). Rendering such worship is possible for us because Christ “associates [His] Church” with His Offering on the Cross, of which His own Baptism is the foreshadowing (Catechism, nos. 536-7, 1070-1, 1073-4, 1085, 1089, 1115, 1119, 1141; Ratzinger, Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, 18- 23; Bl. Marmion, Christ in His Mysteries, 20, 206).

Thus, the whole of Christian life rests squarely upon baptismal character. It orients us and all of life to divine worship and to growth in charity. This is how we “may always be well pleasing” to the Father. 

(David Allen)

Mr. David Allen, M.T.S., is the lay Pastoral Associate for our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.


About Our Parish

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes is Newton and Needham Massachusetts's oldest Roman Catholic Parish. Founded as Saint Mary's Parish in 1870 it was renamed "Mary Immaculate of Lourdes" when the new Church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1910. In addition to being a regular territorial parish of the Archdiocese of Boston it is also a "Mission Parish" since 2007 with a special apostolate for the Traditional Latin Mass (1962 Missal).

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