Friday, January 10, 2014

The Offertory for the Baptism of Our Lord: Benedictus Qui Venit

Sung here by the Gloriæ Dei Cantores Schola:

The text is a famous one; it starts out with the same Benedictus qui venit text that's in the Sanctus of the mass.  The text itself comes word-for-word from Psalm (117/)118, vv. 26-27.   Here's a translation:
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; we bless you from the house of the Lord. The Lord is God, and he has given us light, alleluia, alleluia.

The "light" theme is there, again, and again very much suited to this Epiphanytide feast.  (As you can see by the label on the video, this chant was historically used as the Offertory for Saturday in Easter Week; the Baptism of Our Lord was established as a feast only in the mid-20th Century, and apparently this chant was borrowed for it.)

Here's the chant score by itself:

Here are all the chant propers for the day;  the sound files were recorded at St. Benedict's Monastery in São Paulo (Brazil):
In Baptismate Domini
Introitus: Ps. 44, 8 et 2 Dilexisti iustitiam (2m43.2s - 1117 kb) score
Ad aspersionem aquæ benedictæ (In dominicis extra tempus paschale): 
                                Ps. 50, 9 et 3 Asperges me (I) (1m31.0s - 623 kb) score
Graduale: Ps. 71, 18. V. 3 Benedictus Dominus (3m48.5s - 1563 kb) score

                         vel Ps. 44, 8 Dilexisti iustitiam (not yet available)
Alleluia: Ps. 117, 26 Benedictus qui venit (2m19.2s - 952 kb)

                      vel Ps. 88, 21 Inveni David servum meum (not yet available)
Offertorium: Ps. 117, 26.27 Benedictus qui venit (2m01.2s - 830 kb) score
Communio: Gal. 3, 27 Omnes qui in Christo baptizati estis (47.4s - 325 kb) score

This is another of those days in the Episcopal Church Calendar that's a feast-that's-not-a-feast.  It's not a feast day in its own right, that is; its collect - a new one - comes under the heading of "The First Sunday after the Epiphany: The Baptism of our Lord":
Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

One of the big liturgical changes in recent years has been the increased emphasis on the Epiphany;  Epiphanytide is really its own full-fledged season now - and in my opinion it certainly deserves to be.  It's interesting, then, to consider the Baptism of Our Lord in that light, when reading this week's St. Mary the Virgin's Angelus newsletter:
Until 1928 Episcopalians never heard an account of Jesus' baptism on Sunday mornings or at celebrations of baptism. For the first time in the Prayer Book tradition, the 1928 American book appointed Mark's account of Jesus' baptism for the Second Sunday after Epiphany. Massey Shepherd described this as "the original Epiphany gospel" (The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary [1950] 111-12) and certainly it is one of the gospels anciently associated with the feast.

There was another important change in 1928. In all previous English and American Prayer Books, there were different rites for the baptism of infants and persons of "riper years." In 1928 there was one rite, now called, "The Ministration of Holy Baptism." It's worth noting that the 1928 Prayer Book, like all Prayer Books since the Reformation, presumed a weekly celebration of the Eucharist, and, like its predecessors, directed that baptism ordinarily be celebrated on Sundays and Holy Days during the regular services of the church.

One can point to many changes in the present Prayer Book from earlier books, perhaps the most fundamental changes in this book grew out of study and work on the theology of baptism. Baptism now is understood and experienced as Easter, Christ dying and rising in those he is calling to faith. The baptismal rite could no longer be focused on "the mystical washing away of sin" (The Book of Common Prayer [1928] 279). Jesus' baptism and his death and resurrection would renew and reshape our rites and our celebrations, and not just initiation.

In our new book, every year the gospel on the First Sunday after the Epiphany is one of the three accounts of Jesus being baptized. Now, when baptism is celebrated the church prays, "We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism. In it we are buried with Christ in his death, by it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit" (The Book of Common Prayer [1979] 306).

There's one more thing in the new Prayer Book that has helped the church live into baptism in a new way. This "Additional Direction" was also new in 1979: "Holy Baptism is especially appropriate at the Easter Vigil, on the Day of Pentecost, on All Saints' Day or the Sunday after All Saints' Day, and on the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord (the First Sunday after the Epiphany). It is recommended that, as far as possible, Baptisms be reserved for these occasions or when a bishop is present" (The Book of Common Prayer [1979] 312).

The Reverend Dr. Daniel B. Stevik was a member of the Drafting Committee on Christian Initiation for the new Prayer Book. He was asked to write "a background paper and commentary" on the rites the committee had prepared. It was published as a "supplement" to the rites. He wrote, "The rubric suggests that the location of Baptism within the Christian Year can say something valuable about both Baptism and the Church's expressive use of time" (Supplement to Prayer Book Studies 26 [1973] 106).

Baptisms have always been celebrated at different times through the year-and not just at Easter (Paul Bradshaw and Maxwell Johnson, The Origins of Feast, Fasts and Season in Early Christianity [2011] 86). That said, it is the renewal of our understanding of baptism in scripture readings and in our rites that has put the resurrection at the heart of everything we know and do as we follow Jesus.

This is a new feast even in the Catholic Church, though, dating only from 1955.  Here's Wikipedia on the history:
The Baptism of the Lord (or the Baptism of Christ) is the feast day commemorating the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. Originally the baptism of Christ was celebrated on Epiphany, which commemorates the coming of the Magi, the baptism of Christ, and the wedding at Cana. Over time in the West, however, the celebration of the baptism of the Lord came to be commemorated as a distinct feast from Epiphany. It is celebrated in Anglican and Lutheran Churches on the first Sunday following The Epiphany of Our Lord (6 January).

Western celebration

Roman Catholic Church

The Baptism of the Lord is observed as a distinct feast in the Roman rite, although it was originally one of three Gospel events marked by the feast of the Epiphany. Long after the visit of the Magi had in the West overshadowed the other elements commemorated in the Epiphany, Pope Pius XII instituted in 1955 a separate liturgical commemoration of the Baptism.

In fact, the Tridentine Calendar has no feast of the Baptism of the Lord. It was almost four centuries later that the feast was instituted, under the denomination "Commemoration of the Baptism of our Lord", for celebration on 13 January as a major double, using for the Office and the Mass those previously said on the Octave of the Epiphany, which Pius XII abolished; but if the Commemoration of the Baptism of Our Lord occurred on Sunday, the Office and Mass were to be those of the Feast of the Holy Family without any commemoration.[1]

In his revision of the calendar five years later, Pope John XXIII kept on 13 January the "Commemoration of the Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ", with the rank of a second-class feast.

A mere 14 years after the institution of the feast, Pope Paul VI set its date as the first Sunday after 6 January or, if in a particular country the Epiphany is celebrated on 7 or 8 January, on the following Monday.[2]

Pope John Paul II initiated a custom whereby on this feast the Pope baptizes babies in the Sistine Chapel.

The feast marks the end of the liturgical season of Christmastide. On the following day the season of ordinary time begins.

Anglican Communion

In the Church of England, Epiphany may be observed on 6 January proper, or on the Sunday between 2 and 8 January. If Epiphany is observed on a Sunday on 6 January or before, the Baptism of Christ is observed on the following Sunday. If the Epiphany is observed on 7 or 8 January, the Baptism of Christ is observed on the following Monday. In the Church of England, Ordinary Time does not begin until the day after the Presentation of Christ in the Temple.

In the Episcopal Church [USA], Epiphany is always celebrated on January 6, and the Baptism of the Lord is always celebrated on the following Sunday.

Eastern celebration

In the Eastern Orthodox and the Eastern Catholic Churches, the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated as an integral part of the celebration on 6 January, the Great Feast of the Theophany. For those churches which follow the traditional Julian Calendar, 6 January falls on 19 January of the modern Gregorian Calendar (see Epiphany (holiday) and Theophany for details).

I'm very happy that we continue reading Isaiah this week!
Isaiah 42:1-9

Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his teaching.
Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people upon it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness,
I have taken you by the hand and kept you;
I have given you as a covenant to the people,
a light to the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
I am the LORD, that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to idols.
See, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth,
I tell you of them.

And this year, the Gospel reading is from Matthew's account of the Baptism, short and sweet:

Matthew 3:13-17

Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased."

Here's Giotto's "Baptism of Christ," from the Cappella Scrovegni at Padua.

And this beautiful icon comes from St. Catherine's Monastery at Sinai; it's been the source, I'm learning, of many, many well-known early Byzantine icons.  This one's from sometime around the 12th Century:

Here's a video about St. Catherine's icons, from the Getty Museum:

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