The Way of Beauty
THE BAPTISM OF CHRIST
FOCUS OF THE MEDITATION: Baptismal grace strengthens our will to want to do good, enlightening our minds to more easily see and accept the truth. In baptism, Christ graced us to become adopted sons and daughters of the Father. May we appreciate the grace of baptism resolving to follow the beautiful path God has carved out for us as new creations in Christ Jesus.
Pietro Vannucci (known as Perugino)
After departing his home, one of Jesus' first acts was to be baptized by John in the Jordan River, as our Gospel reading reveals. He walks decisively toward a life that will be very difficult exteriorly, but interiorly it will remain the same. Jesus always embraced the will of the Father out of love, and by his example he teaches us to do likewise.
The key (when meditating on Perugino's masterpiece) is to focus on each little scene as if it were the only one. In the upper left corner, the Baptist preaches his gospel of repentance and salvation. He challenges his listeners to break away from sin by turning toward the Lord Jesus, who is nearby.
On the opposite upper right corner, Jesus is seen preaching for the last time before entering his baptismal font, the waters of the Jordan. The fervent seeks gather around the Lord as he preaches in the midst of much activity.
In our own lives, activity and bustle sometimes try to swallow us whole. There are so many noises and needs vying for our attention. Perhaps we long for the contemplative life accompanied by silence and serenity as a means to connect with God's presence and grace.
The main focus of the fresco centers on the main event—the baptism of Jesus. The Lord approached John the Baptist, who was baptizing others. Notice it is Jesus who seeks out his cousin John.
Though Christ was not in need of purification and forgiveness, he nonetheless steps into the water to show us the way to God. It all begins with our baptism: We must follow Christ, the Way.
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, for he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but for this I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.”
And John bore witness, “I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
PRAYER AND REFLECTION
"Jesus humbled himself so we might have life. Can you become little in order to help others find Jesus? Are you willing to love when it hurts to do so?"
The comments above are taken from Meditations on Vatican Art by Fr. Mark Haydu. To truly enter into this Visio Divina, I suggest purchasing the book as each masterpiece comes with a complete description, prayer and reflection, and spiritual exercise.