Baptism

Okay! So, I am probably the worst book saleswoman ever and almost forgot to finish my blog series about the Luminous Mysteries, to celebrate my newest book, The Luminous Mysteries. And by almost forgot, I mean barely started the blog series. What can I say? Things snuck up on me!

However! I would still like to show off a couple of the cool pictures that I used in my book, and so this week is going to be all about Jesus, His ministry, and His adult time on Earth.

Which makes me smile… in a couple of weeks, we’ll be celebrating Jesus as a baby, and so it seems odd to be going back and forth, reminiscing about His life, both as an adult and as a baby. And yet, isn’t that the way memories work? One day, we’ll be remembering about something that just happened, then something might happen that brings us back and makes us remember things as a child.

So let me share a memory with you: a couple of weeks ago, my baby got baptized. It was a very happy occasion! She slept through most of it, even when she was anointed with oil. Our deacon that did the baptism explained each step along the way, a bunch of family and friends came, some even from out of state, and it was just a beautiful occasion. My baby did wake up and cry when she was baptized with water, but she soon stopped, curious by all the people who surrounded her, laughing,

And it made me think about all the artwork that I had sorted through for the baptism. You see, some of the pictures that depict the Baptism of Christ depict the Heavens opening up in a grandiose way while the Holy Trinity — God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit — join together in a visible and startling way. That is the way that is described in the gospel, in fact! Just take a look at this gospel…

NABRE

Matthew 3

1In those days John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea 2[and] saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” 3 It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said:“A voice of one crying out in the desert,‘Prepare the way of the Lord,make straight his paths.’”4 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him 6and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.7When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. 9And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 10Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” 15Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him. 16 After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened [for him], and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove [and] coming upon him. 17And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

So, there are many artists that depict this grand scene in as a sort of family reunion between the Holy Trinity. Just take a look at this magnificent picture depicting the Baptism of Christ, in which it seems as if Heaven is coming down to rejoice in Jesus!

The Baptism of Christ, by Antoine Coypel, c. 1690. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California, United States. Via IllustratedPrayer.com
The Baptism of Christ, by Antoine Coypel, c. 1690. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California, United States.

And this one…

The Baptism of Christ, by Giovanni di Paolo, c. 1454. National Gallery, London, United Kingdom. Via IllustratedPrayer.com
The Baptism of Christ, by Giovanni di Paolo, c. 1454. National Gallery, London, United Kingdom.

And of course we can’t forget this one! Plus, in the left corner, there’s a bonus image of Jesus being tempted by Satan, which is something that happens after the baptism when Jesus enters the wilderness.

Baptism of Christ, by Monogrammist AH, c. 1500. Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon, France. Via IllustratedPrayer.com
Baptism of Christ, by Monogrammist AH, c. 1500. Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon, France.

In these three pictures, you see a common theme: the Trinity that appears in glory. There are angel attendants that come to assist the baptism. And, though St. John the Baptist is a mere man who does not have any supernatural power by himself, he is still featured as being part of this divine occurrence in this very glorious way.

But there are other baptism pictures that are a lot more subtle. For instance, take a look at this one.

The Baptism of Christ, by Nicolas Poussin, c. 1641-42. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., United States. Via IllustratedPrayer.com
The Baptism of Christ, by Nicolas Poussin, c. 1641-42. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., United States.

Or, this one:

The Baptism of Christ, by Jan van Scorel, c. 1530. Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, Netherlands. Via IllustratedPrayer.com
The Baptism of Christ, by Jan van Scorel, c. 1530. Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, Netherlands.

In these two religious artworks, the glory of Heaven descending upon Earth is a lot more… subdued. In each image, the Heavens are not opening up in a marvelous way where there are angels pouring out. There are other people shown in the image other than just St. John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. These images show more of the people and their relationship with Christ rather than the divine act of the Christ’s baptism itself.

And yet… there are reminders of Heaven all the same that, while not immediately noticeable at a quick glance, are there nonetheless.

In both images, there is a dove that glows with the Holy Spirit. Just, the dove is subtly placed, especially in the second picture in which it is difficult to see the dove at all! (It took me a while to spot that dove, honestly… it’s right next to the tree, if you want a hint!)

Take a look at the people that surround Christ. Many of them are pointing upwards in wonder as they hear the voice of God.

And in both, the clouds seem to open up as if to express the wideness and openness of Heaven. In particular, in the second picture, there is a castle that seems to float in the clouds as a sort of reminder of the Kingdom of God.

Which makes me think about my children’s baptism.

No, I didn’t see the skies open up and angels descend, as in the first pictures in which the sky seems to gloriously open up. No, I didn’t see the Holy Trinity gather together in an awesome way to welcome our baby into the Kingdom of God. While I am aware it happened, I didn’t see it.

And yet…

Through faith, I know it happened. I know that the Holy Spirit descended onto my baby at that special moment. I know that God and the angels celebrated with all that were present there and gloried in my little baby’s baptism. And I know that Jesus is probably smiling to know that we followed in His footsteps and baptized our children, just as He was baptized. I think He would love to see that we obeyed Him when He commanded that His disciples go out and baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

And I can’t help but think that Jesus truly led us perfectly. He never commanded anything of us that He never did Himself, be it baptism or even carrying His Cross.

May we all follow Him, trusting in Him all the way!

This blog is part of a blog series about the Luminous Mysteries. This artwork, as well as many others, are available in my book, The Luminous Mysteries, which allows you to pray the Rosary prayer by prayer, with each prayer illustrated with gorgeous religious art. If you would like to learn more about the books, click here

Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of three, author, blogger, and lover of Christian artwork. She's the author of the Illustrated Rosary series, which pairs every prayer of the Rosary with beautiful religious artwork. She likes also milkshakes, sunshine, and mystery novels. Follow her on Twitter at @illustr_prayer

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