Thus says the LORD:
Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations....
If you ask me -- and no one has -- this feast should take precedence over the Epiphany. I know that the Epiphany is more charming with its melancholy hymn (We three kings...) and the miniature magi finally arriving at the creche before the whole thing is dismantled until next year; and I understand that the Eastern Churches celebrate today as their "christmas" and, in the everlasting effort to reunite the Church we should honor the feast. But, given that the western Epiphany is but a shadow, an overdue echo of Christmas, I would prefer to celebrate the Baptism of the Lord on Sunday. And I would use all three readings, even on this Monday.
But, as I said, no one asked me. And so we'll make the best of the hand we're dealt.
As Saint Matthew tells the story, everyone within earshot heard the thunderous announcement, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." And there is little doubt about the Speaker. It is God, whom we have come to know as God the Father.
This story is one of the key passages to our understanding of the Holy Trinity. Jesus is named as "my beloved Son;" he cannot be the Speaker. He is revealed as God but he is not a ventriloquist speaking of himself in the third person. He is Someone Other than the Father; he is the Son.
And, it follows, the Speaker is the Father. He cannot be called Father unless he has a Son. We should notice that Jesus teaches us the "Our Father" but he does not himself say that prayer. He told Mary Magdalene on the day of his resurrection, "I am ascending to my father and your father, to my God and your God." Our relationship with God, whom we call "Father," is not the same as his relationship to God. There is only one Son of God. The rest of us are children of God. If there were a hundred million sentient, self-aware humanoid races in the rest of this vast star-spangled universe, there is only one Son of God. He alone redeems the Universe.
In this story, the Holy Spirit also appears "like a dove" as it -- or "he" -- descends upon Jesus. The Holy Spirit appears in many ways, almost innumerably, in the scriptures. There are fire, wind, oil, anointing and blessing. We understand that God the Father has sent his Son Jesus and his Holy Spirit to us to gather us to Himself.
(Traditionally, it seems, the Church has been reluctant to assign a gender to the Holy Spirit, but feels equally awkward about the neutral "it." The masculine he/him/his usually prevails but only because our human language is so inadequate before the mystery of God.)
By repentance and Baptism we come to the Banquet he sets for us, his own body and blood. As he enters the Heavenly Sanctuary we enter with him and in him. "There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”