This is the next image in the Dodekaorton sequence. Here we see Christ being baptised in the Jordan. On the left at the top Christ, accompanied by two of His disciples, is speaking to John the Baptist, the Forerunner of God. In the centre John bends forward in a bow as he reaches out to baptize Christ. Christ Himself, the largest of the figures, stands, clad only in a loincloth, in the chasm like river while on the right four angels, one looking up to heaven gather with hands to covered before the self-emptying incarnate Word. Above Christ the Spirit, in the form of dove, descends from heaven. Below John stands a tree with an axe laid against it. This could refer to any number of texts, but the following seem to be the most probable:
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. (Is. 11:1)
He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. (Is. 53:2)
They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. (Jer. 17:8)
The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. (Mt. 3:10) (NIV)Christ's baptism makes our baptism possible as He sanctifies the waters of the world and through them the whole world. This immersion into the waters of Jordan that God once used to wash away the leprosy of Naaman the Syrian is an anticipation of His immersion into suffering and death, indeed, into Hades itself. This Trinitarian moment, this Epiphany, when the Father sends the Spirit to confirm the Jesus as Son is not for His benefit. He did not lack the Spirit before hand. This is for our benefit. We are to hear the voice of the Father affirm the Beloved Son and see the Spirit descend on gentle wings, a manifestation in time and creation to the intimate union between the Persons of the All-Holy Trinity. The angels look on in awe at His humility and yet will be even more astonished at His self-emptying on the Cross. It is as if there is no place so low, so humble, so abject that Christ will not descend to it so as to reveal to us how worthy the Father is of obedience, worship and love. In this self-emptying Incarnation, this identification with the lowest place, Christ embraces us and lifts us up into the very heart of God, the communions between the Three Divine Persons.
You are invited by Christ into the very heart of God. He has opened the way through His humility and loving obedience. Let this future glory inspire you this Lent.