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The Baptism of Christ

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PCM519 $3.95

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The Baptism of Christ Icon Reproduction (M19)


"Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. (Matthew 3:13) This icon is also called the “Theophany," a word that means “manifestation of God." The occasion is important because it marks the first manifestation of the Trinity in the Gospel and instituted the sacrament of membership in the Christian Community.

Icon holy cards are a convenient size for use as gifts or bookmarks, 3" x 5". The backs are blank except for a faint colophon at the bottom, leaving plenty of room for custom imprinting with your own message.

Image Origins

Commemoration of the Baptism of Christ is an ancient tradition in the church. Icons for each major feast day in the Liturgical Calendar have been produced since the earliest days of the Byzantine era. The image Sister Marie-Paul used in this version follows closely the ancient prototypes, although it is unusually tall and narrow, adjusted to fit the space needs of the church that commissioned the original (Holy Redeemer Lutheran Church in Jerusalem). This event is described in all four Gospels (Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22, and John 1:29-34).

Theology and Symbolism

The Baptism of Christ has two aspects of great importance to all Christians. First, it was the occasion on which the Trinity was revealed to us. The Spirit descended from Heaven like a dove, the Son bowed His head in submission to receive the water from John the Baptist, and the voice of the Father spoke: "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). Second, while performing the act of ritual cleansing prescribed by Jewish ritual, Christ established the New Testament sacrament of Baptism as a sign of membership in His church.

John the Baptist officiates at the ceremony, his right hand upon Jesus’ head and his left raised in prayer. An Orthodox hymn expresses what John may have felt. "...I do not dare to hold Thy most pure head; sanctify Thou me, O Lord, by Thy divine manifestation." John is dressed in camel skins (Matthew 1:6) but also wears a red robe symbolic of his priestly role in the scene.

Christ stands in the midst of the Jordan, head bowed in submission, right hand extended in the ancient gesture of blessing; index finger extended, middle and little fingers curved, ring finger and thumb crossed forming "ICXC," the Greek monogram of Jesus Christ. A white cloth girds his loins, white becoming from this moment the symbol of membership in His church. His halo, iconographic symbol of sanctity, is inscribed with a cross and the Greek letters omega, omicron, and nu. They spell "ho on," which translates as "Who Am," the words used to name God in Exodus 3:14.

The waters of the Jordan appear dark and threatening. To the ancient Jews, water was a symbol of death. Jesus immerses Himself in the water as a sign of His death and burial (see Romans 6:3). The blessing of his hand is conferred on the water, transforming it into a symbol of birth into the new life of Christ. Two spirits are visible in the water, the male on the right is an allegory of the Jordan while the female on the left represents the Red Sea. These remind us of two Old Testament prefigurations of baptism, a passing through water into new life; the dividing of the Jordan by Elisha (2nd Kings 2:14), and the dividing of the Red Sea by Moses (Exodus 14:16-21).

The Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove, recalling another Old Testament story. Noah’s dove appeared to announce the end of the Flood and the return of life to the world (Genesis 8:11). Here, the Holy Spirit announces the remission of sins and God’s mercy toward His people.

Three angels stand on the right bank, hands covered by their robes in the ancient Byzantine mark of special respect. They are absent in the Gospel stories of the Baptism, although in each Gospel account, the Baptism is followed by the Temptation in the Desert, and angels minister to Jesus at the conclusion of the forty days (e.g. Matthew 4:11). By their postures they help focus the viewer’s attention on Christ.

Size: 3 x 5


Price shown does not include imprinting charges.

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