Holy Name Church, Manchester
Water is everywhere at the Easter Vigil, from Creation (Genesis 1) to the Exodus (Chapter 14) and the rain making the land fertile in Isaiah (35:1-11) to Paul’s ‘When we were baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised in his death … so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life. (Romans 6:3-11)
The water is blessed by immersing the Paschal Candle in it, as we pray that all who are buried with Christ in the death of baptism may rise to new life with him. New Christians are baptised; we are all sprinkled with holy water.
The Church is serious about death, the church is serious about the Resurrection. As you enter the Holy Name church in Manchester you cannot avoid their magnificent holy water fonts: this particular church is very serious about the death of baptism.
If we are to be raised from the dead, then despite all our trials and troubles, everything is basically all right. All will be well, all manner of things will be well. If you cannot quite believe in Easter and everlasting life, ask yourself, if this story were indeed true, what difference would it make to me today? How would it change my life? Then try starting that change in behaviour, and see if it makes sense.
When my ten-year-old godson was baptised, he chose a new name, one that was important to him: his Father’s name.
When my son was baptised he was given names from his grandfathers and godfather. Our daughter’s names, too, were chosen to say something about who they were and where they came from.
We can learn something about a person – and their parents and ancestors – from their surnames.
And so it is when Jesus is baptised; we are told something about him: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
While John was right to say that Jesus did not need his baptism of repentance, by accepting it Jesus witnessed to his relationship with his Father – a relationship John encouraged his penitents to renew at a personal level through a symbolic death and rebirth in the water.
Let’s pray for the grace to be faithful to our baptism by daily witnessing to our relationship with the Father and by daily renewing that relationship in our moments of reflection and repentance.
The Baptism of the Lord, Basilica of the Holy Family, Zakopane, Poland.
The Gospels tell us nothing at all about Mary’s parents, Jesus’ grandparents. Were they still living when Jesus was born, did they get to play with him as a baby? Perhaps not, if the Holy Family had to stay in Egypt for any length of time. Mary would surely have welcomed another pair of hands around the house, while her parents would have been anxious all the time the Holy Family spent in exile.
They were real people, even if we do not know their names for sure. The traditional names of Joachim and Anne first appear in the Second Century. The Missionaries of Africa look after the Basilica of Saint Anne in Jerusalem, built on the traditional site of their home. It is now a house of studies and retreat where pilgrims are welcomed to the church dating back to Crusader times.
Anne is the more celebrated of this couple. I don’t ever remember seeing a statue of Saint Joachim, though the happy couple are celebrated in icons and Anne is often shown teaching Mary to read. But then, last week, on a visit to Manchester, I found him at Holy Name Church. He appears as an old man with a beard wilder than my own. (Maybe Anne was less assertive than my wife.) And he carries a basket and two doves: we think of the two doves offered by Joseph and Mary when Jesus was taken to the Temple as a baby. (Luke 2:24) But perhaps we should remember the deserved reputation doves have for ‘billing and cooing’ – unabashedly showering affection upon each other all through the day. Those doves could stand for Joachim and Anne and for all married couples.
I was happy to learn, from the note beside Joachim’s statue, that he is the patron of grandfathers. I can live with a patron whose beard and hair are something to aspire to! And I can try to live up to the standards of care lavished on his grandson as well as the way he must have supported Mary and Joseph through those difficult months of pregnancy and maybe too their time as refugees. Fun though it is, grandparenting is serious work, God’s work, and mostly in the background.