The River Jordan Changes Course
Fr. Scott A. Haynes
In the Baptism of the Lord, we behold that great scene where Jesus Christ is baptized by Saint John the Baptist in the River Jordan. Saint John the Baptist is a very important figure of the Sacred History because He is considered to be the link between the Old and the New Testament. His name John means "the gift from God". He is also called the Prodrómos, meaning the one that opens the way to Christ. Saint John is not the one that sanctified Christ when he performed the baptism, but he himself was sanctified by touching the head of His Master.
The word Baptism comes again from Greek: Baptisma, meaning immersion into water. Through the baptism of the Lord the waters were also sanctified, being transformed in waters of sanctification. The water is now water of salvation; water that liberates man from the ties of sin making, giving Him birth again from water and Spirit. Man is remodeled by God, as a pot maker models his vessels, using water and fire: water from the River Jordan and fire from the Holy Spirit.
On this day the River Jordan changes its course. The river Jordan, with its two traditional streams Jor and Dan represents also our lives, lives that stream from our ancient parents, Adam and Eve. From Adam and Eve, the life of mankind started flowing toward the Dead Sea of sin and perdition, as Jordan River does. But when Christ entered the river, the Jordan changed the flow of its direction. In the same way our lives change direction when Christ enters into our lives.
In remembrance of the Baptism of the Lord there is an old custom of blessing the waters during the season of Epiphany. Not only holy water, but rivers, streams, lakes, seas, or any body of water. St. Basil the Great affirms that the blessing of water came to us as a "mystical tradition" and that the water, through the prayer and blessing of the priest, receives a "quickening (life giving) power of the Holy Spirit." Through this heavenly power holy water receives the power to bless those who drink from it or are sprinkled with it.
It is an ancient Christian custom not only to be sprinkled with holy water but also to drink Holy Water for the “purification of their souls and bodies and cure of our weakness." And what a beautiful thing it is for every Catholic home to have a holy water font at the front door so that we have in it a fount of continued blessings and protection against all evil.
Each time we renew bless ourselves with holy water we can renew our baptismal promises, rejecting Satan and all his pomps and works so that we will not drown in Satan’s deadly waters, but that, passing the watery grave with Jesus Christ, we will rise gloriously with him to glorify the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and forever and unto the ages of ages Amen.