Most Christians would not connect the season of Lent with Baptism. But actually baptismal theology is at the heart of the season of Lent. In fact our Prayer Book lectionary of Sunday and weekday scripture readings and prayers during Lent are composed to renew our understanding of this important season of the Church year and its connection to baptism, sanctifying grace, and the many challenges to live a full Christian life.
It’s quite proper to say that the season of Lent is radically baptismal and both the season and the sacrament call for deep “radical” conversion. In this Lenten Blog I plan to look at the collect and scriptures assigned to the Sunday in Lent and what part of the baptismal theology in the Book of Common Prayer that is related. When we follow the themes week-by-week we explore our baptismal covenant with God through five great themes of Lent.
When the early Church prepared persons for baptism on Easter Day, it laid out special disciplines the person went through. Some of these features have been retained and are found in the lectionary of our Prayer Book, it’s prayers and the liturgical rites of baptism and confirmation. Our theology and this method of preparation for Easter is rooted to the earliest centuries of Christianity.
We will also see how Lent provides a natural way of looking at what it means to be a Christian. This journey of our spiritual and theological growth culminate in the Great Vigil of Easter and Easter Day! The life of grace is then celebrated over the next Great Fifty Days of Easter until the Feast of Pentecost (May 24, 2015) when this deeper understanding of our baptismal identity is now “our call” to “move forward” and live more fully as leaven of the Holy Spirit in the world. This “call to move forward” is the season of Pentecost and runs until the Feast of Christ the King, November 22, 2015. Over this lengthy season of Pentecost week by week we are urged by the Holy Spirit to “make a friend, be a friend, and bring a friend to Jesus Christ.”
The Sunday morning Lectionary is composed in three cycles, each a year long. They are Year A, Year B, and Year C. This year Lent is in Year B.
The first Sunday of Lent, Feb 22, 2015
The opening Collect is: “Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen” (BCP 218)
The readings are: The Old Testament is Genesis 9:8-17 with the covenant of Noah. The epistle is 1 Peter 3:18-22 and refers to the story of the ark and Noah. St. Peter saw it as prefiguring the salvation that God would offer through the the Church and the waters of baptism. The baptize enter into the ark which is now the Church. We are now saved from the violent storms that bring eternal death. One of the earliest images of the Church is that of a boat. The word “nave” where the congregation sits steams from the Latin word for “ship.” The holy Gospel is from Mark 1:9-13 which is the story of the baptism of Jesus and then immediately being driven out into the wilderness for 40 days and there He was tempted by Satan who provoked many wild beasts. During the 40 days the Father sent angels to minister to Him.
The baptismal themes for this Sunday are built around Noah and the ark and temptations. We are called to turn from the present culture and all its illusions and enticements and enter the “ark” which is the Body of Christ or the Church. Here we find the power of the sacrament of baptism that draws our soul into the mystery of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection. We receive sanctifying grace or “baptismal grace.” We are armed with the truths of the apostolic faith and now have the eyes and heart to “seek and serve Christ in all persons.” (BCP 305)