In the liturgical year, today's feast ends the Christmas season and tomorrow begins a period of "ordinary time."
Today's Gospel (from Luke Chapter 3) is an account of Christ's baptism by John the Baptist. The passage brings us one of those moments in the scriptures when God himself speaks:
After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.
And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
I am intrigued by these moments when God himself has something to say -- Moses and the burning bush being another good example.
We don't seem to have instances in our modern world when the sacred fourth wall is opened up.
Or, are doves descending all the time and we're just too busy to notice?
The artist James Tissot (1836-1902), a successful society painter in France and England, claimed he once experienced such a sacred break-in. Tissot reported he had a vision of Christ while at the Church of Saint Sulpice in Paris.
That religious experience, it is said, led Tissot to cease his work as a society painter and labor instead in the creation of a series of very detailed paintings of scenes from the Bible.
The image above of John the Baptist and Jesus at the River Jordon is one of Tissot's paintings. I had the opportunity to see it yesterday during a visit to the Brooklyn Museum's special exhibit "James Tissot: 'The Life of Christ'."
It's a powerful exhibit not to be missed if you live in the New York area. The paintings, which are quite small, provide many unique visual perspectives of scenes from Jesus' life.