This past Sunday, the first Sunday of Lent, saw the baptism of our third child. I find it providential that he should have been baptized at the beginning of this penitential season for two reasons.
The first reason is that our child’s middle name is Ezequiel, a saint of the Old Covenant during the Babylonian exile who called upon Israel to repent, especially those who were already in exile and were still hard of heart and stiff necked. In the Book of Ezekiel we are told of how the Lord took the prophet, who was in Babylon, by the hair, to the Temple in Jerusalem. There the Lord showed him how the people of Israel continued to provoke Him – through His priests – by committing adultery with foreign gods: i.e., by offering sacrifices and worship to idols in the Temple alongside the Lord.
And he said to me: Surely thou hast seen, O son of man: is this a light thing to the house of Juda, that they should commit these abominations which they have committed here: because they have filled the land with iniquity, and have turned to provoke me to anger?
The priests then lead the people astray:
Because they have deceived my people, saying: Peace, and there is no peace: and the people built up a wall, and they daubed it with dirt without straw.
I don’t think it is stretching it here to see an application of lex orandi, lex credendi: the priests, no longer worshiping as they should – as the Lord commanded of them – then began to believe and practice abominable things, leading those they were in charge of, those whom they were supposed to lead to God, down a path that pushed the Shekhinah (the Divine Presence) from out of their midst. As a novice oblate belonging to a Benedictine community which has as one of its charisms to pray for priests and to make reparation for them, and looking at the situation of the Church in my home country, this message of Ezekiel resonates deeply with me.
While the book deals for the greater part with the judgment that God will bring upon not only Israel, but those who led her astray and took her into captivity, it also is extremely hopeful: if one will repent and do penance, the Lord will forgive their sin; there are also some passages which allude to the sacrament of Baptism and to the Church.
But if the wicked do penance for all his sins which he hath committed, and keep all my commandments, and do judgment, and justice, living he shall live, and shall not die. I will not remember all his iniquities that he hath done: in his justice which he hath wrought, he shall live. Is it my will that a sinner should die, saith the Lord God, and not that he should be converted from his ways, and live?
And I will pour upon you clean water, and you shall be cleansed from all your filthiness, and I will cleanse you from all your idols.
The second fact has to do with this particular baptism taking place after this particular Mass (unlike with our previous children). While no longer the case is most places, Lent was the preparatory time for the reception of the sacrament of Baptism during the Paschal Vigil; the catechumens would receive throughout Lent the prayers, exorcisms and rites that are now condensed at the moment of infant baptism. In very loose a sense, on this day we had all of Lent and the Paschal Vigil condensed into one day!
The Epistle reading for the day (2 Cor 6:1-10) is a program of sorts for the Christian life, which the catechumen was embarking on. For all those who think that the Christian life is one of ease and sentimentality, St. Paul dispels that, painting a somewhat harrowing picture; he warns us that the road is fraught with hardships, yet for all that we will suffer for the Lord he will reward us abundantly.I will share some further thoughts on this in the following post.