|Baptism of Christ, British Library|
(ms. illumination, England, 13th century)
Today is the feast of the Baptism of the Lord today, and the last day of the Christmas season. This feast is marked with the Father speaking his love for his own beloved Son at his baptism by St. John the Baptist in the Jordan River. Originally part of the feast of Epiphany, it was only in 1955 that Pope Pius XII instituted a separate liturgical celebration of the Baptism.
In Rome a new custom was started by St. (Pope) John Paul II for the Pope to baptize babies in the Sistine Chapel on this day. Here's part of a homily that his successor, Pope Benedict, gave to the parents at this ceremony in 2007:
These children of yours, whom we will now baptize, are not yet able to collaborate, to manifest their faith. For this reason, your presence, dear fathers and mothers, and yours, dear godfathers and godmothers, acquires a special value and significance. Always watch over your little ones, so that they may learn to know God as they grow up, love him with all their strength and serve him faithfully. May you be their first educators in faith, offering together with your teaching also the examples of a coherent Christian life. Teach them to pray and to feel as living members of the concrete family of God, of the Ecclesial Community.
... Above all, do not forget that it is your witness, it is your example, that has the greatest effect on the human and spiritual maturation of your children's freedom. Even caught up in the sometimes frenetic daily activities, do not neglect to foster prayer, personally and in the family, which is the secret of Christian perseverance.
Let us entrust these children and their families to the Virgin Mother of Jesus, Our Savior, presented in today's liturgy as the beloved Son of God: may Mary watch over them and accompany them always, so that they can fully carry out the project of salvation which God has for each one. Amen.