A few months ago, I was struck by a bit of information: I learned trees in a forest are connected and “speak” to each other using the mycorrhizal network under the soil. The exchange of chemicals between mycelium and trees—as well as their symbiotic relationship—as it turned out, form a beautiful, vibrant, and interdependent community.
The image of a dialogical-chemical exchange among trees and fungi must have made a deeper impression than I realized. One day, as I was looking at the Sundays and Seasons planning calendar, the feasts and commemorations—each one a single temporal entity lending its unique perspective to our days—seemed, not isolated calendrical singularities, but embedded in a network: a forest of connected feasts in active conversation, each relating this or that aspect of the salvation story to the others, sharing symbols, imagery, viewpoints, and emphases.
The Baptism of Our Lord, or, as our Orthodox siblings in Christ call it, the Feast of the Divine Theophany—our commemoration of the beginning of Jesus’s earthly ministry, John the Baptist’s confession, and the revelation of Jesus’ identity as the Son and Word of God—is an appropriate time to lay out some of the many baptismal (“subterranean”) connections of the great feasts in our calendar. From the perspective of a lively ecosystem, the Baptism of Our Lord “speaks” to, or is in dynamic relationship with, Easter (Death and Resurrection), Pentecost (the reception of the Holy Spirit), All Saints (our place in the Body of Christ), Christ the King (which reminds us to trust in the Lord, no matter what), all of Lent (with its “crossing the desert” or “crossing the Jordan” themes as stand-ins for the Christian life), and even Reformation (another occasion to celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit).
Building on this line of thought, the following hymns could help us amplify the connections between baptism and the other great feasts of the church year:
Death and Resurrection/Easter:
To Christ Belong, in Christ Behold (ACS 958)
We Know That Christ Is Raised (ELW 449)
Seed That in Earth Is Dying (ELW 330)
O Blessed Spring (ELW 447)
Wade in the Water (ELW 459)
Community in Christ/All Saints:
Waterlife (ELW 457)
In Christ Called to Baptize (ELW 575)
Build Us Up, Lord (ELW 670)
We Are All One in Christ (ELW 643)
This Is the Spirit’s Entry Now (ELW 448)
All Who Believe and Are Baptized (ELW 442)
Trust in God/Christ the King:
O Blessed Spring (ELW 447)
Glorious Things of You Are Spoken (ELW 647)
Mystery of Faith/Holy Trinity:
I Bind unto Myself Today (ELW 450)
Finally, consider the versification of Colossians 3:12-16 penned by the late and dear Susan Palo Cherwien as part of this network of relationships, a splendid reminder of what it means to be baptized, sage advice for all of us this New Year and always:
“Beloved, God’s chosen, put on as a garment compassion, forgiveness, and goodness of heart.
Above all, before all, let love be your raiment that binds into one every dissonant part.”
Beloved, God’s Chosen (ELW 648)