At the heart of the great Easter Vigil, celebrated last Saturday evening, is the Blessing of the Font and the Renewal of Baptismal Promises. So important is this ritual that in this country the bishops have mandated that the Renewal of Baptismal Promises is to be repeated on Easter Sunday morning in order that those who did not attend the Easter Vigil do not miss out. As an extension of this every Sunday during the Easter Season we will begin the Sung Mass with the Rite for the Blessing and Sprinkling of Water in place of the usual Penitential Act. As we are showered with the water blessed by the Priest we recall the graces showered on us in our washing from sin in the waters of the font, and rejoice that through the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, which we have just celebrated in Holy Week, we are restored to paradise and to life in God.
The Eagle and Child pub in Oxford (known colloquially as, The Bird and Baby) is frequented as much by tourists keen to follow in the steps of Tolkein and C. S. Lewis, as undergraduates seeking a warming pint of good beer on a frosty November evening. Tolkein and Lewis are still very much present in the atmosphere of Oxford, and it is to C. S. Lewis that our minds might understandably turn in hearing today’s gospel. His trilemma: lunatic, liar, or Lord, is a simple way of saying that either Jesus Christ was and is who he claimed, or else he is a lunatic ‘on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg’, or the devil himself.
It is a stark but real choice. In today’s gospel the Lord makes this claim; not to be a prophet or great leader, but God himself. Even the great Abraham, we are told, ‘rejoiced to see my day’. And he further invokes the memory of Moses, who led the people from slavery in Egypt to the promised land, when he proclaims, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM’. Just as the Lord revealed himself to the Moses in the burning bush – ‘I AM that I AM’ – so Christ here claims to share in the same title – that of God.