My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
On the 6th of January, Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church
Commemorates the HOLY THEOPHANY (THEOPHANEIA)
OF OUR LORD AND GOD, AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Feast. First Tone
WHEN Thou was baptized in the Jordan, O Lord, the worship of
the Trinity was made manifest; for the voice of the Father bare
witness to Thee, calling Thee His Beloved Son. And the Spirit in
the form of a dove confirmed the certainty of the word. O Christ
Our God, Who hast appeared and hast enlightened the world,
Glory be to Thee.
Kontakion Hymn of the Feast. First Tone
WHEN Thou didst enlighten all things by Thine Epiphany, the
briny sea of unbelief fled, and as Jordan flowed down, it turned
back, exalting us to Heaven. Through the intercessions of the
Theotokos, preserve us at the height of Thy Divine Commandments,
O Christ God, and have mercy on us.
Kontakion. Fourth Tone
ON this day Thou hast appeared unto the whole world, and Thy
Light, O Sovereign Lord, is signed on us who sing Thy praise
and chant with knowledge: Thou HAST NOW COME, THOU HAST
APPEARED, O THOU LIGHT UNAPPROACHABLE.
The Great Holy Feast of Theophany (Theophaneia), meaning "MANIFESTATION OF GOD." is also known as the Epiphany (Epiphaneia), meaning "MANIFESTATION FROM ABOVE." The divine office for this Feast celebrates THE BAPTISM OF CHRIST IN THE RIVER JORDAN, thus SANCTIFYING BOTH MAN AND THE WATERS, AND HIS MANIFESTATION AS CHRIST AND THE MANIFESTATION OF GOD IN TRINITY. Epiphany is THE OLDEST FEAST OF OUR LORD NEXT TO PASCHA and has always been celebrated on the 6th of January. The first mention of the Feast is found in Saint Clement of Alexandria (+ 150-215 A.D.). Originally, Epiphany commemorated not only the Baptism of Christ but also His Nativity. However, the day on which Christ was born, He was NOT manifested to all; when He was baptized, He was MADE MANIFEST TO ALL; and so says Saint John Chrysostom (Homily XXIV) on the Baptism of Christ). During the early centuries, this day of our Lord’s Theophany, together with Pascha and Pentecost, and later the Feast of the Nativity were the solemn occasions of Christian INITIATION THROUGH BAPTISM. The remnant of this practice is observed in the chanting of this hymn during the Divine Liturgy: "As many as were baptized into Christ, ye put on Christ (Galatians 3:27) Alleluia." It was not until the 4th Century that the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus was commemorated as a separate feast. As a historical note, according to the old Egyptian calendar, the 6th of January was the day OF THE WINTER SOLSTICE, at which time the benighted pagans celebrated THE CONQUEST OF THE WINTER DARKNESS BY THE SUN god. Later, the new Roman calendar placed the winter solstice on the 25th of December, at which time the polytheistic Romans glorified their deified emperor. Therefore, at the time the idolaters were commemorating the conquest of winter darkness by their sun god or deifying their emperor, THE CHRISTIANS WERE CELEBRATING THE MANIFESTATION OF JESUS CHRIST, TRUE GOD AND TRUE MAN, WHO CONQUERED THE DARKNESS OF IGNORANCE AND SIN, LEADING OUR RACE TO WORSHIP OUR CREATOR RATHER THAN THE CREATURE.
The Theophany took place when Our Lord Jesus Christ had lived thirty years from the time He took flesh and became Man. Our Lord’s Descent into the Jordan and His Baptism were A PATENT MANIFESTATION OF HIS INCARNATION. We, therefore, cry aloud with the Psalmist David, "Blessed is He Who cometh in the name of the Lord…God is the Lord and hath appeared unto us" (Psalm 117:26-27). This THEOPHANY is fulfilled in the Prophecy of Prophet Baruch "This is our God, and there shall none other be accounted of in comparison of Him… Afterward, did He show Himself upon earth, and conversed with men" (Baruch 3:35-37). Thus, we chant, "Divinity was seen with flesh by those of the earth" (cf. Baruch 3:37).
According to Metropolitan HIerotheos of Nafpaktos, Saint John Chrysostom distinguishes between Jewish and Christian baptism. The former does NOT purify from sin of the soul but only from the filth of the body. Church baptism is incomparably higher, because IT FREES THE PERSON FROM HIS SINS, PURIFIES THE SOUL, AND GIVES THE HOLY SPIRIT. Between these two baptisms ther is the baptism which the Worthy Forerunner John the Baptist practiced, which was A BRIDGE BETWEEN THE JUDAIC AND THE CHRISTIAN. Saint John’s baptism was higher that the Judaic, because it referred to Christ, but it was lower than our own, the Christian.
Saint John of Damaskos says that Christ WAS NOT BAPTIZED BECAUSE HE HAD NEED OF PURIFICATION, "BUT TO IDENTIFY HIMSELF WITH OUR PURIFICATION." Just as Chris suffered and was crucified for mankind and felt all the grief and pain, so He identified Himself with OUR OWN PURIFICATION. Many things happened in this way. Furthermore, Saint John of Damaskos, Christ was baptized in order TO CRUSH THE HEADS OF THE DRAGONS IN THE WATER, for there was a conception that the demons dwell in the water; in order to wash the sin and bury the old Adam in the water; in order to bless the baptist, for the Forerunner DID NOT BLESS CHRIST, but CHRIST BLESSED THE FORERUNNER when the latter put his hand on Christ’s head; in order to keep the law, since He Himself gaveit and should not appear to transgress it; in order to reveal the mystery of the Holy Trinity, because at that moment we have THE MANIFESTATION OF THE HOLY TRINITY; in order to become a model for our own baptism, which is perfect baptism and is done by water and the Holy Spirit.
Beyond these things, by His Baptism in the River Jordan, Christ blessed the water as well. That is why even today we perform THE SERVICE OF THE BLESSING OF THE WATERS and during the celebration we call upon the Holy Spirit to bless the waters. Thus after the blessing it CEASES TO BE WATER OF THE FALL AND BECOMES WATER OF RENEWAL, SINCE IT IS UNITED WITH THE UNCREATED GRACE OF GOD."
Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite says that in order to reshape a vessel, the potter needs two elements: water for moulding the earth, and fire to burn and cast the moulded clay and so to reshape it. And God, the Great Potter of OUR OWN MOULD, DOES JUST THE SAME THING. WANTING TO RESHAPE OUR NATURE, WHICH WAS CRUSHED BY SIN, GOD USED FIRE AND WATER. AND HE TAKES THE FIRE FROM HIMSELF, BECAUSE AS GOD HE IS A"CONSUMING FIRE" WHICH CONSUMES WICKEDNES, AND HE BORROWS THE WATER FRO THE RIVER JORDAN.
The fact is that by Christ’s INCARNATION, by all the steps of the Divine Economy, and certainly by the Baptism in the River Jordan, THE HUMAN RACE IS RESHAPED. After the Fall and THE CRUSHING OF OUR NATURE WE HAVE RESHAPING AND REBIRTH. This RESHAPING IS POSSIBLE, ON THE ONE HAND BECAUSE AFTER THE SIN HUMAN NATURE DID NOT DISAPPEAR ALTOGETHER, AND ON THE OTHER HAND BECAUSE GOD HIMSELF IS MAN’S CREATOR AND IS HIMSELF MAN’S RECREATOR.
It is quite impossible for these two elements, WATER and FIRE, to exist together. For fire cannot ignite and prosper in a damp place, and water quenchs fire. In the River Jordan THEY CAN EXIST TOGETHER, BECAUSE THE FIRE IS UNCREATED, WHILE THE WATER IS CREATED. AND THEREFORE THE UNCREATED FIRE IS NOT INFLUENCED BY THE CREATED ELEMENT OF THE WATER. INDEED ON THE CONTRARY, THE CREATED WATER IS MADE HOLY BY THE FIRE OF DIVINITY. [Source: The Feasts of the Lord. An Introduction to the Twelve Feasts and Orthodox Christology by Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, HIEROTHEOS).
(To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God