Baptism of Our Lord- Theophany

Baptism of Our Lord- Theophany

By +Fr. Tom Glynn

“O All-Shining Word, sent from the Father, You have come to completely dispel the dark and evil night and the sins of mortal mankind.  By your Baptism, O Blessed Lord, You will draw up with Yourself bright children from the streams of the Jordan.” (Morning Office of Theophany)

On January 6th, we begin to celebrate one of the most important feasts of the Church Year.  This feast has several names: Epiphany, Theophany, and Enlightenment. A popular name among our people is Jordan, because we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus and the first manifestation of the Holy Trinity in the river of Jordan.  On this feast day we have the Great Blessing of Water, which is used to bless our homes and ourselves.

The feast starts on the Sunday preceding, with a reading from the beginning of the Gospel of St. Mark, which starts, “The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”.  The announcement is abrupt and to the point.  St. Mark’s Gospel has no story of Jesus’ birth, as in Matthew and Luke.  There is no meditation on His eternal pre – existence, as in the beginning of St. John’s Gospel.  But what he does tell us in the beginning of his Gospel is what the real message of our Christmas celebration is all about – Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and through His becoming one with us, He brings salvation.  The heart of the Christmas message is that Jesus is the fulfillment of God the Father’s plan of salvation for us. This is seen in the Morning Prayer sung on Christmas, “Man fell from the divine life of grace – but now the wise Creator re – creates man again – You have set us free – sharing in our poverty you have made our nature God – like through your union with it.”

The celebration of this feast begins by taking us out to the desert wilderness.  Throughout the Bible, the desert wilderness is a special symbolic place – a place of testing, a place of spiritual confrontation and a place of cleansing.  We will have more about this when we enter the time of the Great Fast.  Out of this wilderness steps one of God’s wild men, John The Baptist.  His clothing and lifestyle show him to be a figure like the Old Testament prophets.  He proclaims that Christ is coming, and that we are in a time of preparation.  The word he shouts out is the first word Jesus speaks in His public life:  “Repent!”

Repentance is a power word.  It does not mean to feel sorry for one’s past, and has nothing to do with feelings of guilt.  It is an action word.  It means to turn around your life, your values, and your lifestyle, and to take on a new direction.  Repentance is a total transforming experience.

It’s good to stop here for a moment.  Am I ready to turn parts of my life around?  What new directions need I take in my life?  What would John the Baptist say to me concerning the values I have?

“Christ is baptized!  He comes up out of the water, and with him He carries the whole world.  He sees the heavens opened that Adam had closed against himself and his posterity.  The Holy Spirit bears witness to His divinity.  A voice sounds from heaven, for it is from heaven that He has come down, He is the Savior of our souls.” (Theophany vespers service)

This feast is called the Feast of Light.  A theme in the Blessing of Water is the illumination of the whole created world by the Light of Christ.  We need to hear this in the darkness of this winter.  As it is sung in the Blessing of Water, “ Today we have escaped from the darkness, and by the light of the knowledge of God we have been illuminated.”

The Great Blessing of Water is a celebration.  For me, this is one of the greatest prayers we have during the year.  It is an awesome prayer.  The Light of Christ illuminates the whole cosmos – if we do not see it, we are spiritually blind.  To quote from the Blessing of Water:

“The world is sparkling with the light of the Lord! – Today the moon with the world is bright! – Today the twinkling stars adorn the earth! – The whole universe – the sun praises You, and the moon is Your worshiper – today we are delivered from darkness, today the whole created cosmos shines with light from on high!”

We pray for “sanctification, blessing and health to all who touch this water, drink of it, are sprinkled with it.”  We will take this water home for blessings during the year.  As we are blessed with it, the following is sung:

“Believers, let us praise the great plans of God who works for us: for the only pure and spotless One, being incarnate on account of our fall, purifies us in the Jordan River, sanctifies us together with the waters and crushes the heads of the dragons in this water.  O Brethren, let us therefore draw this water with joy, for those who draw it in faith shall be invisibly endowed with the grace of the Holy Spirit, through the presence of Christ God, the Savior of our souls.”

Originally published on January 4th, 2004