Epistle for the Sunday before Theophany
(II Tim. 4:5-8 & Col 3:12-16)
On this Sunday before the feast of Holy Theophany (the Baptism of the Lord), the church appoints today’s Epistle reading in which we read the following words from the holy Apostle Paul: ‘Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.’
The crown of righteousness has been laid up for all who have loved His appearing. The feast of Theophany is precisely this – the manifestation or appearing of the Lord to mankind. As we read in the holy Gospels, when Jesus was baptized in the waters of Jordan, “immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.’” The baptism of our Lord was not only the beginning of Christ’s active earthly ministry, it was truly and clearly a manifestation of the fullness of the Trinity to mankind. Christ, the Son of God, descended into the waters; the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove came to rest upon Him; and the voice of God the Father was heard declaring His pleasure. On this feast, the Holy Trinity was clearly shown to mankind.
Apostle Paul declares that a crown of righteousness is laid up for all those who have loved His appearing. We must realize the spiritual significance of the baptism of the Lord, of the appearing and meaning of the Holy Trinity, and we must love God for this merciful manifestation of His Goodness to us.
The manifestation of the Trinity is the manifestation of the fullness of the love of God for mankind. We behold the love existing within the Persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And we behold the love extending from the Persons of the Holy Trinity to us, to all mankind. God enters into the physicality of humanity… taking on flesh and blood, nursing at the breast of His mother, touching the sick and the lame, redeeming all that is fallen in this world by His Grace.
And not only is God able to restore mankind to holiness by His Grace, but He even wills to make the things of this world into vehicles of Grace. By the holy prayers of the Church and by the intercession and action of the Holy Spirit, water may become blessed and a carrier of God’s Grace. What a marvelous thing and what a great gift God gives to us in the Blessing of the Waters.
As we approach this Holy Feast of Theophany, let us recognize and cherish the blessing and condescension of God to continue reaching out to us. We have the opportunity to invite Christ and the Holy Spirit into our homes with the sweet service of the house blessing. I encourage all of you to sign up to have your house blessed… It is a great privilege and helps us to begin the new year in the right spirit – sanctifying our homes with God’s blessing and grace.
Let us love His appearing so that we may receive this crown of righteousness. And what is this crown of righteousness? The Epistle read for this Sunday tells us what this might be… Apostle Paul writes: ‘…as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.’
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ… may God grant us the wisdom and the spiritual clarity of sight to behold His appearing during these holy days… for God is indeed with us! May our spiritual eyes be opened to understand that He is near, that He cares for us, that our blind and persistent struggle and tension to assert our own way is precisely the thing that is killing us. All that wasted energy in asserting our will creates the conflicts and misery that alienate us from one another and from God Himself. We must have the courage and strength to surrender and unite our will to the will of God.
Christ says: ‘Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’
May we indeed enter into this season of Grace, when God comes to dwell among us as a young Child, when the fullness of the Trinity is shown to mankind, and when the waters of Theophany are offered for the spiritual renewal and refreshment of ourselves and our homes. May we dare to put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, forgiving one another. And above all these things – may we put on love, which is the bond of perfection. Doing so, as the Apostle Paul blesses us: ‘let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.’