Sunday After Theophany
We hear in today’s Holy Gospel a quotation from Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death, Light has dawned.’ This quote from the prophecy of Isaiah is presented to us by the Evangelist Matthew in the context of his description of Christ’s baptism by John in the Jordan.
The great event of Christ’s baptism is the manifestation of the Holy Trinity and Christ shines forth His Light to the world. Indeed, in the Kontakion of the feast of Theophany we sing: ‘Thou hast appeared today to the whole world, and Thy light, O Lord, hath been signed upon us who hymn Thee with understanding. Thou hast come, Thou hast appeared, the Light unapproachable.’
Christ’s appearance to mankind brings Light to the world. But as we hear in the opening verses of the Gospel of St John: ‘In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.’
The Light of Christ’s love and truth shines upon us and upon the whole world, but we do not comprehend it. Indeed, it is quite often the case that we prefer the darkness of our selfishness to the Light of Christ’s selfless love. This is the great tragedy of mankind and of ourselves…
We are entangled in sin and darkness. How do we move out of that darkness and into the Light of Christ?
Our Lord gives us the prescription in His first sermon coming out of the waters of the Jordan… He exclaimed: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
To repent means to make a change… to turn from one way to another way.
We are sitting in darkness and in order to move away from darkness and toward the Light, we have to turn around and take action to move toward the Light. It is not enough for us to simply become aware of the Light. We can be aware of the Light, we can appreciate the Light, we can love the Light from the comfort of our armchair in the depths of our cave of darkness …
In order to truly embrace that Light and to live in that Light, we have to take action – we have to get up from that comfortable and familiar chair and we must turn away from our dark cave and step out into the Light.
This is Christ’s call of repentance… that we turn away from darkness and step forward into the Light of His love.
There is a sequence to all of this – and it is demonstrated for us by our Lord as we celebrate this feast of Theophany.
Before our Lord began His public ministry, he came to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. John’s initial reaction was to refuse, saying that it was more appropriate for Jesus to baptize him, for Christ was the Master and bestower of grace. But Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’
So Christ instructs John to baptize Him and as He comes up out of the water, the heavens are opened and the Spirit in the form of a dove comes to rest upon Him and the voice of the Father declares ‘This is My Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased’.
Before Christ goes forth into the wilderness, before He begins His ministry, He fortifies Himself and demonstrates for us the importance of receiving the grace of the sacraments. He does the same thing before His final suffering and crucifixion… instituting the sacrament of the Eucharist, the offering and partaking of the Body and Blood of the Lord.
We are called by our Lord to repent… to turn away from darkness and to turn toward the Light of Christ. This can be a frightening thing to do… for we move from what is familiar into the mysterious territory of God. It requires incredible trust… and we may take courage that God does not leave us to our own devices in traveling this narrow path of repentance. He nourishes us and encourages us with the grace of His sacraments… Holy Communion, Confession and Forgiveness, Baptism, and every year at this time we are blessed with the holy waters of Theophany – which cleanse ourselves and our homes with their grace and spiritual refreshment.
The renewing waters of Theophany are God’s gift to us as we begin the new year… equipping us first with God’s grace to then take action toward repentance, toward turning from whatever darkness their might be in our lives and taking those decisive steps toward the Light and Love of Christ.
May He Who has enlightened the world, fill our lives with His Light!