The Holy Theophany
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we celebrate today the great feast of Theophany upon which we commemorate the baptism of our Lord… a day which marks the beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry and a day in which ‘the worship of the Trinity was made manifest’! The word Theophany means the appearance of God. On this day, Jesus Christ was baptized and the voice of the Father spoke out calling Him His beloved Son, and the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove to rest upon Him. It is a startling and powerful revelation of the true nature of God as Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
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. This is the great tragedy of mankind and of ourselves…
We see the world entangled in sin and darkness – and, if we are honest with ourselves, we see that we participate in this too. 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.
This glorious feast of Theophany occurs at the start of a new year. It is a perfect time to make positive changes in our life… to repent and to cast off that which encumbers us and to embrace all that will lead us to love God more fully.
For God has given us all that is necessary for our salvation. With this feast, He has revealed Himself to us in the fullness of the manifestation of the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And in this startling revelation, we get a glimpse into the reality of the living presence of Love which defines the very Being of God! Within the Person of God there is a relation of self-giving love. This sets the God of Christianity apart from any and all other conceptions of God and it is a unique and telling revelation which sets the tone for how we might attain our salvation and union with God.
The God Who reveals Himself today is a God of intimacy. He cares for His creatures and wishes to enter into communion with us. By the Holy Spirit, God blesses and permeates His creation, bestowing His Life-Giving Grace upon things and upon us.
Today we celebrate the Great Blessing of Waters. It is an amazing thing that God grants this manifestation of His grace to us. Ordinary water, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, becomes extraordinary, becomes sanctified, holy.
And isn’t it this way with all things? By the grace of God, ordinary things may become extraordinary and holy. A simple piece of painted wood – through prayer and God’s grace becomes a holy icon, a window into heaven. An ordinary human life, through prayer and the grace of God, may become sanctified, may become holy.
This is part of the mystery and glory of Jesus Christ. He renews all things – all of creation rejoices in God that we may be united with Him!
On this great feast of Theophany, let us remember and renew our own baptismal vows… We vowed to renounce Satan and to unite ourselves to Christ. Our only hope of fulfilling this important and essential vow is by heeding the call of Christ to repentance… by making a conscious step of determination to be united with Christ and by our humble submission to the grace of God.
Glory to God that He provides us with such an abundance of grace! The waters of Theophany shower us with God’s blessings, protection, and grace. What a tremendous gift indeed!
May each and every one of us draw strength and consolation from the outpouring of grace given to us through the healing and sanctifying waters of Theophany. I urge you to take advantage of the blessings offered to you by the Holy Church and invite the priest to sanctify your homes with the holy waters of Theophany. This begins the new year in the right way - with spiritual refreshment and encouragement. May the light of the appearance of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, enlighten and fill our lives with blessings and joy!