I never had a chance to post this in the midst of all the happenings yesterday. It was odd to see the world going on as if it were any other Monday, seemingly oblivious to the important day that it was. Anyway, here is what I wrote yesterday morning before Liturgy.
This morning we are preparing to head off to church for the great Feast of Theophany. Just before we leave we will take down the Nativity Icon from its central location and replace it with the icon of Christ’s Baptism, which is quite similar to the one seen above. Theophany (called Epiphany in the west) essentially means the revealing of God and is the culmination of the Nativity Feast. In fact, Theophany is generally seen as the most important Orthodox Feast, second only to Pascha.
We see God revealed in two important ways through the event of Christ’s Baptism: first we see God revealed as Incarnate, in other words Jesus is publicly revealing who He truly is – both Messiah and Son of God. Which leads us to the second revelation: The Trinity. It is, really, the only account in the New Testament where we see all three persons of the Trinity revealed as being “present” and interacting. An amazing thing indeed and it is reflected in the Theophany Troparion:
When Thou wast baptized in the Jordan, O Lord,
the worship of the Trinity made its appearance.
For the voice of the Father bore witness to Thee
when He called Thee His beloved Son.
And the Spirit in the form of a dove
confirmed the truth of the word.
O Christ our God, Who hast appeared and hast enlightened the world,
glory to Thee!
But in addition to this, I need to make mention of water. A few months ago, shortly after I began recovering from my surgery I went through an intense time of dehydration and I felt what real thirst is like…certainly beyond the sensation of a simple dry throat. I could think of virtually nothing but fresh cold water in massive quantities. It was a difficult time, but I think back on it now and see a valuable lesson – the supreme importance of water. As we know, we are made up mostly of water and if denied food and drink, it will be the lack of drink that will seal your fate LONG before starvation will occur. Physically, yes of course we understand the importance of water…but it is also very important spiritually. I am not sure we ought to even make a distinction between water’s physical and spiritual importance since I have come to believe that the two (body and soul) are not dichotomous, but on the contrary harmonious for us humans. The Mystery of Baptism must never be far from our thoughts when we consider the importance of water.
Water has a great deal of religious significance as can be seen in the Old Testament: the Flood, the crossing of the Red Sea, the rock which sprung forth with water, and the crossing of the Jordan all of which are undersatood as prefigurements of the Mystery of Baptism. Early Judaic Baptisms – such as is evidenced by St. John the Forerunner – were seen as cleaning the soul of defilement in the same sense that water is used to clean dirt from the body…indeed the analogy feels exceptionally right, does it not? But when Jesus entered those waters of the Jordan River to participate in St. John’s Baptism, something new was being ushered in. Instead of the waters purifying Him, He in fact purified the waters and in essence cleared the way for Christian Baptism as the means of "putting on Christ."
from Thephany Matins...
You were baptized in the Jordan, O Savior;
You have sanctified the water.
Accepting a servant's hand upon Your head,
You heal the passions of the world.
Great is the Mystery of your saving providence!
O Lord, and Lover of mankind, Glory to You!
The True Light has appeared, and illumines all;
Christ, who is above all purity, is baptized with us.
He brings santification to the water,
and it becomes a cleansing for our souls.
That which is outward and visible is earthly;
that which is inwardly understood is higher than heaven.
Salvation comes through washing, and the Spirit through water;
By descending into the water, we ascend to God.
Wonderful are your work, O Lord; Glory to You!
If a body of water is close enough, many Orthodox parishes will meet or even perhaps process there, and the priest will bless the waters. I have seen scenes from Russia in which people will actually hop into the icy waters after the blessing...this is Russia in mid-January mind you! Yikes...brave souls. In our humble little Parish we have a large bowl of water which is blessed and the people will take a portion of it home to keep at their Icon Corner. We are encouraged to annoint ourselves, the house, and our family members whenever we like - as well as taking a taste now and then as well.
After Litrugy we will have a little feast and then go enmasse to a series of house blessings, which is another thing we Orthodox usually do in the period following theophany: each of us will have some friends over along with the priest and then have our house blessed. It's quite a neat experience and hopefully this year we will have ours done in a new (to us) home much closer to church.
A wonderful Feastday to ALL!
...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 4:21 PM [+]