Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Theophany


At that time, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. And immediately as he was coming up from the water, he saw the heavens being parted and the Spirit like a dove coming down upon him. And there was a voice from heaven, You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (Mark 1,9-11)

This is the Great Feast of the Orthodox Church celebrating the revelation of the Trinitarian God and the beginning of the public work of Jesus Christ. When He was thirty years old he began his teaching with His baptism in the Jordan river by Saint John the Baptist (Forerunner). It was at this time that the the Holy Trinity, as prophesied in the Old Testament, was fully made known to the world. The Father was revealed through sense of hearing by His voice. The Spirit was revealed through the sense of sight with the appearance of the dove. And the Son, Jesus Himself, was revealed to the sense of touch. The Father uttered His witness about the Son, the Son was baptized in the water, and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove hovered above the water. It is when John the Baptist witnessed and said about Christ, “Behold, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). When John immersed and baptized the Lord in the Jordan, the mission of Christ in the world and the path of our salvation was shown.

Saint John Chrysostom points out that it was not at His birth that He made Himself known to all but at His Baptism. He writes,
“Until this time He was not known to the people. And that the people did not know Him, Who He was, listen about this to John the Baptist, who says: "there stands One among you whom you do not know." (Jn.1:26). And is it surprising that others did not know Him, when even the Baptist did not know Him until that day? "I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’" (Jn 1:33).” (Chrysostom)

What is the meaning of Theophany?
Theophany means the showing forth of God or the manifestation of God. At His Baptism Jesus Christ was revealed as truly God, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. We can think of there being two Theophanies. His Baptism being the first and the second coming the second.

Historically
This feast was the first major feast celebrated by the Church. It was considered to be one of the most important events in the history of our salvation because it made known God as the the Holy Trinity. The Orthodox Theophany hymn states: “When you O Lord were baptized in the Jordan, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest. The voice of the Father bore witness to you, calling you His beloved Son. And the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the truthfulness of His word….” The trinitarian nature of God is a foundation of the Christian faith. If God is not God in Trinity, then Jesus is not who He claimed to be and there is no salvation. It is important because it proclaims the truth of the Gospel that God is rightly defined as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


Complete sermon by Saint John Chrysostom

More on Theophany

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