We now approach the day of Theophany, the day in which the divinity of Jesus is revealed to us through His baptism by John in the Jordan River. On this day we know Him as the Son of God who came for our salvation. Although one could argue that His birth should be seen as Theophany, up to this time Jesus was not known by many. As John the Baptist says at this event, "Amidst you stands Him Whom you know not of" (John 1:26). Therefore, we call the day He was baptized Theophany because He became known to many at this time.
We can also see that this was the beginning of His work to create the path for our salvation with Baptism being the first step. Later He would establish the Church with its clergy where those who were joined with Him in baptism could continue to benefit from the grace filled sacraments.
Prior to this time there was a Jewish baptism which cleansed the body from impurities such as touching the bones of the dead, eating unclean foods, or being with lepers, but it did not remove sins. In Scripture it says, "Let one wash his body in pure water--and he will unclean until evening, and then he will be clean." (Lev 15:5, 22:4) This Jewish practice was a preparation of what was to come. The baptism that was established by Christ was much more as it was for the forgiveness of sins though the Holy Sprit and they were more than forgiven, they were absolved through grace. John the Baptist baptized those who repented of their sins but did not grant forgiveness through grace. Sins were not absolved through his baptism. John says, "I baptize you with water...That one however will baptize you with the Holy Sprit and with fire." (Mat 3:11)
Jesus came to be baptized by John not because he needed to be forgiven His sins, being sinless, nor to receive the Holy Spirit, being one with the Sprit already, but to show us the path we are to take to be relieved of our sinfulness and to receive the Holy Spirit to abide within us. John's baptism in water was also a preparation so Christ would be known and so we could receive this sacrament. Because John was known as a prophet, his baptism of Christ had great meaning to the people so they would believe that Jesus was the Son of God.
On this day, as John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River, the Holy Spirit visibly descended in the form of a dove. St. John Chrysostom tells us that this descent as a dove was like a pointer. He says, "Did you see, that the Holy Spirit did not descend as in a first time then coming down upon Him, but in order to point out that preached by His inspiration--as though by a finger, it pointed Him out to all."
We rejoice at this Theophany for Jesus showed us the way for our renewal to begin. He was announced as the Son of God for all to see, submitting to John's baptism with humility.
"Except you be converted and becomes children, you shall not enter into the Heavenly Kingdom." (Mat 18:3)
Reference: On the Day of Christ's Baptism by John Chrysostom
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