Tuesday, January 4, 2011

More Thoughts on Theophany from St Hippolytus

We often experience awe when we reflect on the nature of God's Creation. As god says in Genesis after each creation, "And it was good."

Saint Hippolytus of Rome says,
And what form of more blooming fairness than of the earth's surface? And what is there swifter in the course than the chariot of the sun? And what more graceful car than the lunar orb? And what work more wonderful than the compact mosaic of the stars? And what more productive of supplies than the seasonable winds? And what more spotless mirror than the light of day? And what creature more excellent than man?
He then goes on to give us the significance of water.

Very good, then, are all the works of our God and Savior. And what more requisite gift, again, is there than the element of water? For with water all things are washed and nourished, and cleansed and bedewed. Water bears the earth, water produces the dew, water exhilarates the vine; water matures the grain in the ear, water ripens the grape cluster, water softens the olive, water sweetens the palm-date, water reddens the rose and decks the violet, water makes the lilly bloom with it's brilliant cups.

Saint Hippolytus points out the necessity of water in the order of all created things. Why should we have any wonder why Christ chose baptism as the way to enter into the path leading to His kingdom?

Christ came to teach us so we could find our way back to union with Him. When he approached John to be baptized in the Jordan John said, " I have need to be baptized by You, and You come to me?" And the Lord answered, " Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becomes us to fulfill all righteousness."

Saint Hippolytus explains,
"Suffer it to be so now," John; you are not wiser than I. You see as man; I foreknowledge as God. It becomes me to do this first, and thus to teach... Aim the Fulfiller of the law; I seek to leave nothing wanting to it's whole fulfillment, that so after me Paul may proclaim, "Christ is the fulfilling of the law for righteousness to everyone that believes."... Baptize me John, in order that no one may despise baptism. I am baptized by you, the servant, that no one among kings or dignitaries may scorn to be baptized by the hand of a poor priest. Allow me to go down into the Jordan, in order that they may hear my Father's testimony, and recognize the power of the Son.
We also learn in this event that the heavens are now opened to us. There was a reconciliation between the visible and the invisible.

Saint Hippolytus says,
For the heavens we shut before this; the region above was inaccessible. We would in that case descend to the lower parts, but we would not ascend to the upper. But was it only that the Lord was baptized? He also renewed the old man and committed to him again the scepter of adoption.
As it says the Scripture, the Holy Spirit descended as a dove and the Heavens we opened and the Father said, "This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased."
In this event we are shown the purpose of the Incarnation and can see the first works of Jesus as He prepare our way to be reborn and united with Him in His Church so we could participate in the gifts of the Holy Spirit and adopt an Orthodox Way of Life being obedient to His will.

Reference: Discourse On the Holy Theophany by St Hippolytus of Rome

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