O God, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only-begotten Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know thee now by faith, to thy presence, where we may behold thy glory face to face; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Today marks the beginning of the liturgical season of Epiphany or if you are of the Eastern churches, Theophany.
Epiphany can incorporate a lot of different meanings according to which denomination is celebrating it, but the celebration usually marks the manifestation of Christ to the Gentile through the Magi. It is also a celebration of Christ’s Baptism into the Jordan River revealing to all that He is the Son of God. Theophany basically means “appearance of God”. This is also a remembering of the Marriage Celebration of Cana where our Lord revealed Himself by His first miracle.
Either way you look at it this liturgical season celebrates the Divinity of Christ and His being revealed as the Son of God.
I want to start with this verse taken from Zechariah 2:13, “Be silent, all people, before the Lord; for He has roused Himself from His holy dwelling.”
Now, that verse is not in context at this moment, nor do I plan to use it in context of Zechariah.
I want to paint a picture with this verse in light of Epiphany.
In the revealing of Christ as the Son of God it is in that moment that Christ’s Divinity came to be known to us and quite possibly to Him also. But God had been roused from His holy dwelling with the angels and archangels.
The Gospel accounts of Christ’s Baptism are quite amazing. Matthew 3:13-17 reads, ” Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfil all righteousness.’ Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’”
I like Saint Luke’s accounts reads, “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
These verses in both accounts are climatic! They are HUGE! The story is EPIC!
These accounts show us two things: 1) The revealing of Jesus Christ our Lord as the Son of God and 2) The mystery of the Trinitarian Faith, which we profess.
We see here the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all at one moment.
Glory has been revealed!
Isaiah writes: “
The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘
Prepare the way of the Lord; m
ake His paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled.
And every mountain and hill brought low; t
he crooked places shall be made straight a
nd the rough ways smooth; a
nd all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'”
John the Baptizer had prepared the way for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ before He came seeking to be baptized.
In the moment of His baptism and rising from the Blessed Waters of the Jordan the glory of Christ was revealed and all people were shown the salvation of God.
The Orthodox have a troparion that they sing to capture this phenomenon that I think is incredibly beautiful:
When You, O Lord were baptized in the Jordan
The worship of the Trinity was made manifest,
For the voice of the Father bore witness to You
And called You His beloved Son,
While the Spirit, in the form of a dove,
Confirmed the truthfulness of His word.
O Christ, our God, You have revealed Yourself
And have enlightened the world, glory to You!
By the act of His Baptism the Lord illuminated with Great Light what was dark!
And perhaps, there is a connection between our Lord’s Baptism and our very own. He did not institute the sacrament of Baptism for no reason nor did He experience that sacrament for no reason (those who argue Baptism is not essential think about that, if our Lord Himself was baptized then we ought to follow Him)!
For me this Epiphany season is about a time of remembering not only the illumination of darkness, but a time of healing.
For it is by Christ’s Baptism that healing was brought forth. It was in His revelation as the Son of God that darkness was turned into Light and that what was broken was made right.
Maybe there is more to Baptism then we often comprehend. It surely is more then just a symbolic act. There is power in this sacrament.
Remember that a sacrament is the outward and visible sign of a inward and and spiritual grace.
In that moment we go under we were lost, blind, deaf, and broken.
But we rise to newness of life, to healing, to grace, to Light!
Jesus said, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.”
There is healing behind the season of Epiphany as we celebrate the manifestation of God’s glory in His Son Jesus Christ revealed to us during His Baptism.
The Orthodox have this beautifully written prayer:
“Incline your ear and hear us, Lord, who accepted to be baptized in Jordan and to sanctify the waters, and bless us all, who signify our calling as servants by the bending of our necks. And count us worthy to be filled with your sanctification through the partaking and sprinkling of this water. And let it be for us, Lord, for healing of soul and body.
For you are the sanctification of our souls and bodies, and to you we give glory, thanksgiving and worship, with your Father who is without beginning, and your All-holy, good and life-giving Spirit, now and forever, and to the ages of ages.”
It is through the obedience of being baptized that we arise to new life in the Spirit! We arise to start what our Orthodox brothers and sisters call Deification or Theosis.
Θέωσις (meaning divinization, deification, or making divine, deificatio or divinizatio in Latin) is the process of transformation of a believer who is putting into practice the spiritual teachings of Jesus Christ and His gospel. I believe this to be the absolute crux of the Christian Faith.
I believe that if we aren’t being conformed to the Image of Christ then why are doing this?
Lancelot Andrews said, “Whereby, as before He of ours, so now we of His are made partakers. He clothed with our flesh, and we invested with His Spirit. The great promise of the Old Testament accomplished, that He should partake our human nature; and the great and precious promise of the New, that we should be ‘consortes divinae naturae’, ‘partake his divine nature,’ both are this day accomplished.”
Saint Peter sums it up eloquently:
“His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants in the divine nature. For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For anyone who lacks these things is short-sighted and blind, and is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins.”
Let us in this time of feasting and celebration of the Epiphany and the Glorious Illumination not forget the cleansing of our past sins made possible by our obedience to Baptism REVEALED to us through Christ’s ordaining the Sacramental act of Baptism through His own Baptism.
The writers of Hebrew wrote, “Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
We have been washed clean.
Glorious illumination has brightened our darkness.
Healing has been brought to us through Christ.
Grace has been bestowed.
Let us not forget the day of our own Baptism as we celebrate the day our Lord was baptized.
Let us not forget that God’s countenance was shown upon us that day in the Jordan.
Let us not forget that He came, was baptized, and revealed Himself.
Let us not forget that He showed us Light through His baptism and called us to be Baptized in the +++ Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Let us not forget that our Baptism sparked new life in us, giving us the Spirit.
Let us not forget that we are to be made clean daily. We are to become more like Christ everyday. Our baptism started the process that the Holy Spirit now continues.
I am aiming to say that by Christ’s Baptism Heaven opened up and the Spirit descended upon Him and His Father was pleased. We see Christ’s divinity revealed. So perhaps in our own Baptism we see our divinity revealed because the Spirit comes and allows us to take on the nature of the Divine, Jesus Christ. Saint Peter did not say what he did for no reason. In Christ’s Baptism He took on His divine nature, and in ours we did the same thing. Becoming united with Christ through the Spirit.
Remember this season to always set aside the flesh and continue to walk in the Divine as we remember the Baptism of our Lord.
Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan didst proclaim him thy beloved Son and anoint him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with thee and the same Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, in glory everlasting.
Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum