The Blessing of the Waters at the Feast of Theophany

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS BORN! GLORIFY HIM! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΓΕΝΝΑΤΑΙ, ΔΟΞΑΣΑΤΕ!

THE BLESSING OF THE WATERS AT THE FEAST DAY OF THEOPHANY: JANUARY 6TH

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, our Holy Orthodox Christian Church during this blessed period of Christmas feasts, in which we celebrate the revelation of our God to us, a) by the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, our Lord Jesus Christ b) with the Baptism of Christ when the Three Persons are manifested, wants to address to her children and to inform them about the Great Blessing of Waters, which is celebrated on the 5th and 6th January. Many are those who ask, if this blessed water is consumed, or is used for the sprinkling, or is kept at their homes and if it replaces Holy Communion.

  1. The Blessing of Waters which is celebrated on Theophany's Eve is the same as that of following day.

The Small Blessing of Waters is celebrated at the beginning of each month, as well as in any other occasion, whenever the faithful request for it. Both are equal and sacred as they are sanctified by the same Holy Spirit.

  1. The Great Blessing of Waters is kept throughout the year at the Church and is offered to the faithful on two occasions: 1) when one is ill, and 2) when one cannot receive Holy Communion, because he is under penance.

The Great Blessing of Waters under no circumstances replaces Holy Communion, but is offered as comfort because they cannot receive Holy Communion and to strengthen them in their spiritual struggle for true repentance.

  1. The Great Blessing of Waters is kept throughout the year at the Christians homes for their sanctification by sprinkling and partaking of it, as well as for the sanctification of their homes, gardens, businesses, crops, animals, cars, etc. It is used also for our protection from all evil and satanic forces. At home, we keep it at the Iconostasion (icon corner), with a lit oil lamp. This reminds us that we should avoid any type of sin, which alienates the Divine Grace.
  2. Finally, we shall examine the relationship between the Great Blessing of Waters with that of the Small Blessing of Waters, as well as that of fasting.

We do not fast on the 5th January, the day of before Theophany, in order to partake the following day (6th January), but we fast for the Great Feast of Theophany!

Historically the beginning of the Great Blessing of Waters has as follows:

In the ancient (early) Church at the Eve of Theophany the baptism of the Catechumen, the newly Christians took place (as during the eve of Pascha and Pentecost). At midnight the blessing of the Waters took place for the baptism. Then, as Saint John Chrysostom informs us, the Christians partook of the blessed water and drank or they carried it to their homes for blessing and to keep it throughout the year. Later, the service of the blessing of Waters was separated from that of the Holy Sacrament of Baptism. The tradition remained that the faithful to take from the blessed Water for the sanctification of their homes. Very early it became a tradition of fasting before the main Feast of Theophany, because of two reasons:

A)   First, because the two great feasts of Christmas and Theophany in the ancient Church were celebrated together, on the 6th January, but Saint John Chrysostom (5th century) separated these two feasts and placed the Nativity of Christ on the 25th December, whereas the Baptism and Manifestation of the Holy Trinity on the 6th January. Before each Despotic Feast there is always a fasting period for the spiritual and bodily cleansing of the faithful. Thus, the Holy Church placed fasting during the Eve of Christmas and Theophany as a preparation for the celebration of the feasts and for receiving Holy Communion.

B)    Secondly, it was an ancient tradition that those who were to be baptized to fast and with them the godparents, the relatives and all those who willingly fast for those who were to be baptized. Thus, the tradition of partaking of the Blessed Water was joined with fasting.

For those who partake because they cannot receive Holy Communion, let them fast as they are instructed by their spiritual Father (Confessor-Pnevmatikos). Finally, for those who partake occasionally from the Blessed Water kept at their homes, during illness or any danger, let them fast from every stain of body and soul, struggling for sanctification with fear of God.

(Source: Translated by: His Eminence Metropolitan Panteleimon Antinoes. Also, The Orthodox Path)

HYMNS OF THE FEAST

Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of Theophany

When Thou, O Lord, wast baptized in the Jordan the worship of the Trinity was made manifest! For the voice of the Father bore witness to Thee, calling Thee his Beloved Son. And the Spirit, in the form of a dove, confirm the truthfulness of his Logos/Word. O Christ our God, Who hast revealed Thyself and hast enlightened the world, glory to Thee.

Kontakion Hymn of the Feast of Theophany

Today Thou has appeared to the universe, and Thy Light, O Lord, has shone on us, who with understanding praise Thee: Thou has come and revealed Thyself, O Light Unapproachable!

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION:

The services of Epiphany (Theophany) are set up exactly as those of Christmas, although historically it was most certainly Christmas which was made to imitate Epiphany since it was established later. Once again the Royal Hours and the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great are celebrated together with Vespers (Esperinos) on the eve of the feast; and the Vigil is made up of Great Compline (Apotheipnos) and Matins (Orthros).

The prophecies of Epiphany (Theophany) repeat that God is with us from Isaiah and stress the foretelling of the Messiah as well as the coming of His forerunner, St. John the Baptist:

"The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make His path straight. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God" (Isaiah 40: 3-5; St. Luke 3:4-6)

It is faith of Christians that since the Son of God has taken human flesh and has been immersed in the streams of the Jordan, all matter is sanctified and made pure in Him, purged of its death-dealing qualities inherited from the devil and the wickedness of men. In the Lord's epiphany (appearance) all creation becomes good again, indeed "very good", the way that God Himself made it and proclaimed it to be in the beginning when "the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters" (Genesis 1:2) and when the "Breath of Life' was breathing in man and in everything that God made (Genesis 1:30; 2:7)

The world and everything in it is indeed "very good" (Gen. 1:31) and when it becomes polluted, corrupted and dead, God saves it once more by effecting the "new creation" in Christ, His Divine Son and Our Lord by the grace of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 6:15). This is what is celebrated on Epiphany (Theophany), particularly in the Great Blessing of Water. The consecration of the Waters on this feast places the entire world--through its "prime element" of watering the perspective of the cosmic creation, sanctification, and glorification of the Kingdom of God in Christ arid the Spirit. It tells us that man and the world were indeed created and saved in order to be "filled with all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:19), the "fullness of Him Who fills all in all" (Ephesians 1:22). It tells us that Christ, in Who in "the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily," is and shall be truly "all, and in all" (Col. 2:9; 3:11). It tells us as well that the "new heavens and the new earth" which God has promised through His Prophets and Apostles (Is. 66:2; Peter 3:13; Rev. 21:1) are truly "with us" already now in the mystery of Christ and His Church.

Thus, the sanctification and the sprinkling of the Epiphany water is no pagan ritual. It is the expression of the most central fact of the Christian vision of man, his life and his world. It is the liturgical testimony that the vocation and destiny of creation is to be "filled with all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:19). (Source: Orthodox Church In America)

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MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU

The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom

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With agape in His Divine Theophany,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George