My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
THE DIVINE THEOPHANY (EPIPHANY)
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Holy Theophany of Our Lord, and God, and Savior Jesus Christ.
When Thou was baptized in the Jordan, O Lord, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest; for the voice of the Father bare witness to Thee, calling Thee His beloved Son. And the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the certainty of the word. O Christ Our God, Who has appeared and hast enlightened the world, glory be to Thee.
Hypakoe Hymn. Plagal of First Tone
WhenN Thou didst enlightened all things by Thine Epiphany, the briny sea of unbelief fled, and as Jordan flowed down, it turned back, exalting us to Heaven. Through the intercessions of the Theotokos, preserve us at the height of Thy Divine commandments, O Christ God, and have mercy on us.
Kontakion Hymns. Fourth Tone
On this day Thou has appeared unto the whole world, and Thy Light, O Sovereign Lord, is signed on us who sing Thy praise and chant with knowledge: Thou has now come, Thou hast appeared, O Thou Light Unapproachable.
The Holy Feast of the Theophany refers to the Baptism of Christ in the River Jordan by Saint John the Forerunner, who is called Baptist. This took place when Christ reached the age of thirty (30) years, before He began His formal work of teaching and before His later Sufferings for the salvation of the human race.
The choice of thirty years for the beginning of Christ's formal activity in the world is related to the fact that the biological formation of the human organism reaches its fullness at that time. Moreover He would have been more acceptable to the Israelites at this time.
This event is described by the holy Evangelist (St. Matthew 3:13-17; St. Mark 1:9-11; St. John 1:32-34).
Not many events are mentioned in Holy Scripture in the interval between the Meeting of Christ and Baptism of Christ. What we know about are the flight into Egypt and the return from there, as well as the presence of Christ in the Temple when He was twelve years old.
This is not without reason and purpose. The Gospels were not written to describe the whole history of Christ, but to present the Incarnation of the Son and Logos/Word of God, and what Christ taught, what He did and what He suffered for the human race. In essence the Gospels were catechetical aids. So the historical events of Christ's life and the references to His childhood years were not needed. His appearance in the Temple was included in the Gospel because it was the early evidence that He was the Son of God...
"...The event of Christ's Baptism by John the Forerunner is the River Jordan is called Theophany and Epiphany. In the early Church the feasts of the Nativity and the Theophany were celebrated together on the same day (6 January). In the 4th century the feasts were separated, and Christmas was transferred to 25 December, the day on which the Gentiles celebrated the sun god and the Christians the Sun of Righteousness. Likewise it is called the Feast of Lights, as Saint Gregory the Theologian characterizes it, because of the baptism, illumination of catechumens (those under religious instruction), and because of the lighting of fires.
The word 'theophany' comes from the Apostolic passage "God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by Angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory" (1 Timothy 3:16), and relates mostly to Christ's Nativity. The word 'epiphany' comes from the Apostolic passage "the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men" (St. Titus 2:11), and is related mostly to Christ's Baptism, for it was then that people recognized the Grace of Divinity.
The person who played a major role in Christ's Baptism is the Worthy Forerunner, John the Baptist. He is a great Prophet a great character place between the Old and New Testaments. He is the last of the prophets of the Old Testament and the first of the prophets of the New Testament.
The way in which he was conceived was miraculous, through God's intervention, through the sperm of his father Zacharias and not from the Holy Spirit. His birth is connected with miraculous events. His from the age of three years sojourn in the desert indicates his Angelic way of life. His preaching of repentance was to prepare the people for receiving the Messiah. His humility was awe-inspiring. But also his approach to perfection shows that he attained a great height of grace.
The Worthy Forerunner was related to Christ, as His Mother, the Panagia (the All-Holy Mother of God), was related to Elizabeth, the mother of the Forerunner. At the time when the Worthy Forerunner was an embryo of six months in his mother's womb, the Annunciation came to the Theotokos (Mother of God), so we understand that John the Baptist was six months older than Christ.
Saint John the Forerunner received the Holy Spirit, Which showed him to be a Prophet, while he was a six month's embryo in his mother's womb. For when the Panagia, who had just conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, greeted his mother Elizabeth, then "the babe leapt in her womb" (St. Luke 1:41). Thus he became a Prophet and passed the prophetic gift on to his mother, for in this way she too recognized the Mother of the Lord (Saint Gregory Palamas).
Many characterizations have been given of Saint John the Forerunner. The word John means gift of God. The Forerunner is the one who goes ahead on the way, that is to say the precursor of the Messiah. He is called the Baptist because he baptized Christ. In the canon of the Theophany Saint Cosmas the poet, bishop of Maiouma, characterizes him with three expressions: the voice of the Logos/Word, candlestick of the Light, forerunner of the Sun. Because the Son and Logos/Word of God is the enhypostatic Logos/Word of the Father, Saint John is the voice of the Logos/Word. Because Christ as God is the eternal and uncreated Light, the Forerunner is the lantern. And because Christ is the Sun of Righteousness, the Bright Sun of Divinity, Saint John is the bringer of dawn, that is to say, the morning star which foretells the coming of the Sun. Thus all the names, epithets and phrases are connected with his essential work, which is to announce the coming of the Messiah.
The word baptism, as Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite interprets it, which means plunging, is a verbal noun that comes from the verb 'bapto', meaning to plunge, immerse. Thus baptism is connected with water.
The Holy Fathers of the Church teach that there are many kinds of baptism. Saint Gregory the Theologian teaches that there are five kinds. The First is that of Moses, which gives temporary purification. The Second is that of the Forerunner, who baptized people with the baptism of repentance. The Third is Christ's Baptism, through which people become Christians; it is performed by the energy of the Holy Spirit. The Fourth is that of martyrdom and blood, and the Fifth is that of repentance and tears. (Source: The Feasts of the Lord. An Introduction to the Twelve Feasts and Orthodox Christology by Metropolitan of Nafpaktos HIEROTHEOS)
(To be continued)
THE DIVINE SERVICES ON SATURDAY JANUARY 6TH:
Orthros (Matins) at 9:00 a.m.
Divine Liturgy at 10:00 a.m.
Blessing of the Waters immediately following
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God