THEOPHANY (January 6th, 19th)
The Feast of the Theophany is celebrated on January 6th on the Gregorian calendar and on January 19th on the Julian calendar. We commemorate the Baptism of Our Lord in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. John identifies Jesus as “The Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. (Jn. 1:29)
At the Baptism of the Lord in the Jordan River, the Most Holy Trinity is made manifest. The word “Theophany” comes from the Greek, meaning “appearance or manifestation of God.” At the Baptism of Jesus, God is revealed as Three Divine Persons in the one Godhead. From the Heavens, we hear the voice of God the Father, saying: “This is My Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased. The Second Person of the Blessed Triity is Jesus, the One Who is being baptized. The Third Divine Person is the Holy Trinity Who appears in the form of a dove, confirming the reality of the Word of God.
In both the Nativity of Our Lord and the Theophany, God appears. In the preceding Feast, Christmas, we see God as a babe and in the present Feast, Theophany, we encounter Jesus as perfect God in human form, fully grown (no longer a babe). At the Nativity, the “Sun of Righteousness” rose and now in the Theophany it shines forth. That is why the Feast of Theophany is also called the Feast of the Illumination. The liturgical propers, the sticheras of the Feast of the Theophany, elucidate this bond between the Nativity and the Theophany.
Jesus is the Second Divine Person of the Holy Trinity and thus “has no need to be baptized. For in Him, there is no wrong, no sin and therefore no need for cleansing. Nonetheless, He gives us an example of how we can receive the Holy Spirit, Who bestows upon us regeneration. In our own baptism, we die to sin and rise to new life.
Christ has brought regeneration to all mankind. The waters of the River Jordan provide cleansing, rebirth, and a life of grace proceeding from the Holy Spirit. The waters of the River Jordan become the waters of “healing.”
By His Baptism, immersion into the water, Christ washes away Adam’s sin of disobedience. All creation is made anew. Our human nature grown old through sin is made anew. The healing waters of the Jordan have become a source of incorruption. With the sanctification of the human being, man, begins the sanctification and eschatological transfiguring of all creation.
In our sacred tradition of commemorating the Baptism of Christ, we connect this event in the life of Christ with the Baptism of Ukraine (Kyivan Rus’). The River Dnipro has been called “the Ukrainian Jordan.” On the Feast of Theophany in Ukraine, an ice cross is erected as a sign and memorial of Christ’s baptism as well as the Baptism of Rus-Ukraine in 988.
The blessed water is kept in Church and in one’s homes as a source of divine help and healing in times of difficulty and illnesses.
Rev. D. George Worschak