The Holy Theophany of Our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ
Titus 2:11-15, 3:4-7; Matthew 3:13-17
Christ born! Glorify Him!
The Forerunner beheld our Enlightenment, who has brought light to all mankind, draw near for baptism: and he rejoiced in soul while his hand trembled. (from Great Vespers of the feast)
The writer of this phrase from the first sticheron of Great Vespers on this the feast of the Holy Theophany of Our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ wonderfully captures the image from St. Matthew’s festal Gospel. The manifestation or showing forth of God, Theophany, when Our Lord was baptized by the Holy Prophet and Forerunner John and the Holy Trinity was revealed is a moment of tremendous revelation and juxtaposition. It is also a wonderful manifestation of the Incarnation, telling us yet again that ‘God is with us.’ It reveals the triune God, one God in three persons, that is first revealed in the Old Testament in His relationship with the people of Israel where He is encountered as Almighty God, the Lord, who creates through His Word and acts through His Holy Spirit. Yet here, today in the Jordan River, stands that self-same Word now Incarnate with the Father’s voice proclaiming Him and the Spirit descending upon Him as confirmation of His Incarnation. It is a feast of juxtaposition where the creature and the created world touch the Creator: the Word who creates all things in Heaven and on Earth stands in the very waters which He formed and is baptised by a man created in His own image and likeness. John the Baptist rightly rejoiced in His soul yet in his flesh He trembled, so acutely aware of what He was doing: “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
This feast celebrates the revelation not of a distant, unknowable God but of a personal God who is made known to us and revealed to us on this most holy festival of Jordan. Our Lord enters His creation and calls us to Himself, the Beloved Son in whom the Father is well-pleased. Likewise, Our Lord Jesus Christ calls us too. He calls us to enter the waters with Him, to share in the unity of the Holy Trinity, to join Him in the tomb, and to join Him gloriously on the Third Day as we come up out of the waters with Him. These are the waters of baptism. These are the waters of our faith in the Most Holy Trinity. This is our enlightenment and our salvation.