theophany-iconIn the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

History of Feast
We’re here today to celebrate one of the twelve major feasts of our Church, that of Holy Theophany, also called Epiphany, or the Baptism of the Lord. In the earliest days of the Church, this feast time was structured somewhat differently. Of course, there were feasts from the beginning – the Jews who were converting to Christianity knew all about feasts from Judaism, so feasts and festivals were part of the life of the Church from the beginning. Around this time of year was the feast known as Epiphany. Epiphany really means something like “revelation” – so the Church was celebrating the revelation of the incarnation of God. And in these early days, Nativity and Theophany were not separated into two different feasts. Our Lord’s birth into the world, and His ministry’s beginning with His baptism, were both revelations of the Messiah. So this feast of Epiphany was really a celebration of the Incarnation. We’re not sure exactly where in time the Nativity became it’s own separate feast, but we do know that in the 5th century, when St. John Cassian was in the monasteries in Egypt, the Egyptian Church still celebrated both the Nativity and the Baptism at the one great feast of Epiphany. So as we celebrate this feast, we can remember that it’s not just about the baptism of Christ, but about the whole of His life, from His incarnation to His resurrection; we’re celebrating the Son of God, revealed to us for our salvation.

Significance
The Fathers tell us that Christ came into the world to set man free, to free us from our slavery to sin and to evil, and to offer us an entirely new type of relationship with the Creator, with each other, and with our world. In St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans we read these very powerful words concerning our world, concerning the creation: “For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:20-23). St Paul tells us that the creation of God groans under the weight of the sin of man. Our sin brings fracturing into the world – separating us from God, each other, and the creation that He commanded us to care for. Christ comes into the world to begin healing the fracturing that man has caused. The presence of God in the flesh brings healing. Today, the presence of saints or holy people brings healing to the place where they are; if you go to a place where a saint has lived, the place physically feels different; some of the fracturing has been healed. If we listen to the hymns for this feast of Theophany, especially the ones from Vespers and Matins, we hear that Christ is baptized not because He needs cleansing from sin (that’s obvious), He goes into the water to sanctify the water. And then what happens with this sanctified water? Everything needs water, so the entire creation is sanctified in this one act of Christ. By putting Himself in the water, and that water being spread to the ends of the earth, Christ has brought all things to Himself – He has sanctified creation.

Blessing our houses, etc.
We then bring this sanctification of the creation into our homes and into our lives when we bless our houses during the days after this great feast. After this Liturgy we’ll have the Great Blessing of Waters – asking Christ to make this water the water of the river Jordan (you’ll hear that in the prayers). Then we will bring this baptismal water into our homes, and we’ll baptize the portion of the creation that God has blessed us with. We’ll baptize our homes and our cars and our possessions. And in this blessing of our homes, we’re offering ourselves and all that we are to Christ. We are bringing Christ, and the healing of Christ, very tangibly into our lives. But this isn’t magic – blessing a home is not some kind of magic potion for God’s blessing. We have a choice – we can live in such a way that we make use of the blessings of God, or we can live lives of selfishness and sin and we can reject the very blessings that we’re asking for today. It’s entirely up to us.

May God give us the grace, and His blessings, so that we can always choose the proper path in this world that is so difficult, and fallen, and sinful. Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Author Matthew Jackson

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