Thursday, January 5
* Royal Hours (9 AM)
*Exorcisms, Renunciations, and Affirmations (4 PM)
* Orthros (5 PM)
* Divine Liturgy of Theophany (6 PM) with the Great Blessing of Water, followed by Baptisms and Chrismations
Apolytikion of Holy Epiphany
Lord, when You were baptized in the Jordan, the veneration of the Trinity was revealed. For the voice of the Father gave witness to You, calling You Beloved, and the Spirit, in the guise of a dove, confirmed the certainty of His words. Glory to You, Christ our God, who appeared and enlightened the world.
Epiphany means shining forth or manifestation. The feast is often called, as it is in the Orthodox service books, Theophany, which means the shining forth and manifestation of God. The emphasis in the present day celebration is on the appearance of Jesus as the human Messiah of Israel and the divine Son of God, One of the Holy Trinity with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Thus, in the baptism by John in the Jordan, Jesus identifies Himself with sinners as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1.29), the “Beloved” of the Father whose messianic task it is to redeem men from their sins (Lk 3.21, Mk 1.35). And he is revealed as well as One of the Divine Trinity, testified to by the voice of the Father, and by the Spirit in the form of a dove.
Saint John of Damaskos says that Christ was not baptized because He had need of purification, “but to identify Himself with our purification.” Just as Christ suffered and was crucified for mankind and felt all the grief and pain, so He identified Himself with our own purification. Many things happened in this way.
So according to Saint John of Damaskos, Christ was baptized in order to crush the heads of the dragons in the water, for there was a conception that the demons swell in the water; in order to wash the sin and bury the old Adam in the water; in order to bless the Baptist, for the Forerunner did not bless Christ, but Christ blessed the Forerunner when the latter put his hand on Christ’s head; in order to keep the law, since He Himself gave it and should not appear to transgress it; in order to reveal the mystery of the Holy Trinity, because at that moment we have the manifestation of the Holy Trinity; in order to become a model for our own baptism, which is perfect baptism and is done by water and the Holy Spirit.
Beyond these things, by His baptism in the River Jordan Christ blessed the water as well. That is why even today we perform the service of the blessing of the water and during the celebration we call upon the Holy Spirit (invocation or epiclesis), to bless the waters. Thus after the blessing it ceases to be water of the fall and became water of renewal, since it is united with the uncreated grace of God.
The River Jordan has remained famous for various events in history, but chiefly for the preaching and Baptism of John the Forerunner, but also for Christ’s Baptism in it.
According to Saint John Chrysostom, the Jordan river is a symbol of the human race. In the first place it is called Jordan because it comes from two sources the Jor and the Dan. These two sources form the River Jordan, which flows into the Dead Sea. According to one reductive interpretation, the whole human race comes from two sources, Adam and Eve, and through sin it was brought to deadening, the Dead Sea of the present life, where there is death. By His Incarnation Christ entered into the Jordan, this human race, and in this way He conquered death and restored mankind to its former life.
The main feature of the feast of the Epiphany is the Great Blessing of Water. It is prescribed to follow both the Divine Liturgy of the eve of the feast and the Divine Liturgy of the day itself. Usually it is done just once in parish churches at the time when most people can be present. It begins with the singing of special hymns and the censing of the water which has been placed in the center of the church building. Surrounded by candles and flowers, this water stands for the beautiful world of God’s original creation and ultimate glorification by Christ in the Kingdom of God. Sometimes this service of blessing is done out of doors at a place where the water is flowing naturally.
The voice of the Lord cries over the waters, saying: Come all ye, receive the Spirit of wisdom, the Spirit of understanding, the Spirit of the fear of God, even Christ who is made manifest.
Today the nature of water is sanctified. Jordan is divided in two, and turns back the stream of its waters, beholding the Master being baptized.
As a man Thou didst come to that river, O Christ our King, and dost hasten O Good One, to receive the baptism of a servant at the hands of the Forerunner [John], because of our sins, O Lover of Man (Hymns of the Great Blessing of Waters).
If you would like to listen to a sermon given by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick on the Theophany, click here: available via Ancient Faith Radio.