January 6, 2020

A Sixth Century Account of a Theophany Miracle at the Jordan River

A sixth-century anonymous Christian pilgrim from Piacenza in northern Italy traveled to the Holy Land at the height of Roman rule in the 570s and wrote a narrative of his pilgrimage. Among the places he visited was the Jordan River on the Feast of Theophany, where he witnessed the following miracle, which he describes as follows:

"We kept the Theophany near Jordan, and many miracles happen that night in the place where our Lord was baptized. There is there a mound surrounded with railings, and in the place where the water returns to its bed a wooden cross is placed in the water, and steps go down on both sides of the bank, which are paved with marble. On the vigils of the Theophany there are great vigils, — a countless multitude; and when the cock crows the fourth or fifth time, matins take place. When matins are over, with the break of day they proceed to the Holy Mysteries in the open air, and the deacons hold them; a priest goes down into the water, and at the hour in which he begins to bless the water, forthwith the Jordan with a great clamor rolls back upon itself, and the water stands until the baptism is over. And all the Alexandrians who have ships, with men holding vessels full of perfumes and balsam, at the hour when the priest has blessed the fount, before they begin to be baptized, empty those vessels into the river, and take thence the blessed water, and make of it water for sprinkling in their ships before they start on a voyage. When the baptism is over, all go down into the river for a blessing, clothed with fine linen garments, and many other sorts, which they keep for their funeral. When all is finished, the water returns into its place. And from the place where the Jordan emerges from the sea of Tiberias to the Dead Sea, where it is lost, are one hundred and thirty miles."

This miracle still takes place every year at the Jordan River on the feast of Theophany.