January 6, 2023

Homily on the Day of the Theophany Before the Blessing of the Waters (St. John Maximovitch)

By St. John Maximovitch

(Delivered in Shanghai in 1947)

“The heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended physically like a dove” on the Son of God standing in the Jordan. The voice from heaven of God the Father is heard: “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased” (Luke 3:21-22; Mark 1:11; Matt. 3:17).

The sky is open now, again the Holy Spirit descends on the waters, and God testifies of His Son.

Oh, that our spiritual eyes would be opened! Oh, that our ears could perceive celestial expressions! We would see the heavens open above us. We would have seen the Son of God standing among us and the Holy Spirit hovering over us, and we would have heard the voice of God proclaiming the divinity of the Savior of the world.

We would feel how the Holy Spirit descended on the waters, returned to them the kindness that they had at the creation of the world, and made them a life-giving force that revives fallen nature. We ourselves would be illumined with light, our lips would be filled with the spirit and joyfully sing of Him who established us on the rock of faith.

But only the pure in heart see the divine. Those darkened by sin do not see and do not hear.

People saw the heavens at the baptism of the Lord, but only John the Baptist saw that it was open.

Many looked at the Lord Jesus Christ when He came to the Jordan, but only John felt that He was the incarnate Son of God, while others looked at Him as an ordinary person, a carpenter and a carpenter's son.

Perhaps not only John saw the Holy Spirit descending on Him in the form of a dove, but only he understood that it was the Holy Spirit, while others mistook it for the flight of an ordinary dove.

Perhaps many heard the voice of God the Father at the Jordan, but only John clearly heard the testimony of God about His Son. Others heard it like thunder thundering over the waters, just as later people mistook for thunder the answer of heaven, God the Father, to the prayer offered by the Son (John 12:30).

So now, we see the clouds that have covered the sky, but we do not see that it is open, we breathe in the air, but we do not feel the Holy Spirit descending on us and the water, we hear the words of church hymns and do not understand their Divine power.

But in truth the Lord stands between us “where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20), truly the heavens are now open and their Creator bears witness to the Eternal Word, now the Holy Spirit will descend on the waters and sanctify us. Water by the grace of God will become a source of health of soul and body, sanctification for us and our dwellings and all nature, and will be kept incorruptible for many years, will become like the voice of God, broadcasting that our Savior Jesus Christ is the Son of God, descended to earth and resurrecting us to incorruption and will raise you up to the heavenly temple.

Let us open our hearts by faith and open our mouths to praise, from the depths of our souls we will cry out: “Great art thou, O Lord, and marvelous are Thy works, and not a single word will be sufficient for the singing of Thy wonders!”

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.