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January 7, 2023

Homily Two on the Feast of the Lord’s Theophany (St. John Maximovitch)

By St. John Maximovitch

"Today You appeared to the world, and Your light, O Lord, has left its mark upon us."

The feast of the Baptism of the Lord was called in ancient times "the Day of Lights".

The Baptism of Christ is the beginning of our enlightenment - the appearance of Christ to the world, the revelation of the Holy Trinity to people.

“Why,” the Golden-mouthed Teacher asks, “not the day on which He was born, but the day on which He was baptized, is it called the Theophany? Because now He has manifested to the world.”

Although, when Christ was secretly born in a cave, the star revealed it to the magi and the angels announced it to the shepherds, but before the time set for His manifestation, Christ seemed to be hiding from the rest of the world, sometimes hiding and running from Herod, sometimes not standing out among the surrounding people while staying in the house of what appeared to be His father Joseph. And now Christ appears to the world, from this time He begins to openly teach, perform miracles, and is coming to suffer for the human race, preaching and working out our salvation.

The manifestation of Christ and the beginning of His ministry is connected with the manifestation of the Holy Trinity: "The Trinity was manifested in the Jordan." The Old Testament Scripture only vaguely and covertly proclaimed it. Now the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity clearly are manifest.

John the Baptist was sent by God to serve Christ on this great day and prepare the way for Him. With his preaching, he aroused the hearts of people in the land of Israel to a particularly tense expectation of the Messiah. He prepared His first disciples. He also announced to people that the Messiah had come and indicated Him, saying: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29, 27).

John pointed to the high dignity of the coming Savior of the world: “I am not worthy to bow to Him to loosen the strap of His boots” (Mark 1:7), he said. With these words he expresses his humble reverence for Him, to prepare the way for Who was sent. But at the same time, understanding those words in a figurative spiritual sense, it points to the combination of divine and human nature in Christ that surpasses reason. The Son of God put on human nature and walked the earth in human flesh. But how much more excellent a man is than the shoes he wears, God surpasses His creation even more. However, it is easy for a person to put on and take off his shoes, but now human nature is inseparable from the Divine in the Son of God. Unconfusedly, immutably, indivisibly, inseparably they united.

But how was this Divine Mystery accomplished? How this mystery took place is incomprehensible to the human mind: “The manner in which you conceived was most glorious, O Theotokos. The manner in which you gave birth is beyond all thought, O Virgin” (Dogmatika 7th tone). Approach with reverence, whoever wants to theologize about this. Do not dare to argue more than you should, but learn humility from the Greatest of those born of women and, bow down, try to understand and teach only what God has revealed.

When the time came, Christ came to John.

Although they were close relatives, John did not know Jesus, for until that day Jesus did not come into the wilderness, where John constantly dwelt.

God foretold to John that by the Spirit descending upon the Messiah, he would recognize Him. But as soon as Jesus approached, John felt reverence and awe: “It is fitting for me to be baptized by you, and are you coming to me” (Matt. 3:14–15), he said to the Comer.

“Let it go now, so it behooves us to fulfill all righteousness ,” Christ answered.

What truth? Fulfill that which by the will of God is predetermined for our salvation. To fulfill the truth that by humility, and not by pride and self-exaltation, that by obedience to the will of God, and not by self-will and one's own art, God is known, eternal salvation is acquired, the palaces of heaven are reached.

John submits and baptizes Jesus. Humbly the King of heaven bowed His head under the right hand of His servant, the Creator bowed before His creation.

Jordan trembled, and with him all the watery nature. The heavens opened up, marking the opening of the way to God and the heavenly Abodes for people, the revelation of the truths of Divine Scripture. The voice of the Father thundered: “This is my beloved Son, I am well pleased with him” ( Matt. 3:17 ). The Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descended on the Son of God, as a man standing in the Jordan. What God foretold to John was fulfilled, there were no more doubts: before him stood the Messiah, the Son of God Himself.

Thus the Holy Trinity was revealed to the world. “The Trinity was revealed in the Jordan, for the Father, the all-divine Essence Himself, announced: 'This One Who is baptized is my beloved Son.' And the Spirit came upon Him Who was like unto Him, Whom the people bless and exalt supremely for all ages.”

There were not many people there, only John the Baptist was the representative of the whole human race. He proclaims what he has seen and heard. He begins the sermon on the Holy Trinity and faith in It is affirmed and revealed more fully through the lips of the Son of God Himself and the revelations of the Holy Spirit.

The immersion of Christ into the Jordan and the appearance of the Holy Trinity there sanctified the waters of the Jordan, and with them the whole nature of water.

Water is the basis of the entire visible world. At the creation of the world, as the book of Genesis says, “the Spirit of God hovered over the waters” (Gen. 1:2). “For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water,” writes the holy Apostle Peter (2 Pet. 3:5).

Everywhere there is water in one form or another, whether in the form of moisture or in the form of steam. Neither animal nor plant can live without water. There is moisture in solid stones, and in the depths of the earth, and in the air.

With the fall of man, all nature was defiled, became corruptible and bears the seal of sin.

Saving humanity, the Lord also prepares nature for cleansing from filth. Having sanctified the nature of water in the Jordan, the Lord gave him the power to revive a person in baptism and to receive the grace of the Holy Spirit during church sacred rites to heal human infirmities and drive away the power of demons. Together with water, all nature is cleansed and sanctified, preparing for the eternal Kingdom of God. While sin continues, “the whole creation groans and suffers together until now” (Rom. 8:22), says the apostle Paul, but she also hopes that “she will be freed from slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21).

That liberation began in the Jordan, when Christ poured sanctification into its waters.

The enlightenment of the human race and at the same time the sanctification of it and of all nature will continue until the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, when the flaming elements will destroy the present heaven and earth, and there will be new ones in which truth dwells.

That will not be a new creation, but a renewed nature cleansed from the consequences of sin, where the saved resurrected human race, enjoying the light of the Life-Giving Trinity, will glorify the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit with the angels.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.