On the day of the Lord’s Baptism we commemorate the miracle of Theophany (Theo-fania in Greek) or the revelation of God. In truth, when the Saviour was baptized, the one and all-mighty God, Creator of heaven and earth, for the first time revealed Himself to mankind as Three Persons: God the Father – by His voice; God the Son – by His baptism in the river Jordan; and the Holy Spirit – by descending in the form of a dove. For this reason the troparion of the Lord’s Baptism says that on this day “the worship of the Trinity was made manifest.”
The feast of Theophany or the Baptism of our Lord occupies a special place among the twelve major Church feasts. It reminds us of our spiritual birth on the day when a priest thrice immersed us in water. It also reminds us of the vows we gave at the holy font, if not consciously due to our tender age, then in the promises made by our godparents, who subsequently were called upon to explain to us the significance of the sacrament of baptism and the meaning of Christian teaching.
For a Christian, says a first-century Church Father, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, the baptismal waters are “both a tomb and a mother.” They are a tomb for his former sinful life outside of Christ, and the mother of his new life in Christ and His Kingdom of eternal truth. Baptism is the door leading from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. “As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ”… – whoever has been baptized in Christ’s name becomes attired in the robe of Christ’s righteousness, becomes a participant in His holiness. The power of baptism lies in the fact that the baptized person is endowed with the ability and strength to love God and his fellow beings. Such Christian love draws the Christian towards a righteous life and helps him overcome his attachment to the world and its sinful delights.
The misfortune of many present-day Christians is that they labor very little to kindle more brightly in their hearts the flame of grace-filled love which they have received. A painful attachment to the world has edged spiritual love out of them and has brought with it grief, malice and envy.
Thus, while celebrating the great feast of our Lord’s Baptism, let us remember the vow we gave at our own baptism to love God and our fellow beings. Let us thank God for having vouchsafed us spiritual rebirth and for having summoned us into His Kingdom of eternal bliss. Let us try to become worthy of this great honor and mercy on the part of God!
Bishop Alexander (Mileant)