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The Nativity of Christ
The Baptism of our Lord

Over the course of the past two weeks, dear brethren, we have been commemorating those extraordinary events of 2,000 years ago which were a turning point in the history of mankind. And that means that these events had a profound influence on our lives as well.

We have recently celebrated the Nativity of Christ. Why did the Lord come down to earth and was born in the form of man? In order to exonerate us from the ancient damnation which fell upon mankind as a consequence of the sin of Adam and Eve. After the fall of our forebears, mankind descended further and further into the abyss of sin, and among all of humanity not a single person could be found who was righteous enough to expiate the original sin. God Himself was needed to atone for it, because the original sin was terrible not so much in its own self, but because it opened the door to all the other sins, and evil was thus able to freely spread over the entire universe and enter the fabric of mans life on earth. To rectify this situation required the Son of God, the only One without sin, Who alone could carry the burden of the sins of the entire world. It is for this reason that the Lord was born as man.

Then, a week later, we celebrated the Circumcision of the Lord. Why did the Lord, being the Creator of the universe and of all laws, suffer the fulfillment on Himself of this Old Testament law? In order that through His own circumcision, dear brethren, He, Who was entirely without sin, could symbolically circumcise all of our sins, circumcise all that was old and worn out in mankind, and renew man completely.

Baptism of our Lord
Baptism of our Lord

And now we are celebrating the Baptism of our Lord. Why did the Lord, Who was absolutely pure and without sin, come to the river Jordan to be baptized by John like all the other repenting sinners? In order to drown all our sins in the waters of the river Jordan, in order to cleanse us of all impurity, enlighten us, vest us in the snow-white garments of original creation, return us once more to being the crown of creation, such as Adam was when he left the hands of the Creator. At the same time, by immersing Himself in the river Jordan, the Lord sanctified for all ages the element of water, of which we are primarily composed, and made this element salvific and healing for us: salvific, because we are baptized in water and through this baptism we become members of the Body of Christ, that is, the Church; and healing, because now we have holy water which we drink to heal our physical and spiritual infirmities, and with which we bless our abodes and our environment, in order to chase away the evil spirits.

And all of this the Lord has done for every one of us, dear brethren, has showered these innumerable blessings on each one of us. Let us reply to the Lord in kind: with love and gratitude; let us try to put aside all our sins as some old and motley garment; let us wash away our sins through repentance and communion; let us try to be spiritually reborn into a new life.

Let us also try to understand the essence and the depth of these holidays which we are now commemorating, in order to realize their very real importance to us. In the service for the feast of Epiphany there is a wonderful hymn which describes the holiday in the following moving words: God the Word, having appeared to mankind in the flesh, stood in Jordan to be baptized. And John the Baptist said to Him: How shall I stretch forth my hand and place it over the One Who in His hand holds everything? Even if Thou art an Infant born of Mary, still I know that Thou art preeternal God! And although Thou, Who art glorified by the Seraphim, now walk on earth, Thy servant has not yet learned how to baptize his Master. O, unfathomable Lord, glory to Thee! Amen.

Father Rostislav Sheniloff

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