Thursday, January 5, 2012

Our Lord's Baptism in the River Jordan

The Gospel account of the Baptism of our Lord according to St Matthew 3:13-17:

"Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, 'I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?' But Jesus answered and said to him, 'Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.' Then he allowed Him. When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.'"

The Great Feast of Theophany (a manifestion of God) or Epiphany (a manifestion or revelation) is celebrated on January 6 in the Life of the Church. This Feast has its name because the event of the Baptism of our Lord reveals the great mystery of the Trinity: the Father speaks, the Holy Spirit descends, and the incarnate Son is baptized.

Baptism of our Lord
Image Source

For an interactive lesson explaining the Icon of Theophany, visit HERE.

The Troparion below is one of my favorite Orthodox hymns. I have fond memories of watching my parish priest chant this hymn while swirling the water of the baptismal font with a hand-held blessing cross during the Service of the Great Blessing of the Water (which is celebrated during this Feast).

Troparion (Tone 1) of Theophany:
When Thou, O Lord was baptized in the River Jordan
The worship of the Trinity was made manifest
For the voice of the Father bore witness to Thee
And called Thee, His beloved Son.
And the Spirit, in the form of a dove,
Confirmed the truthfulness of His word.
O Christ, our God, Who has revealed Thyself
And enlightened the world, glory to Thee!

Following the celebration of this Great Feast is the Service of the Great Blessing of Water. We receive Holy Water to take home with us for use throughout the year. Fr Thomas Hopko explains this experience in his book, The Winter Pascha:

"The rite of the Great Blessing of Water begins with the chanting of special hymns with the incensing of the water, and concludes with biblical readings, petitions, and prayers. Since the Son of God has taken human flesh and has appeared in the world, manifesting Himself in His baptism in the Jordan, all flesh and all matter is sanctified. Everything is made pure and holy in Him. Through the "prime element" of water on the feast of the Epiphany the entire creation is shown to be sanctified by God's Word through the same Spirit of God who "in the beginning... was moving over the face of the waters" (Gen 1:2).

May our Lord who deigned to be baptized by John in the River Jordan for our salvation...have mercy upon us and save us!

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

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