Deisis (Novogorod)

Theophany - The Holy Festival of the Lights

Icon of Theophany (Baptism) St. Gregory Nazianzus

Christ is bathed in light; let us also be bathed in light.  Christ is baptized; let us also go down with Him, and rise with Him.

John is baptizing when Jesus draws near.  Perhaps He comes to sanctify His baptizer; certainly He comes to bury sinful humanity in the waters.  He comes to sanctify the Jordan for our sake and in readiness for us; He Who is spirit and flesh comes to begin a new creation through Spirit and water.

The Baptist protests; Jesus insists.  Then John says: "I ought to be baptized by You."  He is the lamp in the presence of the Sun, the voice in the presence of the woman in the presence of the Firstborn of all creation, the one who leapt in his mother's womb in the presence of Him Who has already come and is to come again.  "I ought to be baptized by You"; we should add: "and for You," for John is to be baptized in blood, washed clean like Peter, not only by the washing of his feet.

Jesus rises from the waters; the world rises with Him.  The heavens like Paradise with its flaming sword, closed by Adam for himself and his descendants, are rent open.  The Spirit comes to Him as to an equal, bearing witness to His Godhead.  A voice bears witness to Him from heaven, His place of origin.  The Spirit descends in bodily form like a dove that so long ago announced the ending of the flood and so gives honor to the body that is one with God.

Today let us do honor to Christ's baptism and celebrate this feast in holiness.  Be cleansed entirely and continue to be cleansed.  Nothing gives such pleasure to God as the conversion and salvation of men, for whom His every word and every revelation exist.  He wants you to become a living force for all mankind, lights shining in the world.  You are to be radiant lights as you stand beside Christ, the great light, bathed in the glory of Him Who is the light of heaven.  You are to enjoy more and more the pure and dazzling light of the Trinity, as now you have received - though not in its fullness - a ray of its splendor, proceeding from the one God, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to Whom be glory and power forever and ever.  Amen!


Prayer of St. Ephrem

O Lord and Master of my life, drive away from me the spirit of despondency, carelessness, love of power, and idle chatter. (Prostration)

Instead, grant to me, Your servant, the spirit of wholeness of being, humility, patience, and love. (Prostration)

Yes, O Lord and King, grant that I may see my own faults and not condemn my brother. For You are blessed to the ages of ages. Amen. (Prostration)

 

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

For to despise the present age, not to love transitory things, unreservedly to stretch out the mind in humility to God and our neighbor, to preserve patience against offered insults and, with patience guarded, to repel the pain of malice from the heart, to give one's property to the poor, not to covet that of others, to esteem the friend in God, on God's account to love even those who are hostile, to mourn at the affliction of a neighbor, not to exult in the death of one who is an enemy, this is the new creature whom the Master of the nations seeks with watchful eye amid the other disciples, saying: "If, then, any be in Christ a new creature, the old things are passed away. Behold all things are made new" (2Cor. 5:17).

The Homilies of St. Gregory the Great On the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel