On January 19th Orthodox Church celebrates great feast of the Theophany, or Baptism of the Lord. Our parish had a beautiful celebration of that holy day conducted by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. He served the Divine Liturgy in our temple. Following the Gospel lesson the Rector preached a homily:
“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we celebrate Holy Theophany, or Baptism of the Lord. This holy day is not so simple in its meaning, it has more aspects than Nativity. On the Nativity we have one great idea expressed by the Angel announcing that holy event to the shepherds: “There is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior…” (Lk. 2, 11). In today’s feast we may find more ideas, aspects and meanings. Although we celebrate a certain event, namely the Baptism of the Lord performed by St. John, that event is not so simple. When we hear today’s reading from the Gospel we may see that Its aspects are several.”
“Today we will talk about one of those aspects. We will discuss how our Lord Jesus Christ in His Theophany descended upon the nature and upon this world. He had no need to be baptized for St. John baptized people who repent. Jesus had no reason to repent, He was without sin. But He comes to the Jordan River and requests Baptism. Recently, celebrating His Circumcision we were also wandering why the Infant Jesus needed to be circumcised. Now we may ask why He wishes to receive Baptism. St. John was also wandering about it. But the Lord said to him: “Permit it to be now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Mt. 3, 15). Baptism was necessary for Jesus to “fulfill all the righteousness”, to make the purification of humanity His own, to wash away the sin of men, to grant regeneration. To give us a new life Jesus descended upon this world, entered the waters of Jordan. St. Gregory of Nyssa says, “Jesus enters the filthy waters of the world and when He comes out, brings up the entire world with Him”.”
“This coming of the Lord into our world is very beautifully described in the troparion we sing at Vespers on the Theophany Eve: “Thou Who didst create the world art made manifest in the world, to give light to those who sit in darkness…” Our Creator appeared in the world He created, manifested Himself as a part of that world to make the world better. He Who was in heaven came to the earth. He Who is the Most High descended into the lowest spheres. He Who is All-Holy came to the filthy and sinful environment. It happened “to fulfill all the righteousness”.”
“In a similar way when we bless the water these days, that holy water is being sprinkled all over. It falls on the altar, on the icons in the temple, but it also falls on the floor. Furthermore, we bring it outside the temple, we bless houses and different objects. When a priest comes to your house he becomes a resemblance of Christ coming into the world. Although a priest is a simple man he represents Jesus. He brings a sacred thing to your abode. Our homes are no temples. But the holy water falls there, even on our floors. The grace of God descends upon us as Jesus descended into the filthy waters of this world. Creation had been blessed. In the same way we and our homes receive His blessing.”
“But there is one thing we should realize and remember. If creation cannot fully respond at the blessing of the Lord, if waters, earth, animals and plants are not able to make a choice about the grace they receive, we can and we are able to choose. The creation glorifies God in its way. Today, during the Blessing of water we will pray to the Lord: “The sun hymns Thee, the moon glorifies Thee, the stars assist Thee, the light obeys Thee, the deeps shudder before Thee, the springs serve Thee”. But our response to the Christ appearance could be much stronger. For we are created in His image and likeness and we have a free will. The dirt on which the holy water today falls accidently will remain the dirt. But a sinful man may change after receiving the grace of God, no matter how filthy and dark might be his soul. He may repent, turn away from that filth and darkness.”
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, let us be grateful for this great appearance of the Most High to the universe and let us act upon that reception of His grace saving to all men.”
After the Prayer behind the Ambo the Rector performed the Great Blessing of water.
Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector and the altar servers came before the icon stand and performed the rite of glorification singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the Theophany. Then Fr. Igor congratulated parishioners on the occasion of the great holy day.