Sermon for the Feast of Theophany (2019)

January 07, 2019

Sermon for the Feast of Theophany (2019)

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Introduction

On the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, we learned that God had come in the flesh. Today, at the Baptism of Christ, God has revealed even more about Himself. Today we learn that God exists in Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Creation, Recreation, and Theophany

The first instance where we learn of the Trinity is in Genesis at the creation of man. On the sixth day of creation, God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” and so it was done. “In the image of God He created man; male and female He created them,” writes the Prophet Moses. (Cf. Gen. 1:26-27). Today, at the baptism of Christ, we see the Trinity revealed again. As we have just heard: “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.” (Matt. 3:16-17). Its significance is in that this manifestation appears at our creation and then again at the place of our re-creation—Baptism. For as Christ was Baptized, so He has commanded that we all be Baptized. As the Trinity is revealed at the Baptism of Christ, now is He revealed at each person’s Baptism.

Nothing else in all of creation is made in the image of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—except for man, not the sensible and irrational animals nor the suprasensible angels and archangels. However, when our nature was re-made in the Jordan, says St. Gregory Palamas, “the most sublime and all-accomplishing Trinity was made manifest, as the archetype (ie. the model) of the image in our soul.”[1]

What is more, not only does our Creator reveal Himself to us in a manner that we can understand to a certain degree but also that it is He who takes the initiative. We did not come to Him, nor did He send an intermediary but Himself came down. For it is not an impersonal God who hides Himself from us or does not concern Himself with His creation, but instead, He makes Himself known to His creatures. Writes St. Romanos,

“God did not despise the one who was robbed by trickery in Paradise and lost the garment woven by God,”
“For he came towards him calling to the disobedient once again with his holy voice,
“Adam, where are you? From now on, do not hide from me; I want to see you.
“Though you are naked, though you are poor, do not be ashamed, for I have become like you.
“Though you desired it you did not become a god, but now, by my own will, I have become flesh…”
(St. Romanos the Melodist, The Holy Theophany, vs 2)
The Baptism of Christ and the Revelation of the Holy Trinity

All the events leading up from the Annunciation to the Nativity reveal the Holy Trinity but in a manner which is discreet and not known publicly. Today, at Christ’s Baptism, the Trinity is also revealed for all to see. As we chant in the Troparion for our Feast today: “When Thou was baptized in the Jordan, O Lord, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest. For the voice of the Father bore witness to Thee, calling Thee His beloved Son, and the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the certainty of the Word…”(Troparion, Tone One, “The Vigil Service” for The Feast of the Holy Theophany of Our Lord).

It was a revelation not only for John the Baptist but for all those present. The descent of the dove upon Christ is a sign of Christ’s relationship to the Father and the Holy Spirit. St. John Chrysostom says that the dove, descending upon Christ appeared, “in place of a finger” in order to point out who the Son of God is so that it would be evident to all present.[2]

Moreover, what does this reveal? That the Father has a consubstantial Son and a Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and rests on the Son in whom is unity without confusion and distinguished from each other without division, as St. Gregory notes.[3] Or, as we chant in the Creed, one God, the Father Almighty… and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages…and in the Holy Spirit… who proceedeth from the Father; Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified.

Our Baptism and Salvation through the Holy Trinity

What is further, not only has God come in the flesh; not only has the Holy Trinity been revealed but has been revealed to us in our Baptism, our re-creation. From the beginning of the service of Baptism wherein is proclaimed, “Blessed is the kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” to the invocation of the Holy Trinity for our anointing, and it being the Name into which we are baptised in. After having put on Christ in Baptism, we are sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit in chrismation and now live our life before God the Father (Rom. 6:3-11).

Even though it was by one single act of loving kindness that the Holy Trinity has saved our race yet each of the Persons have contributed something of their own, writes St. Nicholas Cabasilas. “It is the Father who is reconciled, the Son who reconciles, while the Holy Spirit is bestowed as a gift on those who have become friends… The Father has re-shaped us, by means of the Son we were re-shaped, but it is the Spirit who gives life.”[4]

Conclusion

This is the God who has created us, Who has called us back to Paradise from the wasteland of this world, Who dwells in us. He is a God who knows you and can be known by you. Truly, who is as great as our God? He is the only lover of mankind.

And yet, do we long to know Him? Do we seek to overcome our passions, our pride, our stomach, our envy? Do we seek to clean the inside of the cup, the eye of the soul so that we may perceive God more clearly, that we may know God more fully. My Fathers, Brothers, Mother, friends, may this feast be for us today light and knowledge and joy.

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us. Amen.


[1] “Homily Sixty: Delivered on the Holy Feast of Theophany” in Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies, Christopher Veniamin, trans. and ed. (Essex: 2014, Mount Thabor Publishing), 495.
[2] “Homily XII” in Chrysostom: Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew, Philip Schaff, ed. (Peabody: Hendricson Publishers, 1999) 10:77f.
[3] Cf. St. Gregory Palamas, Ibid., 500.
[4] The Life in Christ (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1974), 74




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