“Today the nature of the waters is sanctified; and the Jordan is rent in twain, and holds back the stream of its own waters, on seeing the Master being washed.” This hymn is chanted during the service of the first hour, part of the royal hours of Theophany. As we were chanting, it brought to mind an article I read about the service of the blessing of the water being celebrated on the banks of the river Jordan. During the service, we call upon God to send upon the water “the blessing of Jordan.”
Fr. Stephen Freeman, who was relating his experience, mentioned how he felt jarred by the fact that the blessing of Jordan was being invoked upon the river Jordan itself. As he says, we are calling upon God to make the river Jordan the river Jordan. But that river is always and already the Jordan. Except for the part where there is more to reality than what we see in front of us. The Jordan is there; true enough. But the purpose of the river within creation and salvation can only be seen when we see it from the perspective of God, with the eyes of the spirit. In the case of the Jordan, God’s perspective is revealed to us when Jesus Christ descends into the Jordan to be baptized by John.
As the hymn says, at that point the waters are sanctified. Perhaps another way of looking at it is that the true nature of the water as an agent of healing and cleansing is revealed by the presence of God. And, as it often happens, what we are saying about water holds on a larger scale as well.
All of us are human beings. Still, the fullness of our humanity is not realized until we see ourselves from God’s perspective; until we allow Him to descend into the waters of our hearts so that they too may be seen to be what they were in the beginning, or even more, that they may be sanctified and shine with the light of Christ.
It is very easy to allow our physical eyes to dictate the entirety of what we see: a body of water, a cloudy sky, an animal, a rock, an individual. Yet, from the perspective of the One who made all things good, these may be: a place of baptism, an artist’s masterpiece, a faithful companion, a place of rest, His child.
The Jordan held back the stream of its waters. It made space for the Lord of all to enter. May we, too, hold back the stream of our passions and allow the Lord of all to enter. And may He Who sanctified the waters by His coming down into the Jordan sanctify us by making His dwelling in our hearts.
With love in Christ,