Post date: Jan 21, 2014 1:01:38 AM
Historically, services for Theophany developed in the Church before those for the Nativity. This serves to underscore the importance of this feast for the salvation of humanity. The fact that today it seems to be secondary to Christmas is perhaps due to its more subtle and perhaps puzzling meaning.
At Christmas it is easy to be awed by the uncreated God becoming a helpless baby. At the Resurrection, we know that Christ trampled death by death. What happens at Theophany? We see Christ coming to John the Baptist. Although He is the only one not in need of baptism, he asks to be baptized. The self-humbling of God reaches all the way to this point where the sinless one takes upon Himself the sin of the world. If, with the first Adam, sin entered the world, Christ, the last Adam, lifted up the burden of sin from the world. He identified Himself with the entire humanity. Then, when the Holy Spirit came down upon Him, the spiritual renewal of all of humanity was effected, as Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon notes. He quotes St. Irenaeus, saying that the Holy Spirit "descended on the Son of God (who was made the Son of Man) becoming accustomed with him to reside in the human race and to abide among men and to reside in the workmanship of God, accomplishing in them the will of the Father and renewing them from what is old to the newness of Christ" (Against the Heresies 3.17.1).
Yet, there is more to Theophany than the renewal of man. It is a renewal of all creation. When we bless the waters, we ask God to bring upon them the blessing of Jordan. This happens even when the blessing is done in the river Jordan itself and this is because the Jordan, like everything and everyone in creation, finds its meaning and fulfills its purpose in God.
Of course, we cannot exhaust the meaning of such a feast in such a small space, but let us begin by meditating upon these aspects of the feast and let us pray that God continue to enlighten us and to reveal the riches of His salvific work to us.
With love in Christ,