Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Last Sunday, we solemnly celebrated the Feast of Holy Theophany. The post-feast continues for eight days, ending on Monday, January 14th.
For the first time this year at the Cathedral, we celebrated the full vigil on the eve of the feast: Vespers, with 13 Old Testament readings; followed by Divine Liturgy and the first Blessing of Water. We were blessed with a special gift of peace, a pervading spirit of prayer, and the gentle anointing of the Holy Spirit. The loving presence of God was felt not only at the service, but also at the Holy Supper that followed. It was well attended, and a genuine atmosphere of family, friendship and fellowship was experienced by all.
On the day of the feast, at 9:30 am we celebrated the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, which gave us an opportunity to pray more fervently in thanksgiving to God for everything, and to intercede in a deeper way for the needs of all His people. The second Divine Liturgy at 11 am gave us the opportunity to experience the Great Blessing of Water a second time.
Every year, the Baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan leaves us with so much to reflect upon.
First of all, the Lord God, for the first time in salvation history, reveals to us that He is One, yet three in Persons. God the Son, having become incarnate, stands in the river Jordan. The Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, descends upon Him. The heavens are opened and the voice of God the Father is heard: “This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” By reason and intuition, we could come to know that God is One, but never that He is three in Persons. Only God, in His infinite goodness, has revealed this mystery to us.
Secondly, Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan summarizes everything that He will do for us! People came to the Jordan to confess their sins, to symbolically leave them behind “in the waters” into which they were immersed, as a sign of their repentance. However, Jesus comes to the Jordan without sin. He comes not to confess sins, but to take upon Himself all the sins of the world, which He will carry to the Cross. His immersion into the waters of the Jordan foretells His freely willed immersion into death upon the cross. His burial into water points to His burial in a tomb. His rising up from the water foretells His Resurrection from the dead on the third day. The heavens are opened, foretelling His Ascension into heaven and His sitting at the right hand of the Father. The descent of the Holy Spirit foreshadows the feast of Pentecost and the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Church – the Body of Christ. The voice of the Father proclaims that the Church (The Body of Christ) is His Beloved Son, and that all those who are baptized in Him are His beloved sons and daughters.
Finally, the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan confirms that He is truly the “Anointed One,” the “Messiah,” who was promised in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:15), and whose coming was reaffirmed by the Prophets of old. He comes to re-create and to save us, both body and soul, and to bring all creation to its final transfiguration and perfection.
In conclusion, His Baptism is also our Baptism. In our Baptism we share His Baptism, not only into the very same waters of the Jordan, but also into the waters of Death, Burial, Resurrection and Ascension to the Father, with heaven open to receive us.
Fr. Peter Babej