Blessing of the Waters at the City Dock in Annapolis
Christ is in our midst! Blessings of the Feast of Theophany (And for our Old Calendar brothers and sisters, Christ is born!)! Fifteen people braved the snow and difficult travel conditions in Annapolis to participate in the Divine Liturgy and partake of the Great Feast of Theophany Tuesday at Holy Archangels Orthodox Mission, including the Great Blessing of the Waters at the City Dock at the Mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. We were even joined by some non-Orthodox passers by who saw us praying and singing and joined in.
Below are some pictures from the Great Blessing of the waters and the Homily for Theophany. Glory to God and blessings of the Feast!
Fr. Robert Miclean
Holy Archangels Orthodox Church
Jan. 6, 2015, Holy Theophany
Epistle: Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7
Gospel: Matthew 3:13-17
At this Great Feast of Theophany we bring into the present Christ’s holy Baptism into the waters of the Jordan. It is sad that in our modern American Orthodoxy (if one can call it that), so many skip this Feast, which was for the early Orthodox Church on par with Nativity and indeed joined with Nativity, next only to Holy Pascha in significance. There are no fewer than 34 Scripture readings assigned to this Feast—so great is its importance in the life of the follower of Christ.
At first glance, this Feast of the Holy Theophany may appear to be just the remembrance of Christ’s baptism. The blessing of the waters, may likewise appear to be a quaint tradition from the Church’s past—from the outside it may look like just another flare for the theatrical. Some non-Orthodox traditions teach that we celebrate Christ’s baptism so that we may be obedient to baptism too, just so we can “follow Christ’s example.” But there’s a far greater and more beautiful divine truth at work here in our celebration of Theophany.
God is revealed to us in this Feast—hence the name, “Theophany”, a manifestation or appearing of God. God reveals Himself to us as Holy Trinity in this Feast. The Father speaks, declaring before the world, “You are My Beloved Son in Whom I am well-pleased” even as the Holy Spirit descends upon Christ in the likeness of a dove. The Gospel is revealed to us in this Feast: Christ God is pouring out His redemption, His love, His calling on our lives through this Feast, and renewing all creation as He does so. Here He is, loving us, healing us, reviving us, saving us!
Here at the Jordan, made mystically present for us in the blessing of the waters we will partake of today, God reveals Himself to us as Holy Trinity, as three in one, undivided yet distinct in Persons. Here, God shows Himself to be a relationship of love, of goodness, of unity—perfect—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father is here who begets the Word by Whom all things are made and proclaims them “good” and declares to us and all the world His beloved Son. The Spirit is here present, filling all things, and descending as a dove.
The Jordan where Christ God is baptized is the river that for Israel was the means of temporal rescue and salvation: Here Jacob crossed over to flee from Esau. Here Joshua commanded the priests carrying the Holy Ark to cross the Jordan so the Israelites could enter the Promised Land—and the Jordan parted for them as the Red Sea had for Moses when Israel fled Egypt. Here Elijah took his mantle and struck the water, dividing it, so he and Elisha could cross.
Christ by His baptism sanctifies this water and makes it the means, not only of our healing by partaking of it, but of the renewal of the creation. All creation is sanctified by means of Christ’s Baptism, beginning with that most basic element of creation—water. It was the mystical waters that were separated to form the heavens and the earth. So, with the sanctification of water, all creation becomes good, pure again; it becomes what it first was, it returns to its first beauty. It takes on a ‘spiritual’ attribute, that is, it is renewed as a means of communicating God’s grace.
And because Christ God entered the waters of the Jordan and submitted Himself to baptism, it becomes for us the means of getting ourselves into that renewed human nature, that new race of Adam, that He inaugurates by means of His incarnation. As St. Paul assures us, “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). We have, as Christ says in John 3, been born anew of “water and the Spirit” through Baptism and Chrismation and have the potential to become what God, in His great love for us, first created us to be—truly alive, deified beings capable of growing in holiness and communing with God the Holy Trinity.
Christ is baptized here at the Jordan to give us the sealing and gift of the Holy Spirit. If those who touched the hem of His garment were healed, how much more are those who are baptized into Christ and put on Christ through the waters that Christ has made the laver of regeneration?
In all things pertaining to our salvation and the redemption of the human race, Jesus Christ has gone before us to enliven and redeem that which is fallen and dead. As St. Athanasius says, “that which is assumed is healed.” That which Christ takes on to Himself, being Life itself, is made new. Christ, by taking on baptism, has made baptism the means for us to get ourselves into that sanctified and vivified human nature that He assumed, healed, made alive and whole again as it was first created to be. Christ is truly the “new Adam” and He invites us—all of us—to become co-heirs with Him, that we too by Him may be triumphant over sin and death.
Brothers and sisters, we’re preoccupied by so many things, but this is the one thing needful—that we put on Christ in Baptism and then live out our baptism day by day, moment by moment, and grow in relationship, in communion with the living God. This is the Gospel. This is the Good News. This is the most important truth for us to consider and apply as we begin 2015.
All that God created is very good. It’s our cooperation with sin that leads to darkness, despair, and death in the world and in our creation, which we’re called to love and steward. But, as we live out our baptism, as we sanctify ourselves by this holy water, as we guard ourselves against further pollution and stain of sin, our light glows brighter, our love grows stronger, and those around us, including the creation, are affected, healed, changed, renewed, invigorated.
It’s for this purpose that Christ calls us to baptism. Renew in your heart your baptism and zeal for the Lord this day! If you’re oppressed by worries, passions, habitual sins, may this water strengthen you by the Holy Spirit to lead you to repentance, healing and salvation.
For this reason, we not only receive this sanctified water today and take it into our homes for anointing, but we ask that our houses be blessed, that we in our ‘small churches,’ the family, may make Christ King and make our homes a place of spiritual refreshment, renewal, and blessing.
As you partake of this holy water today, pray that by God’s grace it work noetically in your heart, to quicken your soul, to call you to remembrance of God’s love and salvation for you. May this holy water defend you against the snares of the evil one, may it focus you again—when in need—on Christ, and may your home become a sanctuary from this world and a place of brightness and light as it is blessed with this holy water. I hope to come to bless each of your homes this Theophany and impart Christ’s blessing on you and your families, and home.
“Today the waters of the Jordan are transformed into healing by the coming of the Lord. Today the transgressions of men are washed away by the waters of the Jordan… Today we have been delivered from darkness and illuminated with the light of the knowledge of God. Today the blinding mist of the world is dispersed by the Epiphany of our God. Today the whole creation shines with light from on high. Today error is laid love and the coming of the Master has made for us a way of salvation. Today things above keep feast with things below, and things below commune with things above.” (From “The Great Blessing of the Waters”)